The Responsibility to Protect in International Law: Philosophical Investigations, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Responsibility to Protect in International Law

Philosophical Investigations, 1st Edition

By Natalie Oman


224 pages

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Hardback: 9781472423948
pub: 2019-11-26
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This book tracks the development of the emerging international legal principle of a responsibility to protect over the past decade. It contrasts the influential version of the principle introduced by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty in 2001 with the more recent interpretation of the responsibility to protect advocated by the United Nations through its human protection agenda, and reviews the dangers and inconsistencies inherent in both interpretations. The author demonstrates that the evolving responsibility to protect principle can be recruited to support a wide range of irreconcilable projects, from those of cosmopolitan constitutionalism to those of hegemonic international law. However, despite the dangers posed by this susceptibility to conceptual hijacking, Oman argues that the responsibility to protect, like human rights, is an essential a modern emancipatory formation. To remedy this dangerous malleability, the author advocates a third, distinctive interpretation of the responsibility to protect designed to limit its cooptation by liberal anti-pluralist and hegemonic international law agendas. Oman outlines the key features of such a minimalist conception, and explores its fit with the "RtoP" version of the responsibility to protect promoted in recent years by the UN. The author argues that two crucial features missing from the UN reading of the principle should be developed in future: an acknowledgement of the role of non-state actors as bearers of the responsibility to protect, and a recognition of the principle's legal character. Both of these aspects of the principle offer means to democratize the international law-making enterprise.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1

A Philosophical Underpinning for a State’s "Responsibility to Protect"

Chapter 2

Intercultural Judgement and the Role of a Sensus Communis

Chapter 3

Human Security and Hannah Arendt’s "Right to Have Rights"

Chapter 4

The Scope of the "Responsibility to Prevent" Atrocity Crimes: A Remit for Intervention?

Chapter 5

The International Legal Character of the Responsibility to Protect


Distant Strangers and Our Responsibility to Protect

About the Author

Natalie Oman is Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at University of Ontario Institute of Technology. She has published in the areas of international law and human rights, philosophy of law, Aboriginal rights, and ethics. She has published widely on these and related areas.

About the Series

Routledge Research in International Law

The series offers a space for new and emerging scholars of international law to publish original arguments, as well as presenting alternative perspectives from more established names in international legal research.  Works cover both the theory and practice of international law, presenting innovative analyses of the nature and state of international law itself as well as more specific studies within particular disciplines. The series will explore topics such as the changes to the international legal order, the processes of law-making and law-enforcement, as well as the range of actors in public international law. The books will take a variety of different methodological approaches to the subject including interdisciplinary, critical legal studies, feminist, and Third World approaches, as well as the sociology of international law. Looking at the past, present and future of international law the series reflects the current vitality and diversity of international legal scholarship.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General