The Responsibility to Protect Doctrine and Humanitarian Intervention: Too Many Ambiguities For A Working Doctrine

Posted: 15 Dec 2008  

Carlo Focarelli

University of Perugia

Date Written: summer 2008

Abstract

The question about possible remedies, including military intervention, to avoid or to put an end to massive violations of human rights committed by a state towards its own citizens or in situations where state authorities critically lack effectiveness has been extensively debated since the issuance in 2001 of the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) on the responsibility to protect. After a succinct and critical review of the ICISS’ report and the subsequent international instruments dealing with the responsibility to protect, this contribution focuses on the positions adopted by states, especially over the last three years at the General Assembly and at the Security Council of the United Nations on humanitarian intervention as a ‘corollary’ of the responsibility to protect doctrine. It appears that humanitarian intervention aimed at implementing the responsibility to protect is not only feared as imperialistic by several weak states, but it also significantly fails to find an unconditioned support even amongst the most powerful states. Given its extreme and multifaceted ambiguity, which is discussed in the last section of this contribution, the innovative content of the purported ‘emerging norm’ on the responsibility to protect, as well as its prospect to emerge in the future, remain rather unclear.

Keywords: responsibility to protect, humanitarian intervention, gross violation of human rights, UN General Assembly, UN Security Council, failed states

Suggested Citation

Focarelli, Carlo, The Responsibility to Protect Doctrine and Humanitarian Intervention: Too Many Ambiguities For A Working Doctrine (summer 2008). Journal of Conflict & Security Law, Vol. 13, Issue 2, pp. 191-213, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1315925 or http://dx.doi.org/krn014

Carlo Focarelli (Contact Author)

University of Perugia

Via Pascoli 22
Perigoa, 06121
Italy

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