CMV: The EU should make human rights the basis for all use of military force by member states

Sat Jun 23 2018 15:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)


David Rodin

EUI Florence

Senior Research Fellow

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• As all persons have rights against being killed or attacked, military force can only be justified if used against those who have done something to make-themselves liable to lethal force. People become liable to (lethal) force by being responsible for an unjust threat to the (vital) rights of others.
• Making the use of military force explicitly subject to human rights would grant states appropriate permissions as it would entitle them to take necessary and proportionate action against those who pose an unjust threat to the vital rights of others.
• It would also subject them to appropriate constraints as it would require them to demonstrate that those who are subject to military force are sufficiently responsible for posing an unjust threat o the vital rights of others.
• Human rights standards create obligations for individual persons as well as states. This would create grounds for individual soldiers to insist on a right of selective conscientious objection in cases in which they are asked to deploy on a mission that is manifestly unlawful or unjust.

Background Information

  • In official EU statements and the justification for military operations with EU involvement abroad, the Union’s support and advocacy of human rights is usually highlighted

  • On a practical level, however, EU military strategy and operations are first and foremost governed by the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP)

    • In the CSDP, human rights only play an indirect role. It is primarily aimed at promoting human security and stability

  • While the notion of human rights might be implicit in these goals, it is not openly expressed in strategic military documents. Rather, the importance of human rights has been repeatedly highlighted in non-military external communication:

    • In the European Security Strategy Framework it is stated that “spreading good governance, supporting social and political reform, dealing with corruption and abuse of power, establishing the rule of law and protecting human rights are the best means of strengthening the international order.”

    • Moreover, the EU’s Crisis Management and Planning Directorate (CMPD) has drafted “a comprehensive policy framework to ensure that human rights and gender are reflected in the mandates and work of Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations” 

Read more

EU: Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)

EEAS: Baseline Study on human rights and military action

Debate Summary

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