Since the 19th century, humanitarian interventions have often been treated as suspect because they may be used as mere vehicles for national aggrandizement, imposition of puppets in power, or for the institution of political and economic systems detested by the indigenous population. However, it is also recognized that atrocities do occur within states, which shock the conscience of humankind and trigger the urge to intervene to save defenseless people from carnage, starvation, and other inhuman conditions. The problem is to identify a set of criteria and forms of behavior that will enable us to distinguish between intervention as aggression and genuine humanitarian intervention. Moreover, even if we see humanitarian intervention as a moral imperative in a Kantian sense, we would still need to establish its validity as a legal construct. This Article revisits the criteria for making the relevant distinctions and concludes that with all the operational problems of United Nations (U.N.) peacekeeping, collective intervention by the U.N., or regional bodies sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council, is the approach most likely to conform with the U.N. Charter paradigm for conflict resolution.
Human Rights Law
- Journal title
Boston College International and Comparative Law Review
- Date submitted
6 September 2022