Humanitarian Intervention, NATO and International Law

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Much recent discourse surrounding humanitarian intervention has focused on the responsibility to protect (R2P). Prevention is a key component for good international relations and few would say it is not important, but as evidence to date would show prevention is very ineffective, the legality of military intervention still needs to be debated, as to date there is no consensus. For any intervention to be legitimate, whether unilateral or multilateral, it must comply with international law. So as not to cause any confusion, any situation in which an “intervention” is done with the permission or by request of the state being intervened, should be considered humanitarian assistance as state sovereignty is not breached. This paper will outline the relevant international laws and how they are applicable.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), founded by the United Nations (UN), is embedded in the Charter of the United Nations, making all member nations ipso facto party to the Court’s statutes. The court, under Section 38 of the Statute of the ICJ, recognizes under international law: international conventions (recognized by the contesting states) and international custom (practice with acceptable precedent to be accepted as law).

International Convention

The UN Charter is the most important piece of law when it comes to international law. Almost all states, other than a few minor ones, are party to it. Article 103 of the Charter states that if there is a conflict between it and any other treaty or international agreement, the Charter prevails. The UN Charter is founded upon a principle of non-intervention and sovereignty. Article 2 (1) states that the UN is based upon the idea of sovereign equality am...

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