Tragedies in Somalia, Yugoslavia, Haiti, Rwanda and Liberia - Revisiting the Validity of Humanitarian Intervention under International Law

By Nanda, Ved P.; Muther, Thomas F., Jr. et al. | Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Summer 1998 | Go to article overview

Tragedies in Somalia, Yugoslavia, Haiti, Rwanda and Liberia - Revisiting the Validity of Humanitarian Intervention under International Law


Nanda, Ved P., Muther, Thomas F., Jr., Eckert, Amy E., Denver Journal of International Law and Policy


I. INTRODUCTION

In part I of this article,(1) Professor Ved Nanda presented a framework for determining the validity of unilateral humanitarian intervention under international law. The framework was based on an analysis of selected cases of humanitarian intervention that occurred during the Cold War. To fall within this category, the intervention had to be an assertion of a state's right to protect its "own nationals or a third state's nationals in another state, or even the nationals of the state against which coercive measures were undertaken."(2) Although a historical analysis of this doctrine was undertaken, the selected cases (the United States' 1965 intervention in the Dominican Republic, 1983 intervention in Grenada, and 1989 intervention in Panama; India's 1972 intervention in East Pakistan; Tanzania's 1979 intervention in Uganda; and Vietnam's 1978 intervention in Cambodia) all occurred in the post-United Nations Charter period.

Based on these case studies, five criteria for evaluating humanitarian intervention were enumerated: (1) the necessity criterion, whether there was genocide or gross, persistent, and systematic violations of basic human rights; (2) the proportionality criterion, the duration and propriety of the force applied; (3) the purpose criterion, whether the intervention was motivated by humanitarian consideration, self-interest, or mixed motivations; (4) whether the action was collective or unilateral; and (5) whether the intervention maximized the best outcome.(3) These criteria were then applied to determine the validity of United Nations ("U.N.") intervention in Iraq to protect the Kurds in North Iraq and the Shiites in the South. However, since the publication of Part I of this article, several additional interventions on humanitarian grounds have occurred. For the most part, these interventions were undertaken collectively by multinational forces, under the auspices of the U.N. or other regional arrangements. In the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the international security organization, NATO, led the intervention.

For the current study, we have selected the following five cases: Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Rwanda, and Liberia. Our purpose is to explore the current trends of humanitarian intervention and to make some tentative observations on its future direction. We will, however, begin with a few preliminary remarks highlighting the pertinent geopolitical changes in the recent past which have a significant bearing on how the doctrine is perceived and shaped.

II. THE UNITED NATIONS IN THE POST-COLD WAR WORLD

The end of the Cold War was accompanied by hopeful signs that the dream of collective security for the maintenance of international peace and security would perhaps become a reality. To repel the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, an effective marshaling of forces drawn from several countries occurred pursuant to the Security Council ("Council") mandate that Member States "use all necessary means ... to restore international peace and security in the area."(4) This effort reflected the ability of the Security Council's permanent members to work together as never before and created widespread hope that the U.N. would, at last, function as the framers intended.(5)

Subsequently, in January 1992, a Council summit took place with a request to the Secretary-General to submit a report on the U.N.'s peacekeeping activities.(6) A few months later, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then Secretary-General, complied with the request and submitted An Agenda for Peace,(7) a blueprint for future U.N. action. An ambitious vision of the U.N.'s role in the maintenance of international peace and security, this vision included four types of activities: preventive diplomacy before disputes escalate; peacemaking under Chapter VII when hostile parties have not yet reached an agreement; peace-keeping; and postconflict peace-building.(8) The Secretary-General emphasized the prospects for the U. …

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