Traditions of Belligerent Recognition: The Libyan Intervention in Historical and Theoretical Context

69 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2012 Last revised: 1 Oct 2012

See all articles by Sam Halabi

Sam Halabi

University of Missouri School of Law

Date Written: Septemmber 30, 2012


On February 26 and March 17, 2011, the U.N. Security Council adopted two resolutions authorizing sanctions, referral to the International Criminal Court and military intervention to protect civilians during the Libyan Civil War. Despite these rapid and well-supported interventions, France decided, on March 10, 2011, to recognize the largely anonymous and poorly understood National Transitional Council based in the eastern city of Benghazi as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. The move both confused its allies and raised a number of legal problems for France, Libya and participants in the multilateral intervention. Nevertheless, Italy, Qatar, the United States, the United Kingdom and other states soon recognized the National Transitional Council either as a legitimate government in Libya or the only legitimate government in Libya. This article situates the decision to recognize the National Transitional Council in the context of the international law on belligerent recognition, ultimately arguing that -- whatever the difficulties recognition may cause for other objectives embodied in Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 -- recognizing revolutionaries fits squarely within the larger framework by which third-party states manage civil wars to safeguard international order.

Keywords: public international law, military intervention, belligerent recognition, Middle East politics, energy security, international relations theory

Suggested Citation

Halabi, Sam, Traditions of Belligerent Recognition: The Libyan Intervention in Historical and Theoretical Context (Septemmber 30, 2012). American University International Law Review, Vol. 27, 2012 (Forthcoming), Available at SSRN:

Sam Halabi (Contact Author)

University of Missouri School of Law ( email )

332 Cornell Hall
Columbia, MO Columbia 65211
United States

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