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in international law, one of the means of legal defense in relations between countries. Reprisals are sanctions applied by a state in response to illegal acts by another state in order to induce the latter to compensate for damages or to desist from violations in the future.
Reprisals must be preceded by a demand for indemnification. They are permissible only if the other side refuses to make restitution and must cease immediately if redress has been made. Moreover, reprisals must be commensurate with the illegal actions against which they are directed. Under no circumstances, however, may a wronged state resort to armed reprisals, occupy the territory of the delinquent state, or seize its ships on the high seas. In present-day international law such acts are defined as aggression.
The Declaration on the Principles of International Law, adopted by the 25th session of the UN General Assembly in 1970, contained a provision stating that countries must desist from acts of reprisal involving the use of force.