Under the law of State responsibility, the state of necessity (not to be confused with the concept of military necessity) is a circumstance precluding the wrongfulness of an otherwise internationally wrongful act. The state of necessity can be invoked under precise conditions, laid down in Article 25 of the International Law Commission’s Articles on State Responsibility. It traditionally indicates the existence of a situation in which the sole means by which a State can safeguard an essential interest from grave and imminent peril is by violating international law. IHL, as a domain of international law that is intended to apply to emergency situations, contains no room for necessity as a circumstance precluding wrongfulness of a particular course of conduct, except where explicitly stated otherwise in some of its rules. 

In a similar manner, in the realm of international criminal law, the defence of necessity (closely connected to that of duress) may be invoked under specific circumstances by an individual as a ground for excluding individual criminal responsibility for a crime.

See State responsibility; Individual criminal responsibility;

(Disambiguation) See Military necessity;




DAVID Éric, “L’excuse de l’ordre supérieur et l’état de nécessité”, in RBDI, 1978-79, pp. 65-84.
DUBOIS Olivier, “Le droit pénal des conflits armés et la théorie de la nécessité”, in Annuaire de Droit de Louvain, 1995, pp. 95-112.
DUNBAR N.C.H., “Military Necessity in War Crimes Trials”, in BYIL, Vol. 29, 1952, pp. 442-452.
GARDAM Judith, Necessity, Proportionality and the Use of Force by States, Cambridge, CUP, 2004, 259 pp.
HAYASHI Nobuo, “Requirements of Military Necessity in International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law”, in Boston University International Law Journal, Vol. 28, Issue 1, 2010, pp. 39-140.
MACCOUBREY Hilaire, “The Nature of the Modern Doctrine of Military Necessity”, in RDMDG, 1991, pp. 215-252.
ROMANO John-Alex, “Combating Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Reviving the Doctrine of a State Necessity”, in The Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 87/4, 1999, pp. 1023-1057.
VENTURINI Gabriella, Necessità e proporzionalità nell’uso della forza militare in diritto internazionale, Milano, Giuffrè, 1988, 189 pp.