Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal.



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.

References in classic literature ?
This immediately put her on the defensive, and with one of those sudden impulses of reprisal to which she was liable she gave him a little push from her.
Such hideous misgovernment as generations of your countrymen had suffered was logically bound to bring its own reprisal.
By command of their father, the tents were thrown into the vehicles, as a sort of reprisal for the want of faith in their late ally, and then the train left the spot, in its usual listless and sluggish order.
With that they parted; Mr Swiveller to make the best of his way home and sleep himself sober; and Quilp to cogitate upon the discovery he had made, and exult in the prospect of the rich field of enjoyment and reprisal it opened to him.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's World at One, Mike warned against any reprisals against Muslims, saying it was what extremists wanted.
Marks to unlawful reprisals after he reported widespread corruption within the Tribe.
He said the reprisals left several people dead and forced at least 6,000 to flee, most of them to a cathedral in the region.
He said: "Although the horse owners may not want to declare themselves, those involved in removing horses fear reprisals by them.
Frequently, subcontractor employees are in a position to report wrongdoing and they should have the same protection against reprisals that prime contractors do," said Michael Shanker, director of whistleblower reprisal investigations at the IG office.
President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the church attack and vowed a strengthened fight against what he called "acts of terror" in a statement that made no specific mention of reprisals.
In fact, Irish police were implicated in many illegal actions and reprisals, though some of these offenders were protected from punishment while the newcomers took the rap.
Qatar has expressed concern over "all forms of harassment, intimidation and reprisals against groups and individuals that co-operated with the UN or human rights mechanisms", saying that the protection and safety of individuals concerned should be a top priority.