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The Dangers of the Dissemination of Misinformation in Implementing the Responsibility to Protect

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image of Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies

The creation of the responsibility to protect doctrine reformulated the historical notion of humanitarian intervention. The new doctrine was centered around the principle of nonintervention, a basic precept of the u.n. Charter system, with its initial report explicitly excluding regime change disguised as humanitarian intervention as external to the scope of the doctrine. Military intervention was only to be the means of last resort after the exhaustion of several preliminary mechanisms. In its implementation, the broad mandate of the responsibility to protect has been harshly criticized because it opens the possibility for powerful States, often seeking regime change, to interfere in the domestic affairs of weaker States. This article will first discuss (i) the chronology and evolution of the doctrine, (ii) situating it in the context of the u.n. Charter prohibition on the use of force and articulating its nonbinding nature. It will then examine (iii) the cases of Libya and Syria, focusing on the initial decision to intervene and how the dissemination of misinformation has served to promote military interventions where they would otherwise be considered illegitimate. The article will conclude with a brief discussion of (iv) how the international community can move beyond misapplication and seek to limit its abuse.

Affiliations: 1: Associate in International Arbitration and Litigation, Paris; Adjunct Professor, Université Paris II Panthéon-Assas,


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