Introduced by Antonello Tancredi and Paolo Palchetti


The terrorist attacks that took place on November 13, 2015 in Paris rapidly triggered a multilevel reaction. Internationally, France, as well as other Western Countries have been ready to invoke the right of self-defence as provided for in Article 51 of the UN Charter to justify air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  Contextually, the Security Council adopted resolutions that relate both to the profile of military response (resolution 2249 of 20 November 2015), as well as that of non-coercive measures to combat terrorism (resolution 2253 of 17 December 2015).

At the European regional level, France has for the first time invoked the mutual defence clause provided for in Article 42(7) of the Treaty on European Union, in the version following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. Moreover, on 24 November 2015, the French authorities informed the Secretary General of the Council of Europe of a number of state of emergency measures taken following the large scale terrorist attacks in Paris which may involve an Article 15 derogation from certain rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights in times of public emergency threatening the life of a nation.

Finally, at the domestic level France, implemented emergency measures (through the re-activation of the 1955 ‘loi relative à l’état d’urgence’) that are likely to have an impact on the enjoyment of fundamental rights and related constitutional guarantees. Albeit less radical in scope, domestic measures intended to cope with the rampant terrorist threat have also been envisaged by other European States.

Such differing levels of reaction are nonetheless strictly intertwined with one another. By way of example, Article 42(7) TUE provides that the obligation of aid and assistance that EU Member States have towards the Member State which has been the victim of armed aggression on its territory must be performed by all the means in their power ‘in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter’.

Faced with such a complex picture, QIL has decided to devote a full Zoom-out to an analysis of the various levels through which the response to the terrorist attacks in Paris unfolds. The possibility of invoking Article 51 of the UN Charter and self-defence against non-state actors; the validity of the ‘unable or unwilling’ State’s test as a reference/standard for legitimizing unilateral armed intervention against terrorists; the changing patterns of reactions to international terrorism after 2001 and, in this context, the possible emergence or consolidation of a lex specialis for terrorism; the implications arising from the first invocation of Article 42(7) TEU; the balance struck at domestic constitutional level between security and fundamental rights: these are just some of the issues to be discussed in the contributions that will progressively appear in the context of the latest Zoom-out.