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Why humanitarian interventions in crisis zones are necessary

12. Januar 2011


Rwanda, Somalia, Cambodia, Darfur and Bosnia – Herzegovina are only a few cases where genocides, politicides or any other form of mass murder occurred and where the international community failed to intervene and to save thousands of innocent lives. The necessity of international humanitarian interventions in such crisis zones shall be presented in this essay. Three decisive arguments will demonstrate that humanitarian interventions in order to save civilian lives and to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe are indispensable. The first argument in favor of humanitarian interventions shows that the international community ought not to remain indifferent and idle towards significant human rights violations, since it is its moral and legal obligation to protect civilians and to ensure humanitarian aid for those who suffer most from the effects of civil wars, inner conflicts and dictatorships. However, the standard United Nations (UN) mission often proved to be inappropriate and ineffective in situations where humanitarian interventions might be suitable solutions as it is explained in the second argument. The third argument emphasizes that humanitarian interventions contribute towards a security policy and civilian concepts for solving problems, which ensure a restructuring of the affected country and a sustainable reconciliation between the population and are thus necessary.

During April and July 1994 more than 800,000 Tutsi were killed by the Rwandan Hutu majority. The UN and its members did not take any actions in order to stop the genocide or even to capture the main persons responsible, although the question of a humanitarian intervention already arose when the killings started. Despite the presence of a significant force of UN troops more than 8,000 Bosnians were executed in July 1995 in the region around Srebrenica by Ratko Mladic and his Serbian Army of the Republika Srpska. These are only two of the most common examples where the international community had the chance to prevent mass human rights violations but did not act. It is not acceptable when the international community remains indifferent toward of such critical human rights violations and hides itself behind the principles of state sovereignty. In view of the Cambodian genocide, for instance, where more than 2,000,000 people were executed, died in labor camps or starved to death, the principle of state sovereignty appears ridiculous. In consideration of international human rights as the most important statue book it is the international community’s moral and legal obligation to prevent human catastrophes. Consequently, mass atrocities and genocidal situations, as in the case in Sudan, cannot be tolerated.

The genocide in Darfur has already cost the lives of more than 400,000 people since its outbreak in 2003. The question whether to intervene or not was discussed a thousand times in the United Nations Security Council. Due to China’s and Russia’s veto, a decision favoring a humanitarian intervention was not taken. However, the UN finally decided in 2007 to intervene with a peace mission carried out by the African Union (AU). The human rights violations, however, continued and the power and influence of the AU seemed to be extremely remote. Meanwhile even the AU is under fire for not preventing such violations and for committing crimes, such as mass rape, too. Regarding this and several other fails of UN soldiers, the standard UN mission often proves to be inappropriate and ineffective because it is bonded to relatively stable political conditions and requires the acceptance of all extreme parties. Furthermore, a UN mission does not plan to act with the help of military pressure. In cases such as Darfur, the AU failed and so did the UN. A more robust type of intervention which is carried out without the agreement of the extreme parties and under military pressure is needed. A humanitarian intervention as a reflection of a more robust type of intervention might therefore be the suitable solution.

The previous argument in favor of humanitarian interventions because the standard UN mission often appears to be inefficient is frequently countered by the argument that military interventions are often only the result of a lack of political and diplomatic concepts. Indeed, humanitarian interventions cannot and should not solve (domestic) political problems and should not be the only action of interference. Humanitarian interventions might, however, lead to political and military reforms through a security policy and extensive civilian concepts for problem solving problems that are based on civilian and diplomatic actions resulting from the use of military pressure. This again can result in a stabilization of the country, an improved relationship with its neighbored countries and to reconciliation among the population. A sustainable reconciliation between former enemies, however, only works if high-ranking politicians and soldiers, which are responsible for committed mass atrocities, are replaced. A humanitarian intervention is the only measure to establish such a security policy, to carry out particular concepts for solving and to replace such high-ranking politicians and soldiers.

It can be concluded from the arguments given above in favor of humanitarian interventions is that they are indispensable in crisis zones where there is provable evidence that massive human rights violations are committed. The international community needs to fulfill its moral obligations with respect to international human rights and the charter of the UN, in order to prevent humanitarian catastrophes and to protect the innocent. Unfortunately, the standard UN mission often appeared to be ineffective and inappropriate, so that the security of civilians and the prevention of new mass atrocities were not guaranteed. Therefore, a humanitarian intervention as a more robust type like the standard UN mission might be more effective and appropriate. Furthermore, humanitarian interventions might be the suitable basis for a more extensive security policy and new diplomatic that lead to reconciliation among the population. In conjunction with this plea for more extended humanitarian interventions, the question of how to treat high-level politicians and soldiers that are responsible for significant human rights violations, such as Al-Bashir or Mladic, and why they are not effectively prosecuted in order to sentence them at the international court of justice, remains open.

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