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This issue of Human Rights Dialogue considers military humanitarian intervention and human rights from a perspective that is too often neglected: that of people in the country that has been "intervened upon" in the name of human rights. By printing the testimonies of local advocates of social justice in Kosovo, Bosnia, East Timor, and Sierra Leone, we critically examine the implications of greater participation of state and multilateral actors in human rights discourse, particularly through humanitarian intervention. On the one hand, such engagement creates the political space to take action against human rights violations. On the other hand, when human rights language is expropriated by groups attempting to manipulate the debate, the moral authority of the human rights movement is undermined, as is the credibility of local actors. When this happens, how can human rights principles gain -- or regain -- public legitimacy?
Introduction: Human Rights in Times of Conflict: Humanitarian Intervention
The most immediate and visible effect of humanitarian intervention is on the actual human rights abuses that it is supposed to stem. Does the intervention stop these abuses? Does it have any impact at all? Does it create new, unintended human rights abuses?
Was Intervention in Kosovo Just? A Kosovar Perspective
Visoka observes that "despite claims by Serbian politicians and diplomats that this was an internal Yugoslav affair, the international community decided that the situation needed their attention. Everyone in Kosovo certainly feels that the NATO intervention was the right thing to do."
Kosovo’s Little-Known Victims: The Fate of the Roma Following the Entry of NATO Troops
Following the return of the ethnic Albanians to Kosovo in June 1999 and the entry of NATO (KFOR) troops into the province, Albanians conducted a sustained and brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kosovo’s Roma.
The Fallacy of Neutral Humanitarianism in Bosnia
Workers Aid for Bosnia was criticized by other humanitarian organizations for its political support for a united, multi-ethnic Bosnia. But the more we went into Bosnia, writes Myers, the more critical we became of most of our critics and, above all, of the United Nations and NATO.
A Credibility Problem in Kosovo: The Undermining of Local Human Rights Culture
The international community’s failure to respond earlier to human rights violations, its refusal to explain its actions in terms of human rights motivations, and its intervention out of step with human rights principles undermined the legitimacy of human rights in Kosovo.
A Challenge for Serbian Civil Society: The Death and Rebirth of the Human Rights Movement
Serbian activists realized during the NATO bombing that they were victims of the policies of their own government; but they also felt like victims of the international community's use of military means to promote the human rights standards they had been advocating peacefully for years.
The Successes and Failures of UN Intervention in East Timor
Magno observes: "Every time you talk about an international tribunal with someone who works for the U.N. in East Timor they say, 'Well, you know, it takes a lot of money, it takes a lot of time . . . .' The people of East Timor say they want justice, [but] the U.N. is reluctant to undertake the task."
Post-Conflict Institutions That Promote Human Rights: The Human Rights Chamber of Bosnia-Herzegovina
Recent military humanitarian intervention has been based on the need to protect human rights, and a successful military campaign under this banner must assure the protection of these rights. Once hostilities end, however, there are huge obstacles to the success of this task.
Inconsistency and the Tragedy of Africa's Neglect
Humanitarian intervention is based on the alleviation of human rights violations, but ecent actions in Sierra Leone and Kosovo suggest that the practice has less to do with stopping abuses than with furthering the interests of the intervening powers and their advocates.
The Choices for the International Human Rights Movement
Roth remarks that, for the pacifist, "the debate over humanitarian intervention is easy. War is the ultimate evil, to be opposed in any circumstance. For a human rights activist, the issue is more complex." When might military force be appropriate to stop human rights abuse?
More Resources on Humanitarian Intervention | 01/06/01
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