Tuesday, 22 October 2013



Published in 
The New Indian Express
Saturday 28 September

Before one gets  into the discussion of the necessity  for interventions , before one considers the  scope and legality of interventions and before one even turns to international law to discuss the  circumstances when interventions are permitted ;  the primary question is  of  the greater and the  lesser evil . This moral dilemma looms large before us – is the intervening too much or is there not enough intervention? Will there not be more deaths due to inaction than the direct action of intervention?   The Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1992-93 in accordance with the provisions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter did not fulfil the expectations of effective and emphatic collective action and came under severe criticism by the international community. Similarly the interventions by external military forces in 1995 in Bosnia and 1999 in Kosovo were controversial. In the case of Rwanda in 1994, however, it was felt that the Security Council had failed to take necessary actions resulting in great human tragedy and it underscored the dangers of delaying timely action. Therefore, it is clear that the basic question in the matter of interventions is: is the use of military force entirely justifiable to enforce the obligation and responsibility to protect human lives and individual rights?
 In the above context it is important to note that around the world there is an emerging demand for efficient action for the protection of the rights of an individual when it comes in conflict with the use of the powers invested in the sovereign State. The general assumption that the political independence of a State will lead to a naturally heightened improvement in the lives of is citizens assuring them of political and personal freedoms has come to naught. Events around the world have shown that the conflict of State sovereignty and individual freedoms has led to the evolving of political and social crises resulting in the deepening of human tragedy and the destruction of lives. Errant States, therefore, have to be reconstructed into instruments that serve the interest of its citizens for in the converse, the State turns into the instrument that destroys the rights of its own people. Citizens today are well -informed and empowered persons who expect their governments to work towards securing them their individual freedoms and rights; they also expect their governments to be conscious that a duty is cast upon the State to ensure that those freedoms and rights are preserved.  

The Westphalian concept of the sovereignty of the nation State in which there is no role for external agents in domestic structures is clearly irrelevant in modern times and there are many who support interventions on humanitarian grounds as the only available means of power to secure human rights. The interfacing of Chapter VII and Chapter XII of the Charter of the United Nations reveals the integration of the international system into the process of taking pre-emptive action for freedom from violation of human rights. A military strike by a Sate on another is always regarded as an act of aggression but to be free from obscurity of pre-emptive action in case of  interventions , all pre-emptive actions and interventions have to be sanctioned and concerted actions. The United Nations Security Council has supported State-backed interventions in those situations where inaction was not a choice offered to the international community. One of the major purposes of interventions is to ensure that they do indeed result in containment of those acts that have required such interventions in the first place. Further, interventions should not only ensure that they do not prepare a way for subsequent interventions in the same State , but should also reduce the likelihood of all further interventions in the region also. That is to say, an intervention backed by a consortium of the “willing and able” should not become the norm in every international crisis or result in a continuous action that affects the other States in the region as a result of the initial intervention. For those arguing in favour of international intervention to resolve the present crisis in Syria and complaining of inaction by the United States , it should be noted that a reluctant hegemon is preferable to an over-eager one.  The United States, therefore, has to consider its role within the international institution’s agenda and eschew initiatives which fall outside the United Nations for it to be supported unequivocally by the international community.
Although there is a continuing support by international community for the norm of non-intervention, one  is able to observe that in the present world there is also an urgent and rising demand for action to prevent human disasters. In this background,  the Canadian government in September 2000 set up an independent International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) to study the juxtaposition of these two concepts of international law.  In international law under the theory of just war (bellum iustum) which is ruled by the principles of the right causes to go to war, it is accepted that the principles set forth to justify going to war is not restricted in cases of humanitarian interventions.  The prevention of more deaths is in itself justification for direct action through humanitarian intervention. The will of the international community thus can be translated as the desire not only to contain, restrict and

prevent the actions that threaten the human rights of the people living in that particular State or region but also to prohibit the rise of all other kinds of interventions that may escalate into civil wars and enduring conflicts. Therefore, to use military forces with the sanction of the international institution like the UN and under the auspices of the Security Council, to quell forces that threaten human rights and lives of persons within the territorial jurisdiction of another State is not only permitted by international law but also supported and endorsed as a means of ending conflicts and civil wars. The use of military force and the action has to be proportionate to the threat that is perceived as requiring humanitarian intervention. There is of course always the danger that the “rebel” forces may create situations that seek international intervention to push for their own political power and both the international community and the military forces in action in such interventions have to very carefully study and assess the situation to prevent being used as a means to any private ends. The narrow confines imposed by the  Article 2 (4)  of the UN Charter which prevents  member States from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, has now been expanded by international consensus  to permit humanitarian interventions and to secure to all people their rights. When conflicts cannot be contained and threaten human existence and dignity it is incumbent upon all others to ensure that order is restored , lives saved ,  massacres stopped and further deaths  prevented.

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