Anticipatory self-defence, which refers to the use of force in self-defence in advance of an impending armed attack, is discussed in Article 51 of the UN Charter. Anticipatory self-defence needs to be addressed explicitly in the UN Charter, and legal experts debate over whether it is legitimate under international law. While some contend that anticipatory self-defence is acceptable in some situations and is per international law and the Charter, others disagree. The idea of collective self-defence, which denotes the use of force by one state to defend another that has been the target of an armed attack, has also come up for discussion. Collective self-defence is permitted under the UN Charter, although the circumstances for such permission need to be made clear. While some contend that Article 51's provisions should be interpreted liberally to provide states more latitude in collective self-defence, others contend that the article should be construed narrowly to prevent conditions from abusing their right to self-defence.
This paper analyses the letter of the law, as well as several landmark judgements, that were given by the ICJ to arrive at a nuanced understanding of the term ‘armed attack’ as seen in Article 51 of the Charter. It further discusses the challenges faced by the legal framework and concludes with appropriate solutions to the aforementioned issues.