Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

The Completeness of International Law and Hamlet's Dilemma

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Nordic Journal of International Law

The aim of this paper is to examine whether the possibility of a genuine non liquet is ruled out by a so-called ‘closing rule’underlying public international law. The answer to this question largely determines the relevance of the debate on the legality and legitimacy of the pronouncement of a non liquet by an international court. This debate was recently provoked by the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legality of the Threat and Use of Nuclear Weapons. In this opinion, the Court held that it could not definitively conclude whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons was contrary to international law in an extreme circumstance of self-defence in which the survival of a state is at stake. Nevertheless, some authors have argued that, since international law contains a closing rule stating that the absence of a prohibition is equivalent to the existence of a permission (or vice versa), the Court had in fact decided the legality of nuclear weapons. By virtue of this closing rule, the pronouncement of a non liquet would be impossible. In our analysis, we have taken issue with this view and claim that there are no a priori reasons for the acceptance of a closing rule underlying international law. It is possible indeed that a legal system is simply indifferent towards a certain type of conduct. Moreover, even if a closing rule would be assumed, this rule would be of no help in determining the legality or illegality of the threat and use of nuclear weapons, since the Court asserted that the current state of international law and the facts at its disposal were insufficient to enable it to reach a definitive conclusion. Nothing follows from this assertion, except the assurance that international law cannot definitively settle the question of the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons: to be permitted or not to be permitted, that is still the question. Hamlet's dilemma precisely.

Affiliations: 1: Europa Institute, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands; 2: International Law Institute, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Nordic Journal of International Law — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation