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Military Operations to Rescue and Evacuate Nationals from Abroad

About the Project:

The lives and safety of nationals abroad are frequently at risk due to civil wars, acts of terrorism, hostage-taking, and piracy. Many states, in particular Western states such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, have an established practice in response to these risks: military operations to evacuate and rescue their nationals from abroad. In the last decades, however, not only the aforementioned states but also a large number of states from other regions around the world, including but not limited to China, India, Japan, Russia, Jordan, Ghana, and Egypt have developed such practices, carrying out several armed interventions to rescue and evacuate their nationals from abroad.

The lawfulness of military operations to rescue and evacuate nationals abroad (the ‘protection of nationals’ doctrine), however, has been highly controversial among states and scholars since the creation of the UN Charter. It is disputed to what extent such operations are lawful, and what their legal basis is when carried out without the consent of the host state and without authorization by the UN Security Council. So far, this dispute has not found further clarification by state practice, as operations until the 1990s by (mostly Western) states have encountered contradictory, often disapproving state reactions and diverging interpretations thereof. In contrast, state practice since 1990 provides a new reference point for answering the question of lawfulness, as it has evolved considerably. Recent examples include the evacuation of nationals of various countries from conflict zones in Niger (August 2023), Sudan (March 2023), Afghanistan (August 2021), South Sudan (July 2016), and Libya (February 2011). These cases have not yet been analyzed comprehensively, even though they raise the question to what extent the ‘protection of nationals’ doctrine has meanwhile been established in international law, and what requirements exist for these operations to be lawful according to recent state practice. Thus, the dissertation project aims to analyze these cases and clarify the lawfulness of these operations. In this regard, the project employs both, a doctrinal method as well as an inductive approach for analyzing empirical data on state practice.

Clarifying the lawfulness of these operations is of utmost practical relevance, as such operations occurred frequently in recent years and can likewise be expected in the future – they can even be considered the most likely deployment scenario for many armies outside of their own countries.

PhD candidate