Countermeasures and Collective Security: The Case of the EU Sanctions Against Iran

Journal of Conflict and Security Law, Vol. 17, 2012

35 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2012

Date Written: June 18, 2012


The present article aims at revisiting the relationship between countermeasures and the collective security system embodied in the UN Charter, through the case study of the economic measures targeting Iran agreed by the EU Member States in early 2012. This case concerns a very specific situation: that of measures enacted motu proprio in the framework of a regional organization against a country which has already been targeted by sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council. The unprecedented extent of these new EU measures raises various issues regarding their lawfulness under international law. Beginning with a brief overview of the factual background of the Iranian nuclear controversy, our assessment of the measure’s lawfulness consists of a two-fold primary process; first, it is necessary to characterize these measures, in order to determine the applicable legal framework. Then, depending upon the conclusion reached as to the legal nature of the measures, their lawfulness is to be assessed with respect to the relevant rules governing their use. As regards the first step, the measures under consideration may prima facie qualify either as measures of retorsion, as sanctions (whether emanating from the UN Security Council or ‘autonomous’), or as countermeasures. The article examines what legal category adequately describes the EU measures, and concludes with reasonable certainty that they display the general characteristics of countermeasures. This finding entails the applicability of the law of State responsibility (as well as the law of responsibility of international organization), which is relevant to assess in the case considered the lawfulness of the measures, both from a procedural and a substantive perspective.

Keywords: collective security, countermeasures, non-proliferation, sanctions, Iran

Suggested Citation

Dupont, Pierre-Emmanuel, Countermeasures and Collective Security: The Case of the EU Sanctions Against Iran (June 18, 2012). Journal of Conflict and Security Law, Vol. 17, 2012, Available at SSRN:

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