Human Rights: Imposition by Force?

Last updated: March 8, 2017

Should force be used to protect human rights?

Human Rights: Imposition by Force?
Yes because...

It is our duty, as good international Samaritans, to intervene in order to halt human rights violati...

It is our duty, as good international Samaritans, to intervene in order to halt human rights violations. The 1948 Genocide Convention calls on countries to “undertake to prevent and to punish' genocide. For any human rights violation, the 1948 UN Declaration on Human Rights calls for the use of force when the UN has specifically approved it.
No because...
It is hypocritical to use force to uphold human rights: the use of force inevitably involves infringing one right (to life, or property) for the sake of another. For example, Indonesian intervention in East Timor involved the imposition of martial law, while American actaions in Iraq and Afghanistan have also been heavily criticised on human rights grounds. Amnesty International describe this as “complaint and cure” being the same.

Human Rights: Imposition by Force?
Yes because...

The use of force by one country upon another can be justified because the citizens of every country ...

The use of force by one country upon another can be justified because the citizens of every country in the world are entitled to exactly the same rights. This endows countries that are the best at delivering these rights with the authority to impose their standards on the rest. (A more extreme view:) Certainly, when one country’s 'take' on human rights means that the people of another are treated in breech of the conventions they recognise, there is even more of a case to use force to uphold rights. The British Government came under pressure to intervene to 'rescue' the two British nurses convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia.
No because...
It is wrong to assume that western ideas of human rights extend throughout the world. Buddhism, for example, places more emphasis upon 'human nature', and upon the effects of individuals’ actions, than upon 'rights'. The use of force cannot respect such differences. In any case, how does one define a country that is 'the best' at delivering human rights? The USA often takes the initiative in launching intervention, but some would criticise the treatment of prisoners on the USA’s Death Row or Guantanamo Bay almost as much as the atrocities in Kosovo, or Taliban attacks in Afghanistan.

Human Rights: Imposition by Force?
Yes because...

Careful planning of violent force can minimise the number of rights that the force itself violates. ...

Careful planning of violent force can minimise the number of rights that the force itself violates. It is possible to hit military bases, runways, bridges and so on without killing a single civilian or destroying anyone’s personal property.
No because...
This is totally impossible: despite the technology of modern weapons, only a very small proportion of the missiles launched hit their intended target. What happens to the rest? They hit hospitals (as allegedly in Iraq during the Gulf War), or embassies (the Chinese one, during the Kosovo conflict). In total, between 400 and 600 civilians were killed by NATO over Kosovo; over a hundred thousand may have died as a result of US intervention in Iraq. Pilots cannot really be blamed for this, since the rules of engagement prevent them from getting lower than 15000 feet. It would have been impossible to tell whether there was anyone inside the Serbian television headquarters when it was bombed. The only safe answer is not to bomb.

Human Rights: Imposition by Force?
Yes because...

Force need not mean “violence”: it could entail the deployment of a peace-keeping force such as KFOR...

Force need not mean “violence”: it could entail the deployment of a peace-keeping force such as KFOR in Kosovo or the Australian-led mission in East Timor. If troops had not been deployed in Northern Ireland over the past decades, it is certain that sectarian violence, unchecked, would have claimed thousands more lives.
No because...
Peace-keeping forces are only ever found in the aftermath of violent action: witness Kosovo especially. Even so-called peace-keeping forces find it impossible to stop their enforced reign becoming violent: when two KFOR soldiers were injured in Mitrovica in February 2000, the UN force reacted by detaining 49 people in unsanitary conditions for five days. There are stories of French soldiers ramming guns in prisoners’ backs, and using hostile language: all of this in the name of peace-'keeping'. Similarly, there are many examples of UN peacekeepers abusing the local population in Congo.

Human Rights: Imposition by Force?
Yes because...

If Britain is embracing so thoroughly for herself the European Convention on Human Rights, surely sh...

If Britain is embracing so thoroughly for herself the European Convention on Human Rights, surely she should see it as her responsibility to get these noble ideals accepted elsewhere?
No because...
The use of force to do so is ludicrous. The fallibility of some UN soldiers in Kosovo has been proven (although there is no evidence that this includes British ones). Guns and embryonic peace are a volatile combination; any sparks undermine the work of the European Court of Human Rights, and indeed the Convention itself.

Human Rights: Imposition by Force?
Yes because...

It is possible to apply force without using a single troop, then: diplomatic pressure, including san...

It is possible to apply force without using a single troop, then: diplomatic pressure, including sanctions, can force oppressive regimes to begin treating their citizens better.
No because...
For any country to stand in a moral “pulpit” in this way is bound to do severe harm to diplomatic relations well before it effects any change. There is no substantial evidence that the sanctions against Iraq or Myanmar made the governments there respect human rights any better. Indeed, the fact that medical supplies have been allowed in, while other industrial products have not, apparently led to the medical supplies being purloined for use by the military machine, rather than aiding the civilian population. This is the inevitable result of diplomatic meddling. In the case of China, a BBC poll showed that 69% of British people thought President Clinton should not apply pressure on Beijing regarding its human rights record.

Human Rights: Imposition by Force?
Yes because...

Cruel regimes can only be overthrown with support from outside that country....

Cruel regimes can only be overthrown with support from outside that country.
No because...
It is more likely that an oppressive dictator will be removed from inside the country. Kostunice won the elections in Serbia partly because he did not side with western powers: Serbian people are suspicious of the West perhaps as much as they loathe Milosovic. Had Western intervention in his ousting been greater, he may have clung to power for longer.

Human Rights: Imposition by Force?
Yes because...

Force is the only way to send a clear message that we believe that those who infringe human rights a...

Force is the only way to send a clear message that we believe that those who infringe human rights are in the wrong.
No because...
Interventional force never provides a lasting solution to human rights abuses: it fails on even its most basic premise.


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