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This article places the emerging “responsibility to protect” within the historical development of international human rights and criminal law, while also attempting to more fully theorize the responsibility to ensure that it can be a basis for action in the face of a state’s commission of atrocities against its citizens. The main point of departure concerns the issue of “right authority” at that point in time when a coercive intervention is justified. Rather than rely solely on the Security Council in these situations, this article contends that unilateral and multilateral action must be countenanced by a fully theorized “responsibility to protect.” Such action is the only likely action to be taken in many circumstances, on account of the self-interest of Security Council members and general apathy towards intervention in the United Nations. There are solid legal and policy grounds for permitting such interventions and no compelling arguments to the contrary. Without sanctioning such action, it is very likely that the responsibility to protect will become just another quaint theory in international law, irrelevant to on the ground decision-making and incapable of the protection it was created to provide.

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11 U. Botswana L.J. (2010)