The Importance Of Humanitarian Intervention

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When considering the concepts of human rights and state sovereignty, the potential for conflict between the two is evident. Any humanitarian intervention by other actors within the international system would effectively constitute a violation of the traditional sovereign rights of states to govern their own domestic affairs. Thus, the answer to this question lies in an examination of the legitimacy and morality of humanitarian intervention. While traditionally, the Westphalian concept of sovereignty and non-intervention has prevailed, in the period since the Cold War, the view of human rights as principles universally entitled to humanity, and the norm of enforcing them, has developed. This has led to the 1990’s being described as a ‘golden…show more content…
Although, within the U.N. Charter of 1945, Article 2(4) prohibits the use of force against ‘the territorial integrity or political independence of any state’ (U.N. Charter, art.2 para.4), it has been suggested by counter-restrictionist international lawyers, that humanitarian intervention does not fall under these criteria, making it legally justifiable under the U.N. Charter (e.g. Damrosch 1991:219 in Baylis and Smith 2001: 481). However, this viewpoint lacks credibility, as it is far from the general international consensus, and unlikely the initial intentions of the draftsmen of the charter. In more recent times, one can examine the emerging doctrine of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’(RtoP), which was adopted unanimously by the UN in 2005, as a far more persuasive example of modern legitimacy of humanitarian intervention. While not consolidated within international law, RtoP, which promotes humanitarian intervention where sovereign states fail in their own responsibility to protect their citizens, does use legal language and functions as a comprehensive international framework to prevent human rights…show more content…
Present legal principles are only credible if supported by strong rational and moral reasoning. The most influential moral justification for humanitarian intervention, is founded in natural law and just war theory, dating back to St Augustine. It is argued that there exist inherent and objective moral principles within humanity, irrespective of societal development. Therefore, according to just war theory, certain wars, in which such principles have been infringed upon are considered to be absolutely just (Jus ad Belum). This concept of legitimized wars in the name of justice, for example in self defense, can also be extended to humanitarian intervention. The breaking of fundamental human rights by states creates a situation whereby intervention in the defense of humanity is morally permissible. This view was expounded by philosopher Hugo Grotius, often described as a ‘father’ of modern international law, who supported the legality of humanitarian intervention in a situation “where a tyrant should inflict upon his subjects such treatment as no one is warranted in inflicting” (as cited in Chesterman
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