There have been large numbers of humanitarian interventions since the Second World War, both with and without United Nations authorization, that were legally justified on the basis of preventing widespread and grave violations of fundamental human rights. The dramatic events of 1999 in East Timor highlight a pressing need to reflect on the popular debate on the practice of humanitarian intervention. The East Timor case is not an ordinary example of Humanitarian Intervention, in-fact some argue not an example at all. This paper will contain a critical assessment of the 1999 United Nation intervention, assessing the legality and success of the involvement of the international community. The role the Australian government played, or rather failed to play in the chaos that ensured will be discussed, as will the Australian involvement in Operation Stabilize. Speculation of the federal governments’ ulterior motives for the Australian involvement, such as oil and gas reserves will also be explored.
Humanitarian intervention constitutes the use of military force by a state to rescue persons in another state suffering depredations at the hands of their fellows. According to Lee, humanitarian intervention must have as its purpose the alleviation of the human suffering in the target state or the avoidance of human rights violations inflicted on its citizens. Humanitarian intervention is conventionally believed to occur without the consent of the target state, since consent suggests that there is no need for force. Customary international law has always recognized military intervention on humanitarian grounds. The classic examples of 19th-century military humanitarian intervention occurred when Britain intervened in Greece in 1830; France sent a military expedition to Syria and Lebanon in 1860; and when Britain sent troops to Crete in 1866.
The term intervention in ordinary language suggests interference in the affairs of another. For the purpose of this paper, the term intervention is restricted to interference in the activities of another state through military force. In order to maintain national peace and security Article 2 of the United Nations Charter prohibits members from threatening or using force against the territorial integrity of political independence of any state. Nevertheless there are certain circumstances in which military intervention is valid, such as actions authorised under Article 39-41 of the U.N. Charter. For instance individual or collective self defence as outlined under Article 51, and action of regional organisation authorised by the Security Council under Article 53 of the charter. There has been debate over whether international law should permit states to intervene militarily to stop a genocide or comparable atrocity without Security Council authorization. The overriding concern however is that states may use the pretext of humanitarian intervention to wage wars for ulterior motives.
Since the NATO’s military...