From Humanitarian Intervention to Responsibility to Protect: Making Utopia True?

Peter Hilpold

in From Bilateralism to Community Interest

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199588817
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725272 | DOI:
From Humanitarian Intervention to Responsibility to Protect: Making Utopia True?

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Regulating the use of force has always been a pivotal element of international law, both in practice and in theory. Even in early times it was recognized that peace was the supreme goal mankind longed for, a necessary precondition for progress in civilization. In the absence of an international law order in the modern sense, respect for peace should be obtained by attributing a divine character to it. Human nature is, however, ambiguous and capable of both enlightened aspirations and the most abhorrent deeds. Thus, from earliest history to the present day the temptation for human communities and societies to improve their lot through recourse to war has always been great. At the same time, it is also a human trait to feel compassion for people suffering injustice in other societies — compassion that can mount to anger and outrage and finally to the will to act. All these sentiments, the egoistic and the altruistic ones, can interact and in the end even the intervener himself might not be sure which sentiments were the prevailing ones. International practice and discussion is reflective of this ambivalent situation. Looking back over the last century it has become clear, however, that a broad consensus had emerged according to which peace preservation had to be made paramount, as any ‘just cause’ to break peace was prone to be abused. The United Nations (UN) order, created against the background of a man-made catastrophe of civilization, opened up a completely new chapter in international law and the new order seemed, at first sight, to be perfect. The use — and even the threat — of force was outlawed while the right to self-defence remained in place and a right to intervention by the organized State community was created according to Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Keywords: United Nations; use of force; self-defence; peace

Chapter.  7952 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

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