The Humanitarian Times

March 2, 2000


- DICTATOR PINOCHET FLEW HOME TO CHILE TODAY: RIGHTS IN CONFLICT. The UK Govt freed General. A Pinochet, protecting his right as mentally impaired, under Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights. In turn, the rights of his victims, under intl. conventions on torture & extra-judicial killing, will not receive redress in courts.

- MOZAMBIQUE FLOODS DROWN HUNDREDS, DISPLACE 600,000, & MILLIONS have no water safe enough to drink. Intl. aid only now mobilizing includes many aircraft, helicopters & search/rescue teams. The EU is giving $3M for relief, largely through the Spanish Red Cross, MSF Luxembourg. The Netherlands & Portugal each committed $2.5M; USAID has committed $7M. Aid agencies are hampered by poor information about releases of waters (from dams) by neighbor countries into rivers that are flooding Moz. Specifically, the Zambezi river may soon overflow, joining the swollen Save & Limpopo rivers.

- SOUTH SUDAN REBEL DIVIDES AID GROUPS OVER HUMANITARIANISM & AUTHORITY. The SPLA army, fighting to achieve autonomy for the southern third of Sudan, has demanded relief agencies sign a Memorandum of Understanding which sets forth the SPLA's jurisdiction over aid operations, including vehicles, evacuation, local hiring. When first proposed, intl. aid groups were uniformly opposed to it, to protect independence & neutrality needed for humanitarian action. But as the March 1 deadline arrived, the MOU split aid groups & donors. Many long-standing NGOs, refusing to sign, prepared to leave the famine-prone region. Other NGOs agreed to sign, compelled by their sense of accountability to the emergency-affected population, even if access to them requires compromise. The EU's humanitarian office, ECHO, has taken a hard line against the MOU, & against NGOs that accede to it. The US Govt in contrast agreed to be supportive of NGOs in their individual choices.

- RUSSIAN TROOPS OCCUPIED SHATOI THIS WEEK, DECLARES WAR WON, & will be reinforced to 25,000 troops, pitted against 18,000 rebels who will wage guerrilla war indefinitely from south mountains. Russia is now erecting a new Chechen govt. 56 years ago this week Stalin forcibly displaced 430,000 Chechens to Central Asia, resulting in 60,000+ deaths; this year 1/3 of Chechens were displaced. Mary Robinson (UN High Comm. for Human Rights) called again for war-crime trials of Russian generals.

- NIGERIA: IBOs KILLED 292 MOSLEMS AFTER HAUSAS KILLED CHRISTIANS. The massacre by Ibos this week in the southern town of Aba (east of Port Harcourt) came after killings by Moslems last week in the north-central (plains) city, Kaduna, fomented by efforts last week to decree Islamic Sharia law by 3 states (but suspended this week).

- CAMBODIA LANDMINE ACTION CENTER (CMAC) TO REDUCE STAFF, rather than shut down tomorrow, as had been announced. Intl. donors to CMAC (the world's best known de-mining center) have held back funds in recent months after 2 scandals showed mismanagement. Over 4M mines remain in Cambodia's fields. Also this week, the World Bank new $30M loans to Cambodia to reform governance, & management of public programs.




- "HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION: LEGAL & POLITICAL ASPECTS" by the Danish Institute of International Affairs (1999 Copenhagen: DUPI) analyses the legal implications of the growing need to intervene across borders over human rights violations & where diplomacy fails. "Since 1945, the principle of intl. protection of human rights has progressively gained weight at the cost of the classical, highly prohibitive interpretation of state sovereignty. The tendency is towards increasingly considering the individual, & not only the state, as a fundamental subject of intl. relations." The authors observe that the Security Council is increasingly setting precedents for intervention based on internal civil wars & repression. The authors frame 4 ways that hum interv. can be consistent system within intl. law:

  1. Reliance on the UN Sec. Council in its current procedures;
  2. Intervention as Emergency "Exit" from Intl Law;
  3. Subsidiary Right to Humanitarian Intervention, outside the Sec. Council's auspices, but through treaty or practice;
  4. Establishment of a general right of Humanitarian Intervention.

The authors compare these options at length & then conclude that 1 & 2 are preferred. The long-term hazards of humanitarian intervention are explored: e.g., in undermining the intl. legal order, dividing the Sec. Council, & inviting abuse by strong nations over weak. This exceptionally balanced & intelligent book suggests trigger criteria for interventions & the proportionate (minimum necessary) use of force that should be established prior to intervening.

- "THE REFUGEE IN INTERNATIONAL LAW" BY GUY GOODWIN GILL (1996 Oxford: Clarendon Paperbacks 571 pp) references & explains intl. conventions, the application of treaties in various states & municipalities & how refugee protection has evolved in practice, specifically under the law, noting how UNHCR's global role has expanded steadily first "though good offices & assistance, (then) to protection & solutions." The growing number of persons of concern to UNHCR "shows awareness of the difficulty of determining in the case of a massive exodus that each & everyone has a well-founded fear of persecution in the sense of the UNHCR Statute. Ample annexes do a great job of organizing past UNHCR Executive Committee conclusions. Readers interested in the topic should also refer to Oxford Univ Press' "International Journal of Refugee Law" ( of which Goodwin-Gill is Editor in Chief.

- see also H Steiner & P Alston "International Human Rights in Context: Law Politics Morals" (1996 Oxford Univ Press) a case-book, which, in 1240 pages reviews wide range of practical problems, including the role of NGOs, female circumcision, regional rights arrangements & war crimes.


March 2, 2000 The Humanitarian Times

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