Define ‘Humanitarian Intervention’ and Explain How It Is Used to Justify Interference in Another State’s Affairs

Define ‘humanitarian intervention’ and explain how it is used to justify interference in another state’s affairs. Throughout history, governments of countries or ‘states’ have found cause to interfere in other states’ affairs. ‘Humanitarian intervention’ is a means by which several states have justified this interference. The Iraq War in 2003 was caused by an unjustified intervention, and as a result, bore severe repercussions. Defining humanitarian intervention shows that even though the process is flawed, it is still a necessity.

An understanding of human rights and how they have been violated in the past also shows the reason why the world requires governing committees, such as the United Nations. Discussions of human rights place at its foundations, an emphasis on individual human rights. Although this may be due to the fact that the early literature was influenced by early literature was influenced by western libertarians; it is taken for granted by many authors. (Howard, 1992 p. 2) The international community has a moral obligation to protect these rights, and that is why relevant international law and policies are implemented. Human rights laws are a controversial issue for both democratic and authoritarian governments because of the impact they could have on cultural values. These laws do not take into account the rights of the majority; they mainly pertain to the protection of individuals or minorities. Some ‘non-western’ countries consider that the monitoring of human rights by committees could interfere with their cultural and national sovereignty.

In 1997, the Malayan Prime Minister suggested the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be redrafted because he did not agree with being told how to run his country by the people. In particular, he was concerned about the reinstating of colonial rule. (Charlesworth, 2002 p. 46) Humanitarian intervention is also a highly debated issue. The justification of this intervention into other states’ affairs intensifies this debate. Humanitarian intervention is a relatively modern concept, and primarily has been developed by learning from mistakes made in the past. The procedures nd processes in place are progressing but are not perfect. Humanitarian intervention is best defined as “the threat or use of force by a state, group of states, or international organisations primarily for the purpose of protecting the nationals of the target state from widespread deprivations of internationally recognised human rights. ” (Murphy 1996, p. 11-12) Intervention does not imply simply invading another state. Humanitarian intervention takes many forms, such as economic sanctions, trade embargoes (Rhodesia 1965) or threatening the use of military force.

The decision to utilise these methods needs to be made very carefully, as their implementation invariably causes tension to rise in the target state. Pre-1945, international law was to “regulate relations between states”. (Davidson 1993, p. 7) Separate states did not have any responsibility or rights to intervene in other states’ affairs. International law was considered a relationship between countries, not a relationship between a country and its population. It was the state’s responsibility to ensure that the human rights of its nationals were upheld. Only an individual who was an alien could bring a case under international law, where the alien has suffered arbitrary treatment at the hands of the state agents. ” (Davidson 1993, p. 7) As was demonstrated by the Nazi regime in 1945, this arrangement provided inadequate protection for individuals. In 1945, the United Nations Security Council was formed. The objective of this council was to provide the protection of “…fundamental rights and freedom” which had now become an international concern. (Charlesworth 2002, p. 4) Articles were devised for states to pledge the protection of individual rights, therefore intimately connecting national and international rights. The UN continues to implement further treaties and declarations in order to protect specific and regional human rights. The United Nations (UN) Security Council and several subsidiaries are the main governing bodies that monitor human rights, for example, AU (African Union), EU (European Union) and NATO (North American Treaty Organisation). Despite the existence of these organisations, individual states must ensure he protection of their nationals’ individual rights. If the states’ government is unable to fulfill this obligation, other avenues of protection are available. Under section VII of the UN Charter, the UN Security Council has a right to intervene into a state’s affairs if the state or local authorities in question cannot or will not take steps to protect their individual nationals. Concurrently, there is a ‘unilateral agreement’ that, as a moral right, a state may intervene in other states’ affairs under extreme circumstances. This is referred to under international law as Jus Cogens (Latin for ‘compelling law’).

In 1990, this was expanded to include other forms of intervention such as protection of people in safe areas and provision of humanitarian aid and security forces to restore law and order to societies whose governments have been overturned. (Bellamy, 2005) These policies have been developed with good intentions, but can still be misused due to their proclivity to interpretation. Defined literally, the term ‘unilateral agreement’ is a legal fiction; ‘unilateral’ literally means ‘one sided,’ and ‘agreement’ is ‘an arrangement between two or more parties’.

It is more likely, however, that this term is describing a ‘unilateral contract’. In this context, a state pledges not to intervene unless, for example, another state commits genocide. Consequently, the contract that allows intervention to occur does not exist until another state commits these offences, making it a ‘one-sided agreement’. Article 2 (4) of the United Nations Charter states “All members shall refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations. (Riesman 1984, p. 642). If humanitarian intervention is “…the threat or use of force by a state”, the unilateral agreement directly contravenes the directions of the UN Charter. (Murphy 1996, p. 11-12) If this is so, then how could a state use this type of justification to implement an intervention? According to the Jus Cogens convention, a state is protected from indictment whilst carrying out an ‘unsanctioned’ intervention. There are three main ways a state can gain legal authorisation to carry out an intervention.

