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The Responsibility to Protect and the Plenitudinal Mindset of International Humanitarian Law

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The Responsibility to Protect is almost fifteen years old and yet opinions diverge widely about its utility as a tool of international humanitarian law. Scholars and diplomats continue to debate its most discussed feature – the secondary responsibility of the international community to aid suffering populations of internal disputes when the host State or United Nations Charter system fails to do the same. This paper argues that much of the current debate is out of focus and at cross purpose and is due to disconnected strands of a plenitudinal mindset in law, found elsewhere as well in humanitarian law, which tend to view humanitarian law either from structural or substantive perspectives, but not from both perspectives. A unified understanding of the plenitudinal mindset re-focuses the discussion around an important common denominator, the need to bridge legal gaps and avoid the appearance of non liquet in the development of international humanitarian law. Disconnected discussions on the Responsibility to Protect are not as disconnected as they appear because opposing views regard as equally odious the silences and gaps of the United Nations Charter system. Borrowing somewhat from social process theory, this paper highlights the need and ability of international humanitarian law to re-forge the broken chain that can strengthen the Responsibility to Protect.

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer in Public International Law, Boyd College of Law, University of Iowa, Iowa City, c-rossi@uiowa.edu

10.1163/18781527-00501012
/content/journals/10.1163/18781527-00501012
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/content/journals/10.1163/18781527-00501012
2014-01-10
2017-11-20

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