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'New Wars': the Sierra Leone Case
Unformatted Document Text:  Until recently, it was unusual for states or international organizations to use humanitarian causes to justify military intervention abroad. Peacekeeping operations are a much more common response to violence. While peacekeeping is often initiated once tentative agreements or ceasefires are reached, humanitarian intervention has the express purpose of bringing about an end to the conflict. What are some examples of humanitarian intervention? Two prominent examples of humanitarian intervention occurred in the 1990s—the first in Somalia (with UN authorization) and the second in Kosovo (without UN authorization). The UN Security Council authorized intervention in Somalia in 1992 under the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNISOM II). Millions in Somalia were suffering from famine and widespread crime and lawlessness resulting from a political vacuum. UNISOM II deployed troops under US command to secure areas so that humanitarian relief could be provided. When US troops came under attack in March 1993 while carrying out an operation to capture militia fighters, the incident received international press coverage. Media images of US soldiers who were captured and dragged through the streets after their helicopter crashed led the US to halt all offensive operations. The US pulled out of the mission soon afterwards, reflecting widespread public opposition to military intervention abroad. The incident likely influenced the US decision not to intervene in the Rwandan genocide that got underway early in 1994. In 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) authorized military action against Yugoslavia in order to end what was considered a campaign of ethnic cleansing being carried out against ethnic Albanians in the Serbian province of Kosovo. Authorization for such action through the Security Council would have been impossible to secure given strong opposition for such action by both Russia and China. Because this intervention was not authorized by the UN, scholars have referred to it as “illegal but legitimate” (Falk 2003, 591). Is humanitarian intervention legal under international law? There are a number of possible sources to consult in order to address the question of the legality of humanitarian intervention. The Charter of the United Nations governs the exercise of armed force in the international community. Those opposed to humanitarian intervention rely on Article 2(4) which obligates states to “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any state, or in any manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations.” Article 2(7) further states that the Charter does not authorize UN intervention “in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.” Yet, there are alternative interpretations. For example, article 2(4) forbids the use of force only when directed against “the territorial integrity or political independence of a state.” Therefore, humanitarian intervention that “does not result in territorial conquest or political subjugation” is not prohibited (Teson 2003, 151). In addition, scholars have addressed the clause “or any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations,” arguing that because protection of human rights is a responsibility of the 12

Authors: Parker, Sara.
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background image
Until recently, it was unusual for states or international organizations to use humanitarian
causes to justify military intervention abroad. Peacekeeping operations are a much more
common response to violence. While peacekeeping is often initiated once tentative
agreements or ceasefires are reached, humanitarian intervention has the express purpose
of bringing about an end to the conflict.
What are some examples of humanitarian intervention?
Two prominent examples of humanitarian intervention occurred in the 1990s—the first in
Somalia (with UN authorization) and the second in Kosovo (without UN authorization).
The UN Security Council authorized intervention in Somalia in 1992 under the United
Nations Operation in Somalia (UNISOM II). Millions in Somalia were suffering from
famine and widespread crime and lawlessness resulting from a political vacuum.
UNISOM II deployed troops under US command to secure areas so that humanitarian
relief could be provided. When US troops came under attack in March 1993 while
carrying out an operation to capture militia fighters, the incident received international
press coverage. Media images of US soldiers who were captured and dragged through
the streets after their helicopter crashed led the US to halt all offensive operations. The
US pulled out of the mission soon afterwards, reflecting widespread public opposition to
military intervention abroad. The incident likely influenced the US decision not to
intervene in the Rwandan genocide that got underway early in 1994.
In 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) authorized military
action against Yugoslavia in order to end what was considered a campaign of ethnic
cleansing being carried out against ethnic Albanians in the Serbian province of Kosovo.
Authorization for such action through the Security Council would have been impossible
to secure given strong opposition for such action by both Russia and China. Because this
intervention was not authorized by the UN, scholars have referred to it as “illegal but
legitimate” (Falk 2003, 591).
Is humanitarian intervention legal under international law?
There are a number of possible sources to consult in order to address the question of the
legality of humanitarian intervention. The Charter of the United Nations governs the
exercise of armed force in the international community. Those opposed to humanitarian
intervention rely on Article 2(4) which obligates states to “refrain in their international
relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity and political
independence of any state, or in any manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United
Nations.” Article 2(7) further states that the Charter does not authorize UN intervention
“in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”
Yet, there are alternative interpretations. For example, article 2(4) forbids the use
of force only when directed against “the territorial integrity or political independence of a
state.” Therefore, humanitarian intervention that “does not result in territorial conquest
or political subjugation” is not prohibited (Teson 2003, 151). In addition, scholars have
addressed the clause “or any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United
Nations,” arguing that because protection of human rights is a responsibility of the
12


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