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Forcible Protection of Nationals Abroad and Humanitarian Intervention: Might or Right?

Solomon Salako Lecture Monday 11 April 2016

By Professor Solomon E. Salako

Professorial Fellow, Archbishop Desmond Tutu Centre for War and Peace Studies, Liverpool Hope University

Archbishop Desmond Tutu Centre Lecture to be delivered in the Senate Room on 27th April 2016, 2-4pm



The forcible protection of nationals abroad (a rescue mission) and humanitarian intervention (intervention of one state or group of states in a territorial state where there is a threat or actual loss of life, forced migration or gross violation of human rights and which, at times, involves government replacement or nation building) are different concepts which, in functional terms, overlap.

Historically, the genesis of the term “humanitarian intervention”, which came into use in the nineteenth century, has been traced to its classical origins in the Middle Ages: to the Church Fathers – Ambrose, Augustine and Aquinas – who presented a systematisation of the practice of the ius belli (the law of war).  Since 1945, the ius ad bellum (the rules of international law governing the legality of the use of force) are stated in Articles 2 (4) and 51 of the UN Charter.  From 1945 to the end of the Cold War in 1989, the use of force for the protection of nationals abroad and humanitarian intervention was justified by extensive, rather than restrictive, interpretation of Articles 2 (4) and 51 of the UN Charter.  Since the end of the Cold War, some states and an increasing number of scholars have attempted to discard the prohibition of the use of force and to create new exceptions such as preventive war, implicit authorisation and unilateral intervention.

The objects of this lecture are: (i) to assess critically the attempt to drive a horse and a coach through the provisions of Articles 2 (4) and 51 of the UN Charter, (ii) to show that a legal regime laid down by the UN Charter which is founded on a genuine ius contra bellum (law against war) remains unaffected, (iii) to show that the transmogrification of “political sovereignty” to “popular sovereignty” and the use of human rights as justifications for humanitarian intervention can be construed as a subterfuge, and (iv) to analyse the economic, political and strategic reasons for humanitarian intervention and to show how stretching international law to justify a “right” of intervention is simply replaced by “might”.


© Professor Solomon E Salako, 2016

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