October 28, 2021

Role of International Organizations by Means of Humanitarian Intervention



From time immemorial human atrocities have been witnessed by the world, in the forms of crimes carried by humans on humans like genocide, mass killings and different crimes against humanity. The subject of responsibility to protect has been debated over years by the united nations that whether the UN has any authority like that or whether it would be right to use force of military against some to protect others. This is one discussion and other debate is whether responsibility to protect would infringe the principle of prohibition of use of force by states, the article will be discussing about these ambiguities as in case of Syria, where the use of military force was made and whether it would be considered under RtoP for human rights.

In this article the author will talk about what is responsibility to protect by international forces when the state government is unable to protect its people or when they themselves are the ones who re making their citizens to suffer. The article also mentions the recent cases where RtoP has been exercised by the UN, and how this principle has been evolved over time conceptually and has been legalized by the international community and how it is still emerging on the human rights basis.

Throughout history there has been failure from the side of the intentional community while responding to the need to protect humanity as witnessed under world war I and II and even today so many people are forced to leave their own countries and find place to live somewhere else with no dignity and respect becoming refugees.

Key words: responsibility to protect, humanitarian intervention, use of force, refugees.


  1. Laws are made to protect humanity and so is the duty of the state, that they are made by the people, for the people and to the people. Every state has the first place in protecting their citizens, when they fail to do so, then they must stand down and then comes the duty of international community who stand for protection of human rights and dignity and protect them from crimes like racial discriminations, slavery, starvation, genocides, war, deprivation of home etc. and provide them with freedom. So, we need to know that how well does internationally this legal context is being considered.
  2. Prohibition on Use of Force vs. RtoP
  3. As discussed, these two norms conflict with each other, one approach stands against the use of force and the other approach talks bout using force in order to establish peace and security for the humans. Security council authorizes the human intervention under chapter VII and not just the authorization by UN security council, there are many theories who support RtoP. There is also a third approach, called the realist-constructivist approach, which says that breaching the prohibition of use of force for general interest of public can be made using human’s intervention by military forces will one day be permitted even without UN authority looking at the pace of evolution of international trade. This is just a legal argument yet.
  4. How RtoP Has Evolved?
  5. RWANDA: Rwanda in 1994 was the first instance where the need of RtoP was felt, in Rwanda the states did not represent any will to intervene and there was deprivation of any legally obliged state to intervene in Rwanda.
  6. SREBRENICA: in 1995 Bosnia, Srebrenica there was huge massacre, and the UN peace keeping force could not prevent it.
  7. KOSOVO: in 1999 NATO intervened there, which was unauthorized and still in controversy
  8. The responsibility to prevent, responsibility to react, and responsibility to rebuild; these were the three aspects brought by the ICISS established by the Canadian government in 2001. This report was moved ahead by the secretary general Kofi Annan, to act over responsibility to protect[1].
  9. The world summit, 2005, was where RtoP was finalized. Though opposed by many states and the outcome report had many restrictions in the definitions and the use of RtoP by the states, it did not consider it to be duty of the other states to help a state in need neither it talked about human intervention in order to enable RtoP[2]. The UN general Ban Ki Moon was very much in favor of Responsibility to Protect and so it was considered.

Libya case

  1. SC Resolution 1973
  2. Libya became a member of UNHRC in 2010, and despite of that nothing improved in Libya with regards to human rights protection. The Libyan colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi became violent over its people who did protests against his government in Libya, he announced that any person who has and who will stand against the government that person will be killed. So SC had to bring humanitarian intervention and restricted all foreign assets of Muammar al-Qadhafi and its family members and further stopped flying by Libya of all.
  3. UN charter, chapter VII came into picture which was use of force for protection of human rights and security council adopted resolution 1973 to use intervention of military forces in Libya in order to protect the civilians.
  4. UN, UK and France united to protect the people of Libya initially while Russia, china, India, Brazil and Germany declined to vote for the motion.

