“Humanitarian Intervention” to “R2P”

“Humanitarian Intervention” to “R2P”

16 Ekim 2015

In an attempt to safeguard international peace and security, the United Nation (UN) has aimed at preventing conflict among states by prohibiting the arbitrary use of force. In this regard, article II of the binding UN Charter is significant for all states. According to the article, all states shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any other state. The article which prohibits the use of force against others’ territorial integrity and is regarded as jus cogen in international law has two significant exceptions: a) threatening international peace and security and b) right to self-defense.

Whereas the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution is not required for the right to self-defense by the states, in the case of a threat to the international peace and security, the UNSC would take all necessary decisions, even the using of military force. The human right abuses, in some cases, might be regarded as a threat to the international peace by the UNSC. In this context, the Security Council can take the decision to use international military force. So as to interfere with the human rights abuses, the UNSC has imposed sanctions in the name of humanitarian intervention on a set of countries as of 1990. Although there is no generally accepted definition, humanitarian intervention could be defined as coercive action by states involving the use of armed forces to another State without the consent of its government, with or without authorisation from the UNSC for the purpose of preventing or putting to a halt gross, and massive violations of human rights or international humanitarian law.


Earlier on 1990’s, human rights violations were regarded as the internal affairs of the states. Therefore, states did not intervene in the “rights issues” of other states. However, in the aftermath of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and end of the cold war era, human rights abuses have come to the fore in the international law and no longer being the internal problem of the states themselves. In this context, another problem has come out: The global powers of the international system have started to intervene in the domestic affairs of failed states under the guise of humanitarian intervention. This licit ambiguity, has led to the disarray among the international community. Even though the military and humanitarian interventions are different notions, in essence, humanitarian intervention gives rise to military intervention in the long run. That is the main point.

In the process of the Rwandan Massacre, the United Nations had fallen behind taking action to prevent the incidents. Also, the states in the UNSC did not want to take responsibility under any circumstances. For this reason the notion of humanitarian intervention has been started to be discussed again. On account of the crimes which was committed in Rwanda and Bosnia, Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of United Nations, has requested all states to review their traditional understanding of sovereignty in September 1999. Soon, the report was prepared under the name of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) by constituting the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). The principle point of the report was identified by Sovereignty as Responsibility. According to this approach, Sovereignty is not a shield which protects external foreign interference of the states. On the contrary, sovereignty has been interpreted as a state’s willingness to protect its own people. So the responsibility of states towards their own citizens and international community is ahead of the traditional realist concept of sovereignty. With this process, the Responsibility to Protect doctrine has become an issue that involves humanitarian intervention.

Responsibility to Protect is, in general terms, that while the State carries the primary responsibility for the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, the international community has a responsibility to assist the states in fulfilling this responsibility. Also, the international community should use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect populations from these crimes. If a state fails to protect its populations or is, in fact, the perpetrator of the crimes itself, the international community must take stronger measures, including the collective use of force through the UN Security Council. According to the report ICISS published in 2001, the first priority of all states is to protect their own citizens from genocide, war crimes and the ethnic cleansing. Within this context, two main responsibilities are laid as burdens on all states as “internal” and “external” ones. The first is internal conflict that states take responsibility of the human rights of their own citizens and the second one is external responsibility which is the states should hold in high esteem sovereignty rights of other states. The other responsibility which is burdened states in the report of ICISS is accountability towards failed states. The 2001 version of the ICISS report on responsibility to protect have been put to the veto by taking its final form at the 2005 World Summit approving unanimously by all states.

The Responsibility to Protect Doctrine (R2P) has three pillars different from humanitarian intervention within the international system. The first pillar is the responsibility to prevent. To this, the state carries the primary responsibility for protecting populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. The pillar as a mean of ‘early warning’, aims to solve the problem before coming to the light by identifying reasons of crisis. Economic, politics and legal sanctions are ranked as early warnings. The aim of preventive measure is to uncover the cause of the conflict by getting to the root of the problem. The second pillar is Responsibility to React which contains the use of force making it the most controversial chapter of R2P. In the case of preventive measures failing, the international community takes action without receiving the consent of the relevant state. Based on Chapter 41 of the UN Charter, The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions. It may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations. Besides, in certain cases, the UN Security Council may decide to take urgent military measures. In the event of military intervention, ICISS has stipulated six criteria for military intervention: a) right authority, b) just cause, c) right intention, d) last resort, e) proportional means and f) reasonable prospects. In the report of the ICISS, it has been emphasized that the UNSC has to share in the requirement of the Responsibility of Prevention. In the case of failure to take decision owing to veto rights, the General Assembly of the UN may decide on behalf of the international community by coming to the forefront. The aim of the Responsibility to Rebuild which is the last pillar of R2P is that it requires intervening actors to establish a clear and effective post-intervention strategy. This section of R2P establishes three interlinked post-intervention obligations for intervening parties. An essential function of an intervention force should be to provide basic security and protection for all members of the state in which intervention is transpiring.

Briefly, humanitarian intervention, which has come to the fore frequently in the wake of the Cold War era, and has been accepted made legal thanks to the support of United Nations’ system. Nevertheless, the same UN has failed in Rwandan, Kosovo and Bosnian crises and the states in the Security Council do not want to take urgent responsibility have resulted in questioning legitimacy of humanitarian intervention. After having reconsidered the former notion, the UN system created the new “Responsibility to Protect” in 2001. The idea of Responsibility to Protect did not provide expected results in practice on the account of the reality which originates from the nature of the international system. The states as the predominant actors in the global system have acknowledged the necessity of “Responsibility to Protect” on principle. However they have exhibited different attitude in the implementation phase arbitrarily. It can be said that the veto rights of the permanent members in the UN Security Council, have given rise to the failure of Responsibility to Protect.