The Martens clause is named after the Russian diplomat and international law professor Fyodor Fyodorovich Martens (1845-1909), the Russian delegate at the The Hague Peace Conferences in 1899. The Martens clause came into existence as a diplomatic statement made by diplomat Martens who wanted to come up with a solution for a disagreement between large occupying forces and smaller states. Martens, who was of the opinion that international law should illuminate and set normative standards, created the clause to fill a legal vacuum and help alleviate the horrors of war. The clause serves as a reminder that an act is not just yet permissible when an act of war is not expressly prohibited by international law or customary law.
The Martens clause is named after the Russian diplomat and international law professor Fyodor Fyodorovich Martens (1845-1909), the Russian delegate at the The Hague Peace Conferences in 1899. The Martens clause was originally added to the preamble to the 1899 Hague Convention (II) with respect to the laws and customs of war on land and reads as follows:
[u]ntil a more complete code of the laws of war is issued, the High Contracting Parties think it right to declare that in cases not included in the Regulations adopted by them, populations and belligerents remain under the protection and empire of the principles of international law, as they result from the usages established between civilized nations, from the laws of humanity, and the requirements of the public conscience.
The Martens clause came into existence as a diplomatic statement made by diplomat Martens who wanted to come up with a solution for a disagreement between large occupying forces and smaller states. Martens, who was of the opinion that international law should illuminate and set normative standards, created the clause to fill a legal vacuum and help alleviate the horrors of war. The clause serves as a reminder that an act is not just yet permissible when an act of war is not expressly prohibited by international law or customary law.
The clause, which could be considered a mixture of positive law ("usages established between civilized nations") and natural law ("laws of humanity" and "requirements of the public conscience")), was adopted unanimously at the Hague Peace Conference in 1899. It turned out to be quite succesful and has subsequently reappeared in several other humanitarian law documents as a legal solution when no law would be applicable to a specific situation and as a means to to prevent civilians and combatants of war from being left to the conscience of military commanders and the like.
Judge Weeramantry states in his dissenting opinion to the Legality of Nuclear Weapons case of the ICJ of 1996 that nowadays the Martens clause represents a "universally accepted principle of international law" (see p. 493) and that it "has been applied by international judicial tribunals", "incorporated into military manuals" and "has been generally accepted in international legal literature as indeed encapsulating in its short phraseology the entire philosophy of the law of war" (see p. 486 par. 4). The clause could be considered a landmark of the most indispensable norms and principles of international humanitarian law.
Opinions about the legal significance of the Martens clause differ. In the opinion of some jurists, this clause has had its best days; they consider the Martens clause as superfluous, vague, out of date and ineffective. Other scholars however still emphasize the importance of the Martens clause for international humanitarian law.
There are several judges and international legal scholars who have taken a specific stand regarding the question whether the clause has legal normativity. More information about the different approaches can for example be found in the articles about the Martens clause written by Münch, Miyazaki, Ticehurst, Pustogarov, Meron, Bernstorff and Cassese.
There are scholars who adhere to the strict black letter approach to the Martens clause. However, some legal scholars are of the opinion that the clause has a normative character and a few even suppose that the clause creates new formal sources of law. Moreover, in how far the normative and natural law content of the clause really engender a normative and legal binding effect remains unclear. Opinions of legal scholars and judges differ significantly regarding this subject.
In spite of the various opinions and disagreements regarding the interpretation of the scope and content of the clause and whether it has legal normativity, the Martens clause remains a landmark - an important and indispensable part of international humanitarian law that continues to inspire and guide many jurists and judges.
The research guide about the Martens clause is meant to serve as a guide and overview of relevant legal literature, legal documents and external weblinks related to the Martens clause.
Relevant books about the Martens clause
- Schircks, R., Die Martens'sche Klausel : Rezeption und Rechtsqualität, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2002.
- Wolfrum, R., The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law ; Vol. VI: International Organizations or Institutions, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.
Relevant articles about the Martens Clause
- Arpo, M., “The Martens Clause and International Crimes in Estonia” ENDC Proceedings, Vol. 15, (2012), pp. 101–106.
- Bernstorff, J., "Martens Clause", in: Wolfrum, R., The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law ; Vol. VI: International Organizations or Institutions, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 1143-1146.
- Cassese, A., “The Martens Clause: Half a Loaf, or Simply Pie in the Sky?”, European Journal of International Law, 11, No. 1 (2000), pp. 187–216.
- Crawford, E., “The Modern Relevance of the Martens Clause”, ISIL Yearbook of International Humanitarian and Refugee Law, Vol. 6 (2006), pp. 1-18.
- Evans, T.D., “At War with the Robots: Autonomous Weapon, Systems and the Martens Clause”, Hofstra Law Review, Vol. 41, No.3 (2013), pp. 697-734.
- Giladi, R., “The Enactment of Irony: Reflections on the Origins of the Martens Clause”, European Journal of International Law, Vol. 25, No. 3, (Aug. 2014), pp. 847–869.
- Heintze H.J., “Terrorism and Asymmetrical Conflicts: a Role for the Martens Clause?”, in Giegerich, T. (ed.), A Wiser Century?: Judicial Dispute Settlement, Disarmament and the Laws of War 100 Years After the Second Hague Peace Conference, Berlin, Duncker and Humblot, 2009, pp. 429-434.
- Evans, T.D., “At war with the Robots : Autonomous Weapon Systems and the Martens Clause (Note)”, In: Hofstra law review; Vol. 41, No. 3 (2013), 697-734.
