Reforming the international law of humanitarian intervention

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

59 Scopus citations


The need for reform: The deficiency of existing law The NATO intervention in Kosovo (1999) is only the most recent of a series of illegal interventions for which plausible moral justifications can be given. Others include India's intervention in East Pakistan in response to Pakistan's massive human rights violations there (1971), Vietnam's war against Pol Pot's genocidal regime in Cambodia (1978), and Tanzania's overthrow of Idi Amin's murderous rule in Uganda (1979). Without commenting on what the dominant motives of the intervenors were, it is accurate to say that in each case military action was aimed at preventing or stopping massive human rights violations. All could qualify as instances of humanitarian intervention, which may be defined as follows: humanitarian intervention is the threat or use of force across state borders by a state (or group of states) aimed at preventing or ending widespread and grave violations of the fundamental human rights of individuals other than its own citizens, without the permission of the state within whose territory force is applied. In all three instances in the 1970s the intervention was, according to the preponderance of international legal opinion, a violation of international law. None was a case of self-defense and none enjoyed UN Security Council authorization. There is, however, an important difference in the case of the NATO intervention. Unlike the previous interventions, the NATO intervention in Kosovo and the ensuing debate over its justifiability have focused attention on the deficiency of existing international law concerning humanitarian intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHumanitarian Intervention
Subtitle of host publicationEthical, Legal and Political Dilemmas
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages45
ISBN (Electronic)9780511494000
ISBN (Print)0521821983, 9780521821988
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Reforming the international law of humanitarian intervention'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this