The Principle of Non Intervention :
The principle of non intervention is one of the basic norm of the
international law. It is also the most fundamental rule of customary
international law and state practice. This principle is envisaged in Article 2
(4) and 2 (7) of United Nation Charter which states that:
“All the members shall refrain in their international relations, from
threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political
independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistence with the
purpose of the United Nations”.
“Nothing contained in the present charter shall authorise the United
Nation to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic
jurisdiction of any state or shall…….”
It is a necessary derivative from the principle of state
sovereignty. In the eyes of international law, a state is sovereign and vis-à-vis every other. No state is
entitled to interfere in the internal affairs of another unlessconsent is given by
that state. Military intervention or any type of
intervention should not take place without prior permission or express
agreement under international law.
However, the charter does not absolutely prohibit the use of force.
The United Nation charter provides exceptionsto
this rule. The first exception is in case of self defence mentioned in article
51 of UN charter and Second exception is collective security as referred under
chapter VII (Article 39 & 42) of the charter which provides power to the
Security Council to take recourse to armed forces as it would be needed to maintain the international peace and security.
As per this chapter Security Council is entitled to intervene on humanitarian
grounds if it determined that there is a threat to the peace or breach of peace or could be an act of aggression have occurred.
Definition of humanitarian intervention :
J.L.Holzgrefe says that humanitarian intervention is:
“The use of force across
state borders by one state or a group of states which is aimed at preventing grave violation of the
fundamental human rights of individual other than its own citizens, without the
permission of the state within whose territory force is applied.”
Adam Roberts defines humanitarian intervention as:
“Military intervention in
the state, without the prior approval of its authorities and with the sole purpose
of preventing the widespread suffering or death among the inhabitants.”
According to Martha Finnemore, “humanitarian
intervention is a military intervention with the goal of protecting the lives
and welfare of foreign civilians.”
In Bhikhu Parekh’s word, “humanitarian
intervention is intervention in the internal matters of another country with a
view to end the physical suffering caused by gross misuse of authority of the
state, and helping create condition in which a viable structure of civil
authority can emerge”.
Outside the Europe, the US intervened in Cuba in 1988. Ian Brownlie,
however expressed the view that the motives for these interventions were not
solely humanitarian ones, but also the result of politics of western and
eastern states. The efforts were made to check this practice and hence there
was an evident decline in the so called ‘humanitarian intervention’ by the
countries amongst them during the first fifty years of the twentieth century
which also is considered as the period of establishment of traditional doctrine of humanitarian
The Birth of a Concept: Responsibility to Protect (R2P) :-
Caught at the crossroads between assault on sovereignty of a state
and gross and systematic violation of human rights at the hands of the state,
the UN Secretary General, Kofi Anan, wanted to weigh national sovereignty
against individual sovereignty.
Few Instances of Humanitarian Interventions:-
Kurdistan (North Iraq) 1991
In February 1991, Iraq started attacking and killing Kurdish people
whichcompelled 1.5 million Kurdish people flee towards Turkey and Iran. The
Security Council on 3rd April, 1991 passed a resolution through
which it demanded Iraq to end this repression.
However, resolution did not mention Chapter VII of the Charter as an
authorisation to use military intervention as China and Russia would not accept
this intervention due to their reluctance to limit the principle of
sovereignty. Therefore, the US and its
European allies on 16th April intervened in Northern Iraq to
establish “safe havens”. Though in later in General Assembly, some states
criticized the intervention as violation to the sovereignty of Iraq.
The Security Council passed a resolution in context of total
breakdown of public order in Somalia. In this Resolution, the Security Council came
to the conclusion that the amount of human tragedy to the conflict in Somalia, further increased the obstacles being created in the distribution of humanitarian assistance, causes
threat to international peace. The Security Council acted under chapter VII of
the UN Charter authorised the member states and the SG to use all required
means to secure the environment for humanrights operation in Somalia.
Is humanitarian intervention a solution?
Even though on numerous occasion after the end of
cold war United Nation has invoked chapter VII of the UN charter for use of
force on humanitarian grounds, this principle of humanitarian intervention has
not got its due approval from the international community. There are many instances
when such interventions have been severely criticised and condemned as it has
failed to provide any long run solution to the cause of conflict.
Also it has been seen many times that these
intervention lose its importance due to its delayed timing as in the case of
Rwanda and currently in case Syria. The inaction on the part of international
community especially UNSC has resulted into loss of several innocent lives in
Another criticism of humanitarian intervention is
that it is selectively applied by dominant countries particularly US and its
allied partners and there is also no proper guideline which can govern such interventions.
A vast majority of small and weak states have never supported this doctrine due
to its vagueness. These states especially express doubt about the motive behind
such intervention as this doctrine best serves the benefit of the strong and
powerful and least protects the real interest of small and weak.
Even though the principal of non intervention is
the norm of international law which prohibits states or states to use of force
against another, one also can not deny
that gross violation of human rights occurs in many part of the world and often
these violations assume the form of outright atrocities. There can be no doubt
that in many cases from a moral point of view intervention is not only justified,
it is a real obligation. The principle of state sovereignty does point a finger
at this doctrine as it is fundamentally in conflict with it but when the
protector itself become the abuser and indulge in gross violation of human
rights it is the moral responsibility of the
complete world to condemn such atrocities at the hand of sovereign and
do all the needful to halt such war crimes. However doctrine of humanitarian
intervention has its own flaws and weakness which require serious inspection.
There is a need to radically reform intervention wherein a long run solution to
the cause of conflict can be sort out and in this regard the global community
has a big role to play. It is also necessary to further strengthen the corpus
of human rights provision and the means to enforce them peacefully. Much can be
done to create an environment where a need to intervene does not even arise. Thereis
need for a strong central institution which can effectively strengthen the
status of human rights multilaterally so that human right thinking becomes so
strong that there is never a conflict between human rights and sovereign.
O.H Agrawal International law and human rights.
Peter hilpold, AzizurRehman and
Md.JahidhossainBhuiyan, “Legal status of Humanitarian Intervention”.
paper on ‘ Humanitarian intervention in post cold war era: a provisional
balance sheet in light of Libya, Syria and Mali’.
‘perceptions’in Journal of International Affairs.
Turkmen presentation ‘from Libya to Syria: Rise and fall of humanitarian