|Law in Humanitarian Crises, Volume II : Access to Victims: Right to Intervene or Right to Receive Humanitarian Assistance? (ECHO)|
|Humanitarian Intervention and Humanitarian Assistance: An Echo from the Past and a Prospect for the Future|
The recent practice of the Security Council, which commenced to a certain extent with SC Res. 688, to address internal human rights violations as falling within the scope of Article 39 of the Charter and to indicate the Council's willingness to take enforcement measures under Article 42 of the Chapter to redress such purely internal situations, is an enormous improvement of the United Nations collective security system. Continuation of the practice of the Security Council would offer various opportunities for a further development of the concept of humanitarian assistance and may, furthermore, lead to a more effective implementation of principles of international humanitarian law, as far as such principles can be described as manifestations of humanitarian assistance. Such principles are already well known and have been laid down in various treaties like the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977. Whether it is preferable to refer to those accepted principles instead of using the generic term "humanitarian assistance" within the concept of enforcement measures, is of course another question.
At the same time it must be acknowledged that the Security Council has taken the liberty to explore new avenues and has introduced new notions of assistance which were hitherto unknown in international humanitarian law. It is still too early to assess these developments and to evaluate the usefulness of the generic term "humanitarian assistance", but it cannot be denied that in a relatively short time, new trends have emerged. This practice seems, furthermore, to have been accepted by the public at large.
On the other hand, the Security Council should work towards a more consistent use of terminology and reserve terms like "humanitarian relief operations" or "emergency relief action" for peace-time operations.
Another, almost inescapable, conclusion is that with the recent Security Council practice on humanitarian assistance and the Council's willingness to consider purely internal human rights violations as a threat to the peace, the prospect for the doctrine of humanitarian intervention seems rather bleak: if one accepts the difference between humanitarian intervention as it is generally understood in international law and enforcement measures under Chapter VII, it may very well indeed become an echo from the past.