n African Security Review - The international community's responsibility to protect vulnerable populations : from rights to responsibilities : essay

Volume 12, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1024-6029
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This article aims to explore possible avenues that the international community can use in order to justify forcible intervention in sovereign states in cases where gross and systematic violations of the human rights of the he population take place, but where the legal authority for such intervention is not forthcoming from the United Nations Security Council. Two possible justifications are identified: the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, which despite being controversial, enjoys a measure of acceptance due to the practice of states in this regard, and the notion of an international responsibility to protect vulnerable populations and individuals. The latter option, despite a vague and uncertain legal basis, offers several advantages: it focuses on the suffering of human beings and not on the rights of states, it enumerates clear and definable thresholds for intervention by the international community and acknowledges that intervention is only one step in the process of achieving peace, to be preceded by preventive action and followed by post-conflict reconstruction. It is submitted that elements of the notion of an international "responsibility to protect" are to be found in the Constitutive Act of the African Union and especially the Protocol on the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council. Furthermore, the principles underlying this notion, as developed by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty may serve as guidelines in decisions by the Assembly to authorise interventions in AU members.

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