ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Responsibility to Protect

Issues of Legality and Legitimacy

The doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect" was adopted by the international community at the United Nations in 2009 to prevent genocides, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. Diffi cult as it is to implement, the manner of application of the doctrine in Libya has raised concerns. The suggestions from Brazil for a more circumspect application of this principle, subjecting it to more calibrations, must be welcomed by the UN Security Council.

The formation of the United Nations (UN) Organisation, and the accession to the UN Charter by almost all nation states constituted today was a turning point in the history of human civilisation. If the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 is considered the founding charter of the modern nation state, the UN Charter ushered mankind into the modern era, and has withstood differences of opinion or ideology, over the past 67 years. Article I of the Charter enjoins the members of the UN to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.

In the aftermath of the colonial era,1 most states in the developing world zealously guarded their sovereignty, determined not to permit the dilution of their newfound liberty. A resolution was passed in 1965 in the UN General Assembly stating,2 inter alia, No state or group of states has the right to intervene directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other state. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the state or against its political, economic and cultural elements are in violation of international law. No state may use or encourage the use of economic, political or any other type of measure to coerce another state in order to obtain from it advantages of any kind. Also, no state shall organise, assist, foment, incite, or tolerate subversive terrorist or armed activities directed towards the violent overthrow of or civil strife in another state.

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