Atrocity Crimes and International Law Responsibility to Protect, Intercession, and Non-Forceful Responses

Book Description


Despite repeated declarations of ‘never again’ in response to the commission of atrocities, civilians have continued to be targeted by their leaders and opposition groups. The international law principles of sovereignty and non-intervention, when taken at their highest, require States to stand idle and not intervene in another State regardless of what atrocities may be occurring there. This traditional legal view is being challenged by an emerging practice of States choosing to respond in non-forceful ways, inspired by the concept of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Drawing on R2P, this book introduces and develops an original conceptual tool –intercession –to capture and explain this change in State practice and the impact of R2P on the development of international law. Through a close examination of State practice, the work explores whether there has been an expansion in the permissible measures and situations in which States can intervene, without using force, in response to atrocity crimes occurring in other States. This book concludes that the development of the secondary duty on the international community under R2P provides the greatest opportunity to progress the R2P framework in a meaningful way, which will have a significant impact on the protection of populations from atrocity crimes. The book will be essential reading for students, researchers and policymakers working in the areas of international law, international relations, humanitarian law, and peace and security studies.


Table of Contents



1 A shield for delinquent States

1.1 Shielding delinquent States: sovereignty and the principle of non-intervention at their highest

1.2 Piercing the shield of sovereignty

1.3 Implementing and operationalising R2P

1.4 Maximising permissible responses to atrocity crimes

2 Intercession as a conceptual tool to examine State practice

2.1 Not a binary choice between doing nothing and using armed force

2.2 Intercession

2.3 Implementing R2P by using measures less than force

2.4 The power of ideas to shape State practice

2.5 Charting a way forward for significantly enhanced international responses to the commission of atrocity crimes

3 The use of diplomatic measures to respond to atrocity crimes

3.1 The use of diplomatic measures to respond to atrocity crimes

3.2 Softening the hard edges of R2P

4 Economic sanctions: the practice of the United Nations, regional organisations, and States

4.1 A working definition of economic sanctions

4.2 Legal justification for the imposition of sanctions

4.3 Contemporary sanctions practice

4.4 The significance of contemporary sanctions practice

4.5 An evolving sanctions practice

5 Restriction of means to commit atrocities

5.1 Campaigning for regulation of the international conventional arms trade

5.2 Progress towards the Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations

5.3 The relevance of R2P for the Arms Trade Treaty

5.4 The treaty text

5.5 State responsibility and the Arms Trade Treaty

5.6 The restraining influence of intercession under R2P

6 Provision of assistance to opposition groups

6.1 The traditional approach

6.2 Evidence of an emerging and different State practice

6.3 A more drastic form of intercession

7 R2P: more than empty rhetoric

7.1 The evolution of foundational principles of international law

7.2 Measures less than the use of force

7.3 R2P in practice

7.4 More than empty words







Stacey Henderson is a senior lecturer at the College of Business, Government and Law, Flinders University. Her research focuses on the protective capacity of law, the responsibility to protect (R2P) and the use of measures less than force to help to protect populations, and the governance of outer space and space technology.