Disputed Territories and the Law on the Use of Force: Lessons from the Eritrea-Ethiopia Case

Constantinos Yiallourides, Zeray Yihdego*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


On 19 December 2005, in its partial award, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission found that Eritrea had acted in violation of the rules of international law on the use of force (jus ad bellum) in resorting to armed force to attack and occupy the disputed border town of Badme and surrounding areas, which were then under the administration of Ethiopia. In its award, the Claims Commission made a number of important findings which, taken with the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s 2002 decision on boundary delimitation, contribute towards informing and clarifying the substance of international law applicable to disputed territories and the legal obligations of states acting in those areas, especially where the use of force is engaged. This article examines the Claims Commission’s jus ad bellum award and concentrates on three key issues: (a) the legality in international law of the resort to force as a means of gaining control over territory to which a state has (or believes that it has) a valid sovereign title; (b) the specific contours of self-defence in relation to territorial sovereignty claims, and (c) the legitimacy of dealing with use of force issues by arbitral tribunals. In September 2018, the leaders of the two countries signed a peace and friendship agreement, thus, setting course for a new era of peace and cooperation. The lessons that ought to be learnt by these two neighbouring countries and other states have been articulated as concluding remarks.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthiopian Yearbook of International Law 2018
Subtitle of host publicationIn Pursuit of Peace and Prosperity
EditorsZeray Yihdego, Melaku Geboye Desta, Martha Belete Hailu
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9783030240783
ISBN (Print)9783030240776
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameEthiopian Yearbook of International Law
ISSN (Print)2522-5286

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to extend their thanks and appreciation to the participants of the University of Tokyo International Law Colloquium (Tadashi Mori, Kazuhiro Nakatani, Koji Teraya, Yurika Ishii and Kentaro Nishimoto) for their instructive comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this paper. Many thanks also to Olivia Kirkbride, Research Volunteer in Public International Law, British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) for her contribution to this paper. Any errors or omissions remain the authors’ own.


Dive into the research topics of 'Disputed Territories and the Law on the Use of Force: Lessons from the Eritrea-Ethiopia Case'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this