This question came about from this quote very early in the film.

NUTE: Yes, yes, of course...ahhh...as you know, our blockade is perfectly legal, and we'd be happy to receive the Ambassador

Link to script used (spelling errors corrected)

How is it that Nute Gunray is so confident in the legality of the blockade that he is even happy to negotiate with ambassadors (that is, until he realises they are Jedi)?

I don't see how blockading an entire planet (equivalent I suspect to a castle siege in medieval times) be legal?

  • 37
    I will make it legal.
    – Adamant
    Jun 1, 2017 at 1:38
  • 8
    Until shots are fired, a whole bunch of things are legal, or at least, debatable, which was probably the gray area they were hiding in. But I'm not an expert in Star Wars legality...
    – Radhil
    Jun 1, 2017 at 1:42
  • 5
    Hm. I thought he said it was a "regal" blockade. As in their blocking the queen. ;)
    – Paul
    Jun 1, 2017 at 3:42
  • 17
    It was "legal" because the body in charge of enforcing the law (the Senate) is so accustomed to compromising on even the most basic and fundamental of principles that it takes a committee meeting to determine whether outright genocide is a crime or not.
    – EvilSnack
    Jun 1, 2017 at 4:05
  • 29
    Shouldn't this be on law.stackexchange.com so the Nabooian legal experts can weigh in? :P
    – Wildcard
    Jun 1, 2017 at 4:16

5 Answers 5


Actually, blockades have been legal as far as some countries and the U.N. has been concerned in the past, mainly to solve problems without the parties resorting to war, or as a way to provide economic pressure.

The legal status depends on who's looking at it. For instance, the Brazilian blockade of Río de la Plata in 1826, was lawful according to British law but unlawful under French and American law.

Therefore, it's possible that they've studied the law, and are a specific distance from the planet that's allowable, or they are looking at particular laws within the Planetary Republic.

You say that it's equivalent to a castle siege in Medieval times, but it's really not. A castle will run out of food eventually, but cutting off trade to a country or a whole planet will not starve them, most likely, unless the resources are very limited or unless that they are highly dependent on imports to survive.

Now, as to whether her people were dying, the transmission may have been designed to bring the Queen back so they could force her to sign something, instead of people actually dying. The aim was not starvation.

EDIT: Also, just going to drop this here, It's Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, the section which deals with what the U.N. can do BEFORE they resort to force, legally under their charter.

Article 41 The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.

Article 42 Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.

Countries have always had differing views on whether a blockade is legal, and that generally depends on if they believe the country being blockaded is the bad guy...or if they make money in trade with the country being blockaded or the blockader. It sounds mercenary. It kinda is.

Edit: I didn't address this point that others have: Does the speaker really believe that what they are doing is legal? Other answers here cover this!

  • 5
    Today I learned that blockades can indeed be legal...
    – Shadow
    Jun 1, 2017 at 2:33
  • 7
    You know, Blockages are legal today: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockade_of_the_Gaza_Strip No need to look towards the past (except its in a galaxy far far away, of course) Jun 1, 2017 at 9:40
  • 7
    To support your point about blockading a planet not being equivalent to starving the populace-- Naboo is pretty clearly a verdant planet that can easily grow its own food, etc. Blockading Tatooine or, worse, Coruscant seems like it would probably result in starvation, but it seems difficult to believe that Naboo can't support itself. Jun 1, 2017 at 16:55
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    @Martha Trade embargo is one thing, not allowing ships from other countries to enter North Korean ports, or not letting North Korean ships to leave their ports would be act of war. Because North Korea (unlike some other countries) does have weapons with which to retaliate, it would soon evolve in actual shooting war.
    – rs.29
    Jun 1, 2017 at 19:51
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    "Now, as to whether her people were dying, the transmission may have been designed to bring the Queen back so they could force her to sign something" Worth noting that this transmission happened after the invasion of Naboo, not just as a result of the blockade. It's quite possible that people were dying as a result of the military occupation of the planet.
    – Ajedi32
    Jun 2, 2017 at 13:14

The blockade was completely illegal, but the Republic was too inept, corrupt and weak to intervene.

