Humanitarian intervention is the exercise of military force in another state’s territory to give humanitarian support to the people of that country. Usually, the necessity of humanitarian support is brought about by the existence of several human rights violations. Humanitarian intervention is a process of implementing human rights and is generally rationalised on such bases (Krieg, 2012). The universal nature of human rights offers the foundation of such rationale. The defence of intervention through reference to universal human rights creates several issues. The usual theoretical basis for defending the international community’s exercise of military violence is ‘just war theory’, and this is derived from the primacy of national sovereignty.
However, humanitarian intervention frequently disrupts national sovereignty (Kassner, 2013). It is a fact that the area of just war theory regarding how violence or force could be exercised—jus in bello (the law in waging war)—is aware of human rights, as shown, for instance, in the code of discrimination. However, the just war principles of jus ad bellum (right to war), which refer to the exercise of military force across territories largely consider national defence as an important requirement for such reasoning (Carlsnaes, Risse & Simmons, 2012).
Force can reasonably be exercised only in reaction to hostility by another state. On the contrary, the violations of human rights that validate humanitarian intervention take place within a state. It is the state which perpetrates hostility against its own people but not against another state (Carlsnaes et al. , 2012). Such conflict between humanitarian intervention and national sovereignty underlines a core dilemma with just war theory that was already obvious in the past.
The theory must concern the attainment of justice and, otherwise, must not be pursued. Justice involves protection of human rights (Hehir, 2013). Conventional principles of jus ad bellum, which stress the primacy of national sovereignty, appear to hinder the attainment of justice with regard to violations of human rights that take place within states. This opposition is usually conveyed by arguing that jus ad bellum has an undesirable statist focus. It views states as the essential moral actors and beneficiaries. It is the rights of the state that are encroached upon when hostility takes place, and, based on conventional just war theory, merely this kind of violation can rationalise the exercise of force across borders (Pattison, 2010).
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