Études de l'Ifri Focus Stratégique
War - no justice concept. Military silhouettes fighting scene and The Statue of Justice on a dark toned foggy background.

Vers une guerre des normes ? Du lawfare aux opérations juridiques Focus stratégique, No. 108, April 2022

Defined as the use of law to establish, perpetuate, or reverse a balance of power in order to counter an adversary, lawfare practices reflect an ancient and inherent state of international relations.
Resulting from compromises between States, International Law expresses political-strategic power relations that take four main forms:
  • Adjusting legal constraints by reinterpreting existing standards;
  • Issuing new standards through legal lobbying as a power strategy;
  • Using courts to coerce an actor through strategic judicialization;
  • The use of law as a reputational weapon.
While the term is controversial when understood as a misuse of the rule of law, it is now being institutionalized. Although states do not claim lawfare practices as directly their own, the increasing use of legal vectors to achieve political-strategic ends is a notable fact of the upheavals at work in the international system. States have always used the law for strategic purposes.
However, the multiplication of justice courts, the increasing media coverage of conflicts and the growing confusion between legality and legitimacy tend to favor such an instrumentalization of law.


> This content is available in French: "Vers une guerre des normes ? Du lawfare aux opérations juridiques".

Law Lawfare Political-Strategic Power Relations France Israel Russia United States