Firstly, regional organisations can use local forces for an intervention as per article 4(h) AU Constitutive Act, signed 11 July 2000. This awarded them “the right to intervene in a member state pursuant to a decision by the assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. ” (Bellamy 2005, p. 35) Secondly, the UN Security Council can authorise an intervention if a target state refuses (or does not have the capabilities) to protect its nationals and regional organisations have not been successful in this task.

Legally, there has to be a gross violation of human rights (such as genocide, slavery, or torture) or other acts consistent with this pattern in order for authorisation to take place. ‘Other acts’ involve deprivation of human rights by either government or rebel forces. The UN also has the scope to authorise intervention to protect an individual’s basic human rights. (Bellamy, 2005) The third way is justification by the unilateral agreement. Unilateral intervention is a problematic option that is only applied in extreme cases, such as imminent threat of genocide or mass murder.

These extreme cases also must be the priority reason for the intervention. The Munk debates (2008) refer to the rarity of humanitarian interventions that are fought for the sole purpose of protecting the target state nationals. There is almost always an underlying motive for a state to intervene. History shows that when a state has intervened purely for humanitarian reasons, the state will rapidly “lose interest”. (Bolton, Hillier, 2008) This was demonstrated in Operation Secure Tomorrow in Haiti (2004) and Operation Restore Hope and Solace in Somalia (1992).

In 2003, NATO carried out a humanitarian intervention in Iraq to search for ‘weapons of mass destruction’. Although this intervention was not authorised by the UN council, it was justified as an ‘extreme case’ by a commission of experts, who deemed that the intervention was “not legal but was legitimate. ” Although it “did not satisfy international society’s legal rules”, it was “sanctioned by its compelling moral purpose”. (Bellamy 2005, p. 34) “…humanitarian intervention that occurs without the consent of the relevant government can be justified only on the face of ongoing or imminent genocide, or comparable mass slaughter or loss of life. (Roth 2004, p. 4) Although it could be demonstrated that Saddam Hussein committed these atrocities in the past, there was no evidence to prove that the offences were imminent. However, President Bush maintained that Iraq was a humanitarian intervention, and that “Saddam Hussein was a tyrant who deserved to be overthrown. ” (Roth 2004, p. 14) Prior to the Iraq war in 2003, the United Kingdom and America prescribed the norm for humanitarian intervention. Both of these countries intervened for “self-serving purposes”. (Bellamy 2005, p. 3) And as a consequence, they have now lost creditability and influence to persuade other states to become involved in humanitarian intervention because they can no longer be trusted to follow due processes. Due to the appearance of an unjust war on Iraq, most states are now cautious about intervening in other states affairs as it may be construed as agreeing with NATO forces. This is a major step backwards in the progress of UN process refinement. (Bellamy, 2005) Put simply, humanitarian intervention is the use of force to protect basic human rights.

This intervention is justified by our sense of morality, our compulsion to ‘help a friend in need’ and the various laws and policies that spring from this compulsion and also by Jus Cogens. On the surface, an intervention may appear noble, but it has been demonstrated that this process can be used for “self serving purposes”. (Bellamy 2005, p. 33) The expense associated with a humanitarian intervention is large, and as a result, it is unlikely that a state would proceed with an intervention unless it was economically viable.

Humanitarian intervention exists as a useful tool for society, but is far from completely developed. Word Count : 1645 Bibliography Bellamy, A J 2005, Ethics and International Affairs, Responsibility to protect or Trojan horse? The crisis in Dafur and humanitarian intervention after Iraq, University of Birmingham, UK & University of Queensland, Australia, pp 31 – 53. http://www. students. sbc. edu/ostrow06/resptoprotect. pdf viewed 17 April 2010. Bolton, J, Hillier, R 2008, The case against humanitarian intervention, Munk Debates, 3 November 2008 viewed 21 April 2010. ttp://www. munkdebates. com Charlesworth, H 2002, ‘International Human Rights System’, Writing in Rights; Australia and the protection of rights, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, pp. 41 – 55. Davidson, S 1993, Human Rights, Historical development of human rights, Open University Press, London, pp. 1 – 23. Howard, R E 1992, ‘Dignity, Community, and Human Rights’, Human Rights in Cross-Cultural Perspectives – a quest for consensus, edited by Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. pp. 81 – 102.

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