Naboo and the accompanying Chommell sector were members of Republic, with their own Senator. So was the Trade Federation, although not a planet as a large corporation they got their seat in the Senate. Naboo and the Trade Federation were "equals", i.e. neither of them had authority over the other. After the Senate made a decision to abolish Free Trade Zones, some Trade Federation businesses were eligible for taxation; consequently their profits dropped.

In a "protest", the Trade Federation decided to blockade Naboo, or to be precise to stop by force any ship coming or going from Naboo. In Legends, Viceroy Nute Gunray even said "that it was a protest of the new shipping lane taxes, and threatened that any attempts to break the embargo would be met with deadly force, and was prepared to see Naboo starve unless the regulations were removed".

Of course it was illegal for one member of Republic to starve citizens of another, or to use force against ships of other members. And if you are not convinced, there was another similar incident on Malastare, some years before the blockade of Naboo. The Corporate Alliance tried to blockade this planet, again in "protest", but that time the Republic acted decisively and simply destroyed the offending blockading fleet. This event is described both in Canon and in Legends.

Therefore there is no way that blockade could be legal. It could only appear "legal" because The Republic was too weak to enforce its own laws.

  • 2
    Something may be unenforceable and still be illegal.
    – BlackThorn
    Jun 1, 2017 at 16:33
  • @TBear Theoretically, but usually if something could not be enforced legally, law is "bended" so that it appears legal. In international law "might is right" is a first maxim, and de facto situation in reality is usually legalized .
    – rs.29
    Jun 1, 2017 at 16:41
  • 7
    I think the Trade Federation Neimoidians are spineless weasels, not strong-armed chest puffers. Their little droid army only works assuming no one else intervenes. No, "our blockade is perfectly legal" means he believes it is either normally legal, or legal by some loophole. If they were following the "might is right" maxim, like the Manalorians or Hutts would in their place, Gunray would have instead said something like, "Try and stop me".
    – BlackThorn
    Jun 1, 2017 at 16:53
  • 6
    And he obviously cares about legality because he asks Sidious if landing the droid army is legal because he is spineless. The Trade Federation only participates in Sidious's schemes because HE strong arms THEM and assures them that he will stack the deck for them.
    – BlackThorn
    Jun 1, 2017 at 16:55
  • @TBear It doesn't work that way in real world or SW universe. Trade Federation was mightier then Naboo, but there were third (neutral) parties that could pose a problem for TF . TF was counting on Sidious to delay them and keep them occupied in the Senate, and after a while present fait accompli of occupied Naboo. Those third parties would then find no real motivation to change something that is already fact on the ground, and would essentially legalize illegal occupation. Typical example in real world : German occupation of Czech Republic and subsequent Munich agreement .
    – rs.29
    Jun 1, 2017 at 19:40

TL;DR - It probably wasn't legal, but the Neimoidians were relying on Darth Sidious to cover that.

The legality of the blockade was the heart of the matter - that's what the Jedi were sent there to investigate, after all. There would need to be specific circumstances involved in order for it to be legal, but essentially when Nute stated that the blockade was legal... he was bluffing.

As with landing troops on Naboo itself, the Neimoidians had likely been assured by Darth Sidious that it would BE legal by the time it mattered:

DARTH SIDIOUS: This turn of events is unfortunate. We must accelerate our plans. Begin landing your troops.

NUTE: My Lord, is that... legal?

DARTH SIDIOUS: I will MAKE it legal.

They did not know who Sidious really was, but he had already twice proven his ability to influence the Senate - first by getting the Trade Federation full voting rights in the Senate, and later by ensuring they would receive the contract for building a new spaceport on Naboo (both in the now-Legends novel "Darth Plagueis"). Granted, the blockade & invasion of Naboo was a step up, but they were trusting him to make good on his promises as he had before.

