This book explores the doctrine of humanitarian intervention in its historical and political context. The debate surrounding it encapsulates crucial tensions in the international legal order between sovereignty and human rights, between the prohibition of the use of force and the protection of human dignity. At the same time, it raises questions of evidence and motive in the formation of international law, as humanitarian justifications may be used in practice to cloak less altruistic foreign policy objectives in the robes of dubious legality. As a legal concept it will be argued that humanitarian intervention is incoherent — any ‘right’ of humanitarian intervention amounts not to an asserted exception to the prohibition of the use of force, but to a lacuna in the enforceable content of international law. An examination of the doctrine of humanitarian intervention must therefore consider not merely the law concerning the use of force by states, but the status of an international rule of law more generally.
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