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The Right to Self-Defence in International Law as a Justification for Crossing Borders: The Turkey-PKK Case within the Borders of Iraq

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International law grants states an inherent right to self-defence. States can exercise this right whenever they face armed attack. However, any country wishing to exercise its right to self-defence must fully consider all the restrictions on this right. The right to self-defence can permit the use of force within the borders of the victim state or on the territory of another state from where the attack is carried out. Accordingly, states may respond to any attack by the armed forces of another state or irregular armed groups that use the territory of other states for their attacks. Turkey is a country with a huge population of Kurdish inhabitants. The Kurds possess distinct origins, history, language, culture and a historical link to their land. Thus, they qualify as a people. For much of their history they have peacefully sought to assert their rights; however, Turkey denied those rights to the extent that the formation of the PKK in 1978 became amove of last resort. When the PKK started demanding Kurdish right to self-determination, Turkey launched military operations against it in self-defence. During the 1980s and 1990s, the PKK established camps in Iraq. On several occasions it withdrew its forces there as part of peace negotiations with the Turkish government. Turkey crossed the Iraqi borders and attacked the camps as part of a state policy to fight the PKK outside its borders. The PKK subsequently handed over the camps to other groups, which never posed any military threat to Turkey, but Turkish forces continued to cross the border into Iraq. This article examines the right of Turkey to use force within the borders of Iraq under the justification of self-defence.

About the Author

Rebaz Khdir
University of Minho-Portugal

Ph.D. Student, University of Minho-Portugal, Lecturer, International Law at the University of Raparin in Iraq;

Residencia Universitaria de Santa Tecla, Rua Francisco Machado Owen – Sta Tcla, Braga, 4715-020, Portugal;


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For citation:

Khdir R. The Right to Self-Defence in International Law as a Justification for Crossing Borders: The Turkey-PKK Case within the Borders of Iraq. Russian Law Journal. 2016;4(4):62-80.

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