  • 3
    "I will make it legal" seems to be in reference to landing the troops rather than the blockade itself. Do you have a quote about the actual blockade that would be more relevant?
    – Shadow
    Jun 1, 2017 at 23:19
  • 3
    @shadow - no, because the blockade had already begun when the movie starts. The entire plan, however, seemed to hinge on the fact that the Senate was so clogged & slow-moving that Sidious would have time to make things legal by the time that mattered. I'll add the word "likely", though, just for you.
    – Omegacron
    Jun 2, 2017 at 2:24
  • Do you have a source for Sideous getting the Trade Federation into the Senate and the spaceport building? I haven't heard that before.
    – Daniel
    Jun 2, 2017 at 14:26
  • 1
    @Daniel - that's from the Darth Plagueis novel, which is Legends now
    – Omegacron
    Jun 2, 2017 at 16:11

How is it that Nute Gunray is so confident in the legality of the blockade that he is even happy to negotiate with ambassadors (that is, until he realises they are Jedi)?

You seem to think that he actually believes its legal. He probably knows its not legal. Speeding is also illegal, yet many people do it day to day. The american invasion of Iraq was probably illegal, too. But so what? It still happened!

What he is doing is creating facts. The trade fedaration simply blockades Naboo. Naboo has no own army that could match the trade federation. So what are they going to do?

News travels slow in the Star Wars universe, it seems. Amidala has to travel to Coruscant to inform the senate in person. Even at the senate, it is only her word that the trade federation blockaded Naboo. The senator of Malastare(?), who was under the influence of Sidious, openly questioned the legitimacy of this claim and wanted to send neutral observers to get to the "truth".

What all this does is cost time. Although the blockade is probably illegal, the consequences of the blcokade are very real. And while the senate debates, facts are made, and the story unfolds.

This inability of the senate to act quickly is what motivates Amidala to have Valorum removes from office.

Sidious himself openly tells Nute Gunray that the blockade is illegal. In the holo-conference, he tells them "I will make it legal", presumably by forcing Amidala to sign the treaty that makes it so.

The inability of the Republic to react to this obviously illegal blockade is the main motivator of the story and the eventual downfall of the Rebublic.

  • Illegal where? It's not like everyone agreed on a single set of binding laws on Earth; even international law is contested, its jurisdiction widely debated etc. It might very well be that the law system of the Republic and its constituents is so tangled that noöne can even figure out whether the blockade is legal or not, and what proper response is there if it is illegal. Most likely, they expect the whole case to be thoroughly examined, with Palpatine steering the whole incident their way - say, as a legitimate act of protest against unfair trade policies.
    – Luaan
    Jun 1, 2017 at 12:21
  • @Luaan My point is that it doesn't matter wether its legal or not. That doesn't concern the trade federation. Sidious statement "I will make it legal" is pretty much a give-away, though: its not (yet) legal and will be legal once Amidala signs the treaty. Sidious is a master of intrigue, he plays the republic by creating a crisis...
    – Polygnome
    Jun 1, 2017 at 12:32
  • 5
    Keep in mind, though, that the "I will make it legal" we see on-screen is directly referencing the idea of them landing troops. I'm sure a similar conversation took place regarding the blockade, but it's still quite a jump from blockade to invasion.
    – Omegacron
    Jun 1, 2017 at 14:20
  • 1
    I think, given we know what a coward Nute is, we can assume he thinks it is legal (or at least hopes it is). Whether this because it is actually legal, or because Sideos has convinced him of a lie is unclear.
    – Shadow
    Jun 2, 2017 at 0:15
  • Yeah, but again, it doesn't really matter wether its legal or not. The point is its questionable and unclear, and that makes it perfect for Sidious ploy...
    – Polygnome
    Jun 2, 2017 at 17:39

What made the blockade illegal was the landing of Troops. To stop trade is far cry from an invasion. As was already stated and so I won't elaborate except that we have many views and laws and they change constantly. And the rules may differ so I doubt it would be hard to amend a pre-existing law to over look the shift from blockade to invasion.

  • 1
    The way they planned to overlook the shift from blockade to invasion was the treaty that Queen Amidala was to sign. But this question is about the blockade - not the invasion.
    – Shadow
    Jun 1, 2017 at 23:22

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