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Unilateral humanitarian intervention in international law: Does and should such a right exist?

There are three bases commonly offered as granting recognition of a right to resort to unilateral humanitarian intervention (hereafter ‘UHI’) under international law. These bases are the United Nations Charter, state practice subsequent to the Charter, and the emergence of the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine in the early 2000s. This article reviews each of these bases in turn, ultimately finding that none of them provides an adequate basis for conferring recognition upon a right of UHI. In addition, while the moral reasons behind recognising a right of UHI are compelling, balanced consideration of the merits and risks of UHI leads to the conclusion that such recognition would entail dangerous potential consequences for international peace and security.

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