It isn't just about China or Pakistan. It is about everyone. A simple search like "provided weapon to terrorists" gives links of dozens of news articles on a particular country providing weapons to insurgents or terrorists of another country, or allegations of one country doing so.


  • Is it legal? I assume it isn't. At least one organisation or the other "advices" to refrain from some acts.

  • Once proved doing so, can anyone take actions for doing it (from the perspective of any international law)?

Just want to clarify, if the questions seem vague.

  • For the first, organisations that play a major role in maintaining peace may be considered.

  • For the second "can" or "can't" might be sounding vague. Here, I would actually want to know are there any provisions for such. If "international law" sounds vague, assume any framework of any regional grouping or general grouping of countries.

Note: I hope my questions make sense. Feel free to make a comment if there is anything more specific to be added.

  • The only "international law" acting now is the law of power - everyone are doing what they can afford. And, according to the law of force - it is legal, I think. Look at US supporting so-called "rebels" in Syria, or every other example of any country you wish. Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 12:42

2 Answers 2


Yes, generally speaking, for one country to support armed groups in another can certainly be a violation international law. However, in practice, what can be effectively done in response may be limited by politics. Such actions are formally illegal, but I cannot find a clear example of meaningful redress under international law.

See for example Nicaragua v. United States, where the International Court of Justice ruled that US support for the Contra rebels was a violation of various international norms of sovereignty and had broken a bilateral treaty. As a result it ruled that the US should pay reparations. Of course, as is so often the case with international law (especially when when party is so much more powerful then the other) this ruling was effectively unenforceable.

Also notable is the Fourth Geneva Convention which affords protections to civilians. Groups considered "terrorists" will generally be in violation of this convention. However, I'm not aware of any example where a funder of such groups has been found in violation.

For much greater detail see the article "Holding States Responsible for Terrorism before the International Court of Justice" by Kimberley N. Trapp and the UNODC publication Frequently Asked Questions on International Law Aspects of Countering Terrorism


Is it legal? I assume it isn't. At least one organisation or the other "advices" to refrain from some acts.

"Legal" isn't applicable to international relations. A country does what it wants, only restricted by what it thinks other countries will do in response.

Once proved doing so, can anyone take actions for doing it.

Yes, by the above principle. A common response is to provide arms to whomever the first side wants to fight.

  • "Legal" isn't applicable to international relations is a gross over-simiplification if not blatantly false. International law exists, however different it may be in practice from national law.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 11:50
  • 2
    @BrianZ if a country decides the consequences of "breaking international law" are worth it, they can (and do) go right ahead with that. If enough countries are doing that, it stops being "international law"
    – Caleth
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 11:59
  • 2
    @agc enforcement is a necessary component of a legal system.
    – Caleth
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 13:56
  • 1
    @Caleth Enforcement of international law clearly exists, despite all its limitations. If a local police department has an abysmally low clearance rate of rape cases as many do, that doesn't imply that rape is legal.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 15:11
  • 1
    @BrianZ which body is enforcing e.g. trade agreements? it's the participating countries
    – Caleth
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 15:16

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