The current attempt by the Republic of Chechnya to break away from Russia, and the strife as it initially arose in the former Yugoslavia, are two of the most glaring examples of the post-Cold War rise in intrastate ethnic conflicts. Despite the persistent increase in such disputes, the international community does not appear to have developed a coordinated or consistent policy in how to respond to the difficulties created by these kinds of conflicts. For example, the fighting in both Yugoslavia