In yesterday's Guardian, Hans Blix writes:
It has been suggested that in the review of the functioning of the UN, an effort should be made to examine the circumstances in which the use of force can and should be authorised. Some would wish to see a greater use of the council's power to hold members to their duties to protect their own citizens: to intervene by force, if necessary, in situations of genocide, as in Rwanda or Darfur...The relevant part of Article 2:7:
... Where intervention will be both justified as the only way to prevent grave violations of human rights and acceptable to a broad membership, I do not think that article 2:7 of the charter [about not interfering in essentially domestic matters] will stand in the way.
Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter...I'm puzzled by Blix's thinking on this point. Perhaps his idea is that once violations by governments of the human rights of their own citizens become too extreme, then the situation may be treated - pragmatically - as no longer being confined to the jurisdiction of the state concerned. But recent controversies underline the difficulty of agreeing when such a threshold has been crossed. Had it been crossed by Saddam? Has it today in Darfur or Zimbabwe? Leaving the matter entirely to the political dispositions of various member states at any given moment doesn't seem like such a great idea. What would be lost by trying to specify the threshold with some precision?