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Would an Armed Humanitarian Intervention in Haiti Be Legal—And Could It Succeed?

February 28, 2023
Alexandra Byrne, Zoha Siddiqui, and Kelebogile Zvobgo


In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Alexandra Byrne, a research fellow in the International Justice Lab, Zoha Siddiqui, a 1693 scholar, and Kelebogile Zvobgo is an assistant professor of government, all at William & Mary, analyze the legality and ethics of an armed humanitarian intervention in Haiti by the United Nations.

Haitian officials and world leaders are calling for an armed humanitarian intervention backed by the United Nations (UN) to defeat organized crime. Gangs in Haiti have reportedly kidnapped and killed hundreds of civilians and displaced thousands. Gangs are also limiting access to fuel and blocking critical humanitarian aid to civilians. Add to this a resurgence of cholera.

The United States asked the UN Security Council in October to approve a targeted intervention, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield underscored “extreme violence and instability” in Haiti and proposed a mission led by a “partner country” (not the United States or UN peacekeeping forces).

There is nominal support for the mission. In the coming weeks, Canada will send naval vessels to Haiti’s coast, and Jamaica has offered some troops, but no country is taking the leadCritics argue that past missions in Haiti did more harm than good. In 2010, UN peacekeepers even reintroduced cholera into Haiti. Nonetheless, the United States is pushing for an intervention.

What is an armed humanitarian intervention and would it be legal under international law? Here’s what you need to know.

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance.