2. The principle of non-interference is not absoluteIn light of the CUN’s provisions on collective security measures, international humanitarian law, and the affirmative duty to act created under various international conventions, the principle of non-interference is not absolute and must be weighed against the duty of states to protect life and uphold fundamental liberties.
a) Collective security measures
Chapter VII of the UN Charter permits two exceptions to the principle of non-interference; the use of force is permitted when acting pursuant to: (i) UN collective security measures (arts. 42 CUN); and (ii) self-defense (art. 51 CUN). As discussed below, the first exception applies to
b) The mandate to intervene in internal armed conflicts under the
Taking into account the experience of the Second World War, where civilians were systematically targeted in both internal as well as international conflicts, the international community in 1949 revised the three Geneva Conventions and adopted a fourth Geneva Convention to provide for the protection of civilians from the consequences of war. The results were the four 1949 Geneva Conventions that today deal with the treatment and protection of persons—both combatants and civilians—during armed conflict.
3. The affirmative duty to act under international lawa) Overview
Several international legal instruments create an affirmative duty to act when life and basic fundamental freedoms are threatened. For example, the Genocide Convention requires not only that its 140 states parties refrain from the crime of genocide, but also that they “undertake to prevent and to punish” genocide (Art. I CPPG) and further pledge “to grant extradition in accordance with their laws and treaties in force” of persons charged with genocide (Art. VII CPPG). The International Court of Justice thus found in the Bosnian Genocide Case (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro) (2007) that Belgrade breached international law not by committing genocide, but by failing to prevent it.
b) The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
States parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976) (ICCPR) undertake to protect the wide range of civil and political rights, including a right to life (art. 6 ICCPR), prohibitions on torture (art. 7 ICCPR) and arbitrary arrest or detention (art. 9.1 ICCPR), a right to trial within a reasonable time of arrest or detainment (art. 9.3 ICCPR) and to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (art. 18 ICCPR), as well as freedom of expression (art. 19 ICCPR).