- Evans, T.D., “At War With the Robots : Autonomous Weapon Systems and the Martens Clause”, In: Hofstra law review; Vol. 41, No. 3 (2013), pp. 697-733.
- Hayashi, M. N. , “The Martens Clause and Military Necessity”, In: Hensel, H.M. (ed.), The Legitimate Use of Military Force : The Just War Tradition and the Customary Law of Armed Conflict, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008, pp. 135-159.
- Horn, L., “Die Martens'sche Klausel und das Friedensvölkerrecht”, In: Humanitäres Völkerrecht; 3, No. 3-4 (1990), pag. 168-171.
- Kahn, J., “Protection and Empire”: The Martens Clause, State Sovereignty, and Individual Rights”, Virginia Journal of International Law, Vol. 56, No. 1 (2016), pp. 1-50.
- Kałduński, M., “On the Martens Clause in International Law Today”, In: Jasudowicza, (eds.) (et al.), Współczesne problemy praw człowieka i miȩdzynarodowego prawa humanitarnego, TNOiK , Toruń, 2009, pp. 295-313.
- Mälksoo, L., “F.F. Martens and His Time: When Russia Was an Integral Part of the European Tradition of International Law”, in: European Journal of International Law , Vol. 25, No. (2014), pp. 811-829.
- Meron, T. , “On custom and the Antecedents of the Martens Clause in Medieval and Renaissance Ordinances of War”, In: Beyerlin, U. (Hrsg.) (et al.), Recht zwischen Umbruch und Bewahrung, Berlin, Springer, 1995, pp. 173-177.
- Meron, T., “The Martens Clause, Principles of Humanity, and Dictates of Public Conscience”, The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 94, No. 1 (Jan., 2000), pp. 78-89.
- Miyazaki, S., “The Martens Clause and International Humanitarian Law”, In: Etudes et Essais sur le Droit International Humanitaire et sur les Principes de la Croix-Rouge en l'Honneur de Jean Pictet, 1984, pp. 433-444.
- Müllerson, R., F.F. Martens – Man of the Enlightenment: Drawing Parallels between Martens’ Times and Today’s Problems, European Journal of International Law, Volume 25, Issue 3, 1 August 2014, Pages 831–846.
- Müller, A.T., “Friedrich F. Martens on ‘The Office of Consul and Consular Jurisdiction in the East’”, European Journal of International Law, Volume 25, Issue 3, 1 August 2014, Pages 871–891.
- Münch, F.,"Die Martens'sche Klausel und die Grundlagen des Völkerrechts", Zeitschrift für Ausländisches und Öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht, Vol. 36 (1976), pp. 347-373.
- Oliveira Biazatti, de, and G. Carvalho de Mesquita Vasconcellos, The Martens Clause: A Study of its Function and Meaning, Revista Eletrônica de Direito Internacional, Vol. 16 (2015), pp. 1-43.
- Pérez González, M., "Principios y leyes de humanidad en situaciones de conflicto : valor de la cláusula Martens a la luz del derecho internacional humanitario", In: Rodríguez-Villasante y Prieto, J.L. and J. López Sánchez (eds.), La protección de la dignidad de la persona y el principio de humanidad en el siglo XXI : estudios de derecho internacional humanitario, derechos humanos y función policial in memoriam Gonzalo Jar Couselo, Valencia, Tirant lo Blanch, 2012, pp. 115-137.
- Pons Rafols, X., "Revisitando a Martens : las normas básicas de humanidad en la Comisión de Derechos Humanos", In: Branco de Sampaio J. (eds.) (et al.), Soberanía del Estado y Derecho internacional : homenaje al profesor Juan Antonio Carrillo Salcedo, Sevilla, Universidad de Sevilla, Secretariado de Publicaciones, vol. 2, 2005, pp. 1095-1118.
- Pustogarov V. V., “The Martens Clause in International Law”, in: Journal of the History of International Law, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1999, pp. 125-135.
- Rensmann, T., “Die Humanisierung des Völkerrechts durch das ius in bello : Von der Martens'schen Klausel zur "Responsability to Protect"”, In: Zeitschrift für Ausländisches Öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht; Vol. 68, No. 1(2008), pp. 111-128.
- Salter, M., “Reinterpreting Competing Interpretations of the Scope and Potential of the Martens Clause”, Journal of Conflict and Security Law, Volume 17, No. 3 (Dec 2012), pp. 403–43.
- Schircks, R. , “Zum hundertjährigen Geburtstag der Martens'schen Klausel : eine Bestandsaufnahme”, In: Humanitäres Völkerrecht; Vol. 12, No. 3 (1999), pp. 167-169.
- Swinarski, C., "Acerca de la contribución del jurista al orden internacional (apuntes sobre F.F. Martens)", in: Rodríguez-Villasante y Prieto, J. L. and J. López Sánchez (eds.), La protección de la dignidad de la persona y el principio de humanidad en el siglo XXI, Valencia, Tirant lo Blanch, 2012, pp. 115-137.
- Ticehurst , R., “The Martens Clause and the Laws of Armed Conflict”, in IRRC, No. 317, March-April 1997, pp. 125-134.
- Ticehurst, R., "The Martens Clause and the Laws of Armed Conflict", in: Sanajaoba, N. (ed.), A manual of international humanitarian laws, New Delhi, Regency Publications, 2004, 312-322.
- Veuthey M., “Public Conscience in International Humanitarian Law Today”, in Fischer H. (eds.) (et al.), Crisis Management and Humanitarian Protection: In Honour of Dieter Fleck, Berlin, Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, 2004, pp. 611-642.