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Is There a Right to Humanitarian Intervention?
A lecture by the Rt Hon Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC, former Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor.
The Rwandan atrocities in 1994 strongly reinforce the need for the right to use force to prevent the systematic abuse of a people by those who govern them. The occasions in the past where force has been used in the face of great humanitarian need, support the existence of such action: India's invasion of East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) in 1971, Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia in 1978 and NATO's bombing of Serbia in 1999. The use of force in many of these cases coincides with the self-interest of the country intervening. Throughout history, intervention by one country in the internal affairs of another has frequently been justified by the alleged abuses of the sovereign government of the invaded state.
Justifying the use of force sits uneasily in international law, with the clear post-war policy of limiting the justification for the use of force; to force authorised by the United Nations, except in the explicitly recognised case of self-defence. In his lecture, Lord Falconer addressed the issues arising out of the development of the right to humanitarian assistance. He identified how the right has developed, where it stands today and likely developments in the future. In particular, he discussed how the right to humanitarian intervention relates to the United Nations and how its use may become more acceptable to the international community.
The Rt Hon Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC was educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond and Queens’ College Cambridge. He was called to the Bar (Inner Temple) in 1974 and was appointed Solicitor General in May 1997. He served as Minister of State at the Cabinet Office from July 1998 to June 2001. In June 2001 he joined the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, where he was appointed Minister for Housing, Planning and Regeneration. He moved to the Home Office in May 2002 as Minister of State for Criminal Justice, Sentencing and Law Reform. From June 2003 to June 2007 he served as Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor, when issues arising out of the occupation of Iraq were frequently considered. He is currently Senior Counsel to the global law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.