“... if humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica - to gross and systematic violations of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity?” 
Since the end of the Cold War, the issue of humanitarian intervention has created the most heated debate and has become the most contentious concept in the field of International Relations.  This debate among different schools of thought is mainly concentrated on the question of legality. Under the contemporary international system -which is still strongly based on the Westphalian order- the claim that one state has the right to militarily intervene in the affairs of another in cases of massive violations of fundamental human rights, is very controversial. The principle of sovereignty is thought to guarantee non-intervention so when humanitarian intervention conflicts with the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention, problems emerge. Although there have been many humanitarian interventions during the Cold War, it was the end of it that provided the opportunity for concerted humanitarian interventions. Some of the interventions had the blessings of the United Nations, others did not. Many scholars identify the 1990s as the ‘decade of humanitarian intervention.' The 1990s stand as the decade, which started with the establishment of ‘safe havens’ for the Iraqi Kurds in 1991 and ended up with the NATO bombing the Former Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999.
The paper investigates whether humanitarian military intervention in the affairs of another state can ever be justified. The issue of humanitarian intervention is analyzed both theoretically and empirically with particular emphasis on its legality and legitimacy.
 Kofi Anan, Former Secretary-General of the United Nations, See full Report ‘We the Peoples,' The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century, (2000) p. 48. Available from: http://www.un.org/millennium/sg/report/full.htm [accessed 22 November 2007].
 Robert O. Keohane writes, ‘Saying "humanitarian intervention" in a room full of philosophers, legal scholars and political scientist is a little bit like crying "fire" in a crowded theatre'. Robert O. Keohane, ‘Introduction,' in J. L. Holzgrefe and Robert O. Keohane ed., Humanitarian Intervention: Ethical, Legal, and Political Dilemmas (Cambridge University Press, new York, 2003), p. 1.
Rudi Guraziu is a Foreign Affairs Consultant - Specialising in the Balkans