The essence of State is that of
its sovereignty. This was recognized as back as in 1648 when world powers of
that time met in
Changing norms: Protecting Human Rights at the Cost of State Sovereignty.
Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of United Nations, during the 54th session of General Assembly speaks in favor of human rights. He said, “If States bent on criminal behavior know that frontiers are not the absolute defense, if they know that Security Council will take actions to halt crimes against humanity, then they will not embark on such courses of action in expectation of State impunity”. It is to be noted that international law forbids unilateral use of force to rescue victims of humanitarian catastrophe. As a matter of treaty law, United Nation charter does not exempt the humanitarian intervention from the prohibition of use of force. As a matter of customary international law, notably the International Court of Justice in Nicaragua V. United States concluded that custom does not permit humanitarian intervention. The result was that State Sovereignty was considered superior till 1990’s. However, event like Tiananmen square, the Iraqi repression of its Kurdish minorities, mass killing and population displacement in Rwanda and the violent collapse of former Yugoslavia gave international community new reasons to concerned about the way in which humanitarian intervention are being initiated and managed. The relative success of NATO intervention in Kosovo has given the principle a new life. The international community in general and the United Nations in particular, now recognize a clear mandate to become involved in situations of large-scale, imminent or ongoing human rights violations. Kofi Annan has a major role to play in this development. According to him, national sovereignty can be set aside if it stands in the way of the Security Council’s overriding duty to preserve international peace and security.”.
From “Humanitarian Intervention” to “Responsibility to Protect”:
In 2001, The Canadian Government had set up an international commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). The commission was the first one to suggest change in terminology, instead of right to intervene they proposes “Responsibility to Protect”. Gareth Evans, the chairman of the commission, had expressed his optimism that change in terminology could help in overcoming the reservations over the notion of intervention. But as was rightly observed by Mohammad Sid – Ahmad the problem is not of terminology, it was that of a substance. However, following the precedent set by the ICISS, the principle under the heading of Responsibility to Protect was taken up by the High Level panel on UN Reforms in 2004 and was adopted by Kofi Annan. In 2005, United Nations Summit of world leaders, in its final “outcome document” adopted the responsibility to protect civilians from the genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
At this time it is pertinent to mention that humanitarian intervention or responsibility to protect only involves arm intervention in cases of genocide, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity, neither does it include nor is it intended “to cope with the aftermath of natural disasters”. The avoidance of humanitarian aid and assistance raises some serious questions about the credibility of doctrine. Already most developing nations regarded the doctrine as a tool of West to interfere in another States and to impose their values. The exclusion of humanitarian assistance in natural calamities has made even more doubtful the principle of intervention.
Does international Community has a right to intervene?
Before answering this question, let us first understand that what humanitarian intervention is. Humanitarian intervention means arm intervention of one State into another in order to put an end to atrocities, which are committed by that State against its own Citizen. In 1999, Tony Blair was the first world leader “who assert the moral right to get actively involve in another people conflict even without the sanction of Security Council--- if it was the only way to stop the dire sufferings”. To answer the question, whether the international community has a right to intervene or as proposed by ICISS, “responsibility to protect” depends upon the approach which one takes towards the concept of Sovereignty. The proponents of intervention have made a case for the shift of absolute sovereignty to relative Sovereignty, where a State will enjoy its Sovereign Status as long as it protects the rights of its people. Kofi Annan was much vocal about this; he explained this change to General Assembly in following words: -
State sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined. ... At the same time, individual sovereignty ... has been enhanced by a renewed and spreading consciousness of individual rights.
According to this approach,
sovereignty implies responsibility. “Sovereignty no longer means “the right to
control” people and borders at all costs, but now means “the responsibility to
protect” civilians, especially from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and
crimes against humanity. When a state is failing to protect its civilians, the
responsibility to protect falls on the international community to prevent,
react and rebuild areas affected by mass suffering and atrocities”. This implies a change in
Sovereignty from absolute to relative, in favour of human rights. According to
this approach, the sovereignty of state means sovereignty of people, and not
that of leaders. Kofi Annan
also expressed a similar view, when he comments on Article 2(7) of UN Charter. The UN Charter, “was issued in the name of ‘the
peoples’, not the governments of the United Nations . . . The Charter protects
the sovereignty of peoples. It was never meant as a license for governments to
trample on human rights and human dignity. Sovereignty implies responsibility,
not just power. The
notion of a state’s sovereignty being conditional on an ability and willingness
to protect its citizens was re-affirmed in
The opponents of intervention do recognize the change in absolute nature of Sovereignty to relative but lay emphasis on the importance of United Nations for its effective role. Mohammad Sid- Ahmad, in his famous article on Sovereignty and intervention has put it, “"Humanitarian intervention" has become a code word for "superpower intervention," which is dictated by and serves the interests of the summit of the global community rather than those of its base”. Now we consider this question as to who has the right to intervene.
Who to decide?
The most controversial thing about humanitarian intervention is about the question of authority, who should decide that an intervention should take place. A natural response would be that it has to be Security Council, which must decide that an intervention should or should not take place. ICISS in its report also emphasized on the role of Security Council,
It is the Security Council, which should be making the hard decisions in the hard cases about overriding state sovereignty. And it is the Security Council which should be making the often even harder decisions to mobilize effective resources, including military resources, to rescue populations at risk when there is no serious opposition on sovereignty grounds… If international consensus is ever to be reached about when, where, how and by whom military intervention should happen, it is very clear that the central role of the Security Council will have to be at the heart of that consensus.
problem arises as to reaching the consensus within Security Council. Security
Council is empowered with the responsibility of maintaining International Peace
and Security under Chapter 7 of UN Charter. However, till date Security Council
could unite and apply sanctions only on few occasions. In 1950, it authorized
States to intervene and restore the sovereignty of the
close examination of the working of United Nations Security Council will reveal
the reason of inaction of Security Council in most events. Security Council
consists of 15 members and requires nine votes in affirmative for its action,
including five votes of all permanent members.
alternative of Security Council could be
Where to intervene?
