POL 2103: Lecture #11 Nov 13 2012
800 000 1,000 000
killed…in only100 days
8 000 10 000
in 5 days
Summarizing the catastrophe in 1997, David Rohde who as a journalist with the Christian Science
Monitor won a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the first mass graves around Srebrenica offered a blistering
critique of the moral lapse on the part of the UN "safe area's" alleged guardians:
"The international community partially disarmed thousands of men, promised them they would be
safeguarded and then delivered them to their sworn enemies.
Srebrenica was not simply a case of the international community standing by as a faroff atrocity was
committed. The actions of the international community encouraged, aided, and emboldened the
executioners. ... The fall of Srebrenica did not have to happen. There is no need for thousands of skeletons
to be strewn across eastern Bosnia. There is no need for thousands of Muslim children to be raised on
stories of their fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers slaughtered by Serbs." Endgame , pp.
351, 353.) THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT:
(1) Basic Principles
A. State sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies
with the state itself.
B. Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency,
repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or
avert it, the principle of nonintervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.
The history of “humanitarian” military intervention is replete with invocations of humanitarian intentions by
strong powers or coalitions in order to conceal their own geopolitical interests.
The United Nations charter prohibits nations from attacking other states to remedy claimed violations of
The requirement that the Security Council must authorize any use of force to protect human rights is critical
to the maintenance of world peace and order.
The 1999 U.S.led NATO air assault against Yugoslavia to halt human rights abuses in Kosovo has been
extolled by some
as a new model of humanitarian intervention.
President Clinton has argued that when a nation is committing gross human rights violations
against its citizens, other nations or multilateral coalitions have the right to intervene militarily, without the
authority of the UN Security Council, to end those abuses.
However, the United Nations charter clearly prohibits nations from attacking other states for
claimed violations of human rights.
Article 2(4), the central provision of the charter, prohibits the “threat or use of force against” another
state. There are only two exceptions to this prohibition.
Article 51 allows a nation to use force in “selfdefense if an armed attack occurs against” it or an
allied country. The charter also authorizes the Security Council to employ force to counter threats to or breaches
of international peace. This has been interpreted to allow individual nations to militarily intervene for
humanitarian reasons, but only with the explicit authorization of the Security Council. This has occurred in
Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, and Bosnia.
The idea of humanitarian intervention appeared during the Biafran War (19671970).
Large scale famine, widely covered in western press but totally ignored by government leaders in the name
of neutrality and nonintervention.
This situation lead to the creation of NGOs like Medecins Sans Frontieres, which defended the idea that
certain public health situations might justify the extraordinary action of calling into question the sovereignty
The concept was developed at the end of the 1980s, notably by the French politician Bernard Kouchner.
Worked as a physician for the Red Cross in
Biafra in 1968 (during the Nigerian Civil War).
founded MSF in 1971
Health Minister in 19921993
Member of the European Parliament
State Secretary for Health from 1997 to 1999.
Representing Administrator of the United Nations in Kosovo
from 1999 to 2001
Defining humanitarian intervention is problematic.
The only consensus is that… there is no consensus.
To start with the use of force in international law, the options can be categorized as follows:
Individual and collective selfdefense
Intervention by the Security Council
Defenders of humanitarian intervention justify it primarily in the name of a moral imperative: "we should not let people die."
This idea is grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, written in 1948. For these defenders,
intervention is only legitimate when it is motivated by a massive violation of human rights and when it is put
in motion by a supernational body, typically the United Nations Security Council.
Legal Ammunitions or Legal Obstacles:
Article 2(7) of the Charter prohibits the UN from intervening in domestic affairs.
“Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which
are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such
matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of
enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.”
Therefore, action under Chapter VII is an exception.
Humanitarian intervention is not explicitly dealt with in the UN Charter, although the right to self
determination is explicit in Article 1(2).
Mostly arguments were based on Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, saying that humanitarian intervention
was part of the selfdefense of the country concerned , and that either explicit approval had
been received from the authorities, or silent acquiescence.
In that sense there was no violation of Article 2(4), as humanitarian intervention was not action against the
"territorial integrity or political independence of any state".
Article 51 is also commonly used as part of an argument for humanitarian intervention, stating that
intervention is action taking in selfdefense on behalf of the people. It is evident that the arguments were
highly questionable, and that interventions may have been and are carried out of pure political selfinterest.
→ allows the Security Council to take any measures necessary to “ restore international peace
The only situation in which the use of force will be taken on a early lawful basis , is in connection
with a Security Council decision under Chapter VII.
In all other situations the legal basis for use of force can be debated.
Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council may take action with respect to threats
to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression. Article 24(1) gives the Security Council the primary responsibility for the maintenance of
international peace and security .
Humanitarian access should not be confused with humanitarian intervention.
The term humanitarian intervention has been used in operations where a state or several states have
intervened in the territory of another state because of
violations of human rights, to set free hostages, or for the purpose
of delivering humanitarian aid.
UN legal provisions allow the Security Council to authorise action only if a consensus can be reached
that a umanitarian disaster is a threat to international peace and security .
Debates with respect to definitions, criteria, decisionmaking process, implementation
the PostCold War environment is more conducive to successful interventions.
Important distinction : humanitarian intervention discussed as a right, not a duty.
States meant that if they felt compelled to intervene with humanitarian action, they d a right to do
so, but they did not have a duty to do so in case they were not interested: Northern Iraq, Somalia,