Responsibility to Protect

  1. It is evident from the Libyan example that how states despite of uniting and helping Libyan people out of care and protection, they still did not call it as a responsibility to protect they did it under the resolution 1973 as use of force of military as human intervention to protect the civilians. We see how states like china and Russia did not come up to help the Libyan people, this is one of the reasons that UN was unable to include RtoP as a norm because some states would not assent to it no matter what[3]. They step back in taking that responsibility to protect the people of other states by uniting. However, the circumstances of Libya were actually exceptional as in this case the government itself turned over its people and threatened to kill them and how fast the revolutions turned violent in their country by the government itself. So with such short time available the SC had to act asap.
  2. We see how states were hesitant to mention it as RtoP and instead called it use of force, although resolution 1973 states responsibility of state to protect its own state, i.e., it talks about the government of a country has a responsibility to protect its citizen and there was a clear violation of this resolution in Libya and still the UN could not call its actions of intervention as RtoP. So here we just see that how gradual and hesitant the conceptual evolution of responsibility to protect was.
  3. So, the ultimate question was whether the states are ready to make responsibility to protect as an exception to the prohibition of use of force, and how does the Security Council would justify intervening by using military forces in Libya and why not in case of Syria. So, either use of force should be justified or responsibility to protect shall be introduced to be used in exceptional situations like Libya, where the consent of the interim government is not required to take action in its country only the authorization by the security council can be taken. There are previous examples as well which shows how against the will of the government of a country actions had been taken; showing proof of states conducting humanitarian interventions to protect human rights in 1992 in Somalia, in 1994 in Rwanda, Bosnia in these countries action has been taken under the authority of security council without the consent of their government whereas in Rwanda there was no ruling authority at the time[4].  And despite of so many examples UN even till that time until ban Ki moon did not include RtoP.
  4. World heritage site of UNESCO, called Timbuktu which is a symbol for humanity was destroyed by deliberate actions in Mali where conflicts were ongoing. This arose internationally active communities who have a duty to protect not only humanity but also cultures and nature[5]. So, the interpretation from this example of Irina Bokova who has been director general of UNESCO, she raised the point that international organizations should respond to acts like this as well i.e., the acts against humanity, culture etc. and not just against criminals and unite the world by taking stronger actions together and it should evolve as a legal action with the authority of security council.
  5. Now if we talk about Syria, situations in Syria was actually much worse than in Libya. The president of Syria Bashar al- Assad also attacked the civilians, some say it was a strategic move against what happened in Libya showing that Syria was against such intervention by the UN in Libya, forces of Syria were much stronger than that of Libya and they even had local support. Russia was major supplier of armed products like missiles to Syria. Russia and china again were the ones who did not supported the resolution of UN of using armed forces in Syria and they used their veto power of being permeant members of UN and hence stopped armed forces from going to Syria to protect the people even though many members were in support of intervening in Syria[6]. So, SC resolution 2042, was then passed by the UN which states that Syria must immediately stop all actions they are causing against civilians. But it did not work, and Syria continued to create violence against its people. UN sent unarmed military in Syria to check whether Syrian government and the opposition party did step back or not they observed it for 3 months, but the Syrian kept on attacking and so UN totally failed in protecting Syria also failing the norms of responsibility to protect by the UNSC.

Human Intervention, an Emerging Norm?

  1. What if there is a situation like Syria again and again in different parts of the world when the security council is unable to protect people and fulfill its duty due to being bound because of the veto power thing and the atrocities are being carried on but the SC cannot authorize use of force? 
  2. Article 48 ILC reads as follows: any state other than the state who got injured can ask for help of another state to cease the wrongful act done over them and insure non repetition of it. But it does not mention that the state can ask help in terms of bringing military their as a help[7].
  3. Chapter VII of the UNSC gives authority to only the security council to be able to authorize use of force in situations needed. It creates a monopoly. If we take example of Kosovo, where use of force was made without the authority of UN[8], we see that some are of the view that it should not set a precedent as this is violative, but some are of the view that it acts as a step towards evolution of human intervention in protecting human rights as a ground of moral and political rights. As this is the duty of all the international organizations altogether to act in favor of protecting each other and enable peace not just internationally but for each other.


  1. Consistency, unity and proportionality this is what is needed to settle in peace. In order to ensure consistency and unify the responsible states is it is fine to form illegal intervention of militants for humanity? It would be illegal because UN would not authorize it but its needed to protect innocent people’s lives from massacre, torturous acts on them, their slaveries, making them refugees as they are forced to leave their own country because of threat and they starve and die of hunger and being homeless. So is it fine to leave them like that or follow what UN has in its norms, because UN still does not allow using military force in a state without its permission to set peace?
  2. This just does not stand as a moral need this should be made a legal need, law should be enshrined with it to save humanity. Proportionality on the other hand means that if human intervention gets allowed than it can have its own restrictions to check that states of not make it a habit to intervene in the trivial matters of other states every time and do to let the governments of those states to act on its own due to excessive intervention. There can be restrictions like proportionality i.e., only that much use of force shall be made as much is needed and at the time it is needed there must be some sanctions on the states who proposes to act as a responsible state via principle of proportionality. Hence, a long way seems to be there in the evolution of the international system in terms of protecting human rights.


[1] Halbert, J. D. (2011). A Responsibility to Protect or Preclude?: Examining the Beneficiaries of the Responsibility to Protect. Responsibility to Protect, 273-290. doi:10.1017/9789048515042.020

[2] Bellamy, A. J., & Luck, E. C. (2018). The responsibility to protect: From promise to practice. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

[3] Cotler, I., & Genser, J. (2012). The responsibility to protect: The promise of stopping mass atrocities in our time. New York: Oxford University Press.

[4] Hehir, A. (2012). The Evolution of the Responsibility to Protect. The Responsibility to Protect, 29-56. doi:10.1007/978-1-137-00094-1_2

[5] Kuwali, D. (2011). The responsibility to protect: Implementation of Article 4(h) intervention. Leiden: Nijhoff. What is R2P? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.globalr2p.org/what-is-r2p/

[6] Rodley, N. S. (2016). ‘Humanitarian Intervention’. Oxford Handbooks Online. doi:10.1093/law/9780199673049.003.0036

[7] The Responsibility to Protect: Retrospect and Prospect. (2016). Responsibility to Protect and Sovereignty, 205-228. doi:10.4324/9781315605845-1

[8] United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/about-responsibility-to-protect.shtml

Author- Aditee Arya, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University


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