Another question closely connected with the controversy of authority is that of where should intervention take place. Broadly speaking, the concept of humanitarian intervention and responsibility to protect comes into operation only in cases of genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. ICISS, in its report has outlined some conditions, which must be fulfilled before an intervention to take place. This includes just cause defined by large scale loss of life or large scale ethnic cleansing, right intention, last resort, proportional means, reasonable prospects of success, right authority, clear objectives and maximum possible coordination with humanitarian organizations. However, the problem arises in situations when the gross violations were huge but they were not termed as genocide or ethnic cleansing by the Security Council. This problem was faced during the Rwandan genocide, where the Security Council was reluctant to term the killing as genocide. Consequently, despite the mass killing no action was taken to curb the genocide. The doctrine is only applicable to military intervention and not to suffering resulting from natural disasters.
What measures to be taken?
The philosophy of humanitarian intervention is to put an end to the atrocities, which are being carried on by the State against its own individual. An intrinsic question is that what measures need to be taken to end the violations of human rights. Of course, no hard and fast rule can be laid down in this regard and each case has to be determined according to its own peculiar circumstances. However, ICISS has stressed the importance of proportional measures in arm intervention. “The scale, duration and intensity of the planned military intervention should be the minimum necessary to secure the defined human protection objective”.
However, in addition to responsibility to protect, International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty proposes responsibility to prevent. “The need to do much better on prevention and to exhaust preventive options before rushing to embrace intervention”. In case the measure to prevent the conflict fails, the commission has proposed the responsibility to react. “When preventive measures fail to resolve or contain the situation and when a state is unable or unwilling to redress the situation, then interventionary measures by other members of the broader community of states may be required”. In case if the military intervention takes place then the responsibility to rebuild. “There should be a genuine commitment to helping to build a durable peace, and promoting good governance and sustainable development”.
world has witnessed, perhaps, the most intensive killing in human history.
United Nations Security
Council by its resolution 872 (1993) of 5th October had established
a peacekeeping mission, named UMAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission For
Rwanda) to help implement the Arusha Peace Agreement
signed by the Rwandese parties on 4 August 1993. However, UN
officials concluded soon after 6 April that if a ceasefire were not possible,
UNAMIR and all foreign nationals should be evacuated.
On January 11 1994 Canadian General Romeo Dallaire,
commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, (UNAMIR) reports to the UN
Head quarter that Belgian peacekeepers in UNAMIR would be provoked (to force
their withdrawal), that men were being trained to kill Tutsis (at rates up to
1,000 Tutsis in 20 minutes), and that a major weapons cache had been created.
But the response of United Nation was conventional and this gave a free hand to
Hutu majority to carry out the genocide effectively. Secretary General
confessed the failure of UN to act in
One can find the reason of this inaction of United
Nations, which is dominated by
few countries less strategically significant than the small mountainous state
portrays total different story from
During 1998, open conflict between Serbian military and police forces and Kosovar Albanian forces resulted in the deaths of over 1,500 Kosovar Albanians and forced 400,000 people from their homes. The international community became gravely concerned about the escalating conflict, its humanitarian consequences, and the risk of it spreading to other countries. President Milosevic's disregard for diplomatic efforts aimed at peacefully resolving the crisis and the destabilizing role of militant Kosovar Albanian forces was also of concern.
one month of NATO intervention, Security Council established a mission for
Kosovo, named UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo).
doubt, intervention did help Kosovars from the long
continuing oppressing of Serbs. However, perplexing question is about the
intention of intervention. Was NATO intervening on humanitarian grounds or to
dismantle the Socialist economy of
It would not be wrong to say
that the concept of Sovereignty has changed. However, United Nations should
* Presently Student of
B.A. LL.B (Hons),
 www. unwire.org/unwire/19990921/4894_story.asp.
 1986 ICJ REP. 14, 134-35.
 Goodman Ryan, Humanitarian Intervention and Pretext of war: American Journal of International Law.
 Stuart T. Douglas,
Reconciling Non-intervention and Human Rights: UN chronicle online Ed. Vol. 38,
 Kofi Annan, “Intervention”, Ditchley Foundation Lecture XXXV, 1998, p. 2
 Economist dated
 Secretary General, Kofi Annan, 1999. Quoted in Stuart T. Douglas, supra note 4.
 Kofi Annan, “Intervention”, Ditchley Foundation Lecture XXXV, 1998, p. 2. See also Annan, Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization, United Nations General Assembly, Official records, Fifty-fourth session, Supplement No. 1 (A/54/1), September 1999, p. 4.
 Sid-Ahmed, Mohammed.
“Sovereignty and intervention.” Al-Ahram Weekly
Online. Al-Ahram 537:
 Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty 2001 p. 49.
 Popovski, Vesselin. “Sovereignty as Duty to Protect Human Rights.”
United Nations Chronicle Online Edition:
 Intervention in
 Sid-Ahmed, Mohammed, supra note 13.s
 Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty 2001 foreword p 12-13.
 ibid p.19
 Ibid-p. 29.
 Ibid p. 39
David. Lessons from the Rwandan Genocide:
 Stephen D. Wrage, "Genocide in
William 2001: The
 Young David (2008) Kosovo: It Is a Real Geopolitical Precedent: European Affairs, Volume 9, Issue: 1.
M., The Globalization of Poverty and the