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date: 29 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Reluctant for its first two decades to consider states’ human rights performance, the UN gradually developed an extensive network of machinery to examine human rights violations in some states and categories of violation in all states. Action was limited to investigation and condemnation. The overwhelming majority of states and commentators rejected the notion of ‘humanitarian intervention’ that had had some currency until the UN Charter’s proscription of the use of force by states. It took the UN sixty years to accept that the Security Council could and should take necessary coercive measures, including armed force, to confront the most extreme forms of human rights violation or atrocity such as genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. In doing so, it sanctified a new doctrine and codified its scope. Political and material realities seem to require sober expectations about the UN’s actual ability to protect populations from these atrocities.

Keywords: responsibility to protect, humanitarian intervention, United Nations Security Council, use of force, human rights, war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing

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