Jus ad Bellum, Jus in Bello and Jus post Bellum
Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Nigel White and Christian Henderson
Chapter 7: The use of force for humanitarian purposes
Humanitarian intervention remains a very controversial area of international law. For many commentators the paradigm case is that of NATO’s 1999 operation over Kosovo, but states are still divided on the legality of this use of force. As Kosovo pursues independence today the question whether it was created by the unlawful use of force is still important. The doctrine of humanitarian intervention is strongly opposed by the Non-Aligned Movement, which regards it as a pretext for intervention by powerful states. It is not acceptable to Russia or China. Few states openly support the legal doctrine; even fewer have relied on it to justify their use of force. The African Union (hereinafter ‘AU’) has provision for humanitarian intervention in its Constitutive Act, but there are some questions about the interpretation of this provision. Perhaps of equal importance, the scope of the doctrine remains unclear. What is the threshold for humanitarian intervention? Does the situation have to constitute a threat to international peace and security? Can an air campaign constitute humanitarian action? In recent years the focus has shifted from the controversial doctrine of humanitarian intervention to the more appealing but still problematic ‘responsibility to protect’ (hereinafter ‘R2P’). The interventions in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire have been hailed as the implementation of the R2P doctrine, but this practice has led to divisions between states and between commentators as to the future of this doctrine.
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