R.J. Vincent idea on human rights is actually synonymous with his reconceptualized human rights where he termed it as “basic rights.” Historically, human rights were justified and defined in an abstract way of reasoning, that are, the first one it is equated to natural or canon law for human beings have the same rights because all of them are members of human community, thus it is universal; the second one is the establishment of formal obligations, treatise among societies or authorities and mutual obligations and rights are defined by acceptance of both parties. The third one which is different from the two aforementioned abstract reasons is the notion of cultural relativism that involves a non-universal doctrine because it is cultural specific in view of different civilizations. He defined basic right to life as rights that are necessary for the enjoyment of other rights. He considered right to security, subsistence and freedom as requirements for benevolent survival. Further, he laid three arguments: (1) humanitarian intervention means if the state violate the basic right to life and having a minimum content on containing rights to security and subsistence, (2) legitimacy is when a state’s legitimacy is recognized by other states, and (3) involves unity and diversity in international society and which content of basic rights must be kept confidential, again the idea of pacta sunt servanda.
In this essay we will look on the notion of human intervention in contemporary world politics vis-à-vis Vincent’s first argument above. The expression of humanitarian sentiments in world politics is a product of changing historical and social processes. World or domestic events alter or affect different sentiments that individuals experiences. It is left for the international community in addressing graved humanitarian crisis like what had happened in Rwanda (1994) and Sbrenica (1995). Presently, Sudan’s Darfur is also facing this kind of tragic and worst problem could ever happen in a state or community of peoples. Traditionally, intervention has been defined as a forcible breach of sovereignty that interferes in state’s internal affairs. The legality of forcible humanitarian intervention is a matter of dispute between restrictionists and counter-restrictionists.[i]
The restrictionists perspective pointed out that: (1) States will not intervene for primarily humanitarian reasons. (2) States are not allowed to risk their soldiers’ lives on humanitarian crusades. (3) States will abuse a right of humanitarian intervention using it as a cloak to promote national interests. (4) States will apply principles of humanitarian intervention selectively. (5) Disagreement on what principles should govern a right of humanitarian intervention. For the counter-restrictionists perspective raises significant questions like: (1) Protection of human rights. (2) A customary right of humanitarian intervention. (3) The moral choice of states to involve in humanitarian intervention. These questions were very controversial among lawyers of international law and raise the ire of the authority of the international judicial bodies, e.g. International Criminal Court (ICC).
Remember when the Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for the arrest of Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, President of Sudan, last March 4, 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He is suspected of being criminally responsible, as an indirect co-perpetrator, for intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians, and pillaging their property. This is the first warrant of arrest ever issued for a sitting Head of State by the ICC.[ii]
Sovereignty has been the cardinal stance of a state in enforcing its domestic affairs under its jurisdiction. It was conceptualized after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, giving state an equivocal power to perform its duties and obligations to its citizens. However, as time goes by, new concepts and ideas are being developed in order to interpret the current situation of states in an international society. The reason being was the effects of events on how states interact with each other and other actors (individuals, international organizations, MNCs, social movements or NGOs) become an emergent importance in carrying-out roles that states are incapable to maintain and enhance cosmopolitan interpretation of a normative order, though some were pursuing goals based on interests. Ideas like society of states, complex interdependence, and globalization have contributed in modifying the traditional definition of intervention consonance with prospects for humanitarian purposes or how IR practitioners would say a ‘common humanity’.
The debate on humanitarian intervention between restrictionists and counter-restrictionists regarding who shapes, dictates, interpret human rights; what constitute a moral right of an individual; are there limitations of ethical responsibilities of agents (with international status) in global politics; were questions need to be elaborated and pondered upon. The arrest order issued by the International Criminal Court to the head of state of Sudan, is it an exception to the immunity bestowed to heads of states when they agreed on the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations in 1964?
There are several ideas made by man that later will appear in conflict or contradict with their former constructed ideas. If we will live in theories of man, I think our lives will be unproductive. I am saying this because we have seen so much human sufferings all over the world perpetuated by subjects in international law because their duty changed for whatever circumstances they’ve encountered. They will have infinite debates whether humanitarian intervention is right or wrong or whether what constitute human rights, i.e. whether the definition should be based on the culture of a society or in a cosmopolitan understanding, but still it will not change the fact that both parties must arrive at a compromise decision and act based on common understanding to address the phenomena, may it be complex or not, or else the future of humanity will be endanger.
[i] Wheeler, Nicholas J. and Alex J. Bellamy (2001): “Humanitarian Intervention and World Politics” (pp. 470-493) in The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, John Baylis and Steve Smith. (2nd ed.) Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press.
[ii] Available here from one of the online published statements of ICC.