Rethinking International Law: Hugo Grotius, Human Rights and Humanitarian Intervention

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The dissertation takes up the subject of humanitarian intervention in contemporary international law. It identifies a problem, The Dilemma of Humanitarian Intervention, which underlies almost all contemporary theorizing about the subject. In an attempt to find a more palatable means to address the problem of the violation of human rights, the dissertation turns to the work of Hugo Grotius. Through an analysis of international law and its theoretical and philosophical bases, a thorough critique of the state of contemporary international law is made. Using a close-text reading of Grotius, alternative theories are established concerning human rights and humanitarian intervention. The dissertation finds that when the concept of human rights is attached to other normative concepts like moderation or faith, the pressure to resolve all questions of justice in terms of rights can be lessened. Further, if contemporary theorists recognize that the opposition of sovereignty and intervention is a structural and institutional feature of international law, and not a necessary feature of the concept of sovereignty itself, the Dilemma may be overcome by not forcing policymakers to choose either a defense of sovereignty or a defense of human rights.





Troester, Nicholas (2010). Rethinking International Law: Hugo Grotius, Human Rights and Humanitarian Intervention. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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