Saturday, April 5, 2003

From Zenit:

A good overview of discussions about the use of war as humanitarian intervention

The Holy Father gave a more detailed exposition of his thought on the issue in his World Day for Peace message of Jan. 1, 2000, in paragraphs 7-12. "Crimes against humanity cannot be considered an internal affair of a nation," stated John Paul II. "We must thank God that in the conscience of peoples and nations there is a growing conviction that human rights have no borders, because they are universal and indivisible."

Armed conflicts within states are numerous, noted the Pope. They are due to a multiplicity of causes: ethnic and tribal rivalries; religious conflict; ideological, social and economic divisions.

Faced with these "tragic and complex situations," John Paul II said that "there is a need to affirm the pre-eminent value of humanitarian law and the consequent duty to guarantee the right to humanitarian aid to suffering civilians and refugees."

The legitimacy of this right to aid, he explained, "is in fact based on the principle that the good of the human person comes before all else and stands above all human institutions." Therefore, once other means have proved ineffective, "it is legitimate and even obligatory to take concrete measures to disarm the aggressor."

He adds a number of limiting factors to the application of this intervention, however. In addition to the need to exhaust all diplomatic means first, he said, the intervention must be of limited duration and precise in its aim. Moreover, the measures taken must be carried out in full respect for international law and guaranteed by an authority that is internationally recognized. The Pope recommended: "The fullest and the best use must therefore be made of all the provisions of the United Nations Charter," along with the framework of international law.

John Paul II called for "a renewal of international law and international institutions, a renewal whose starting point and basic organizing principle should be the primacy of the good of humanity and of the human person over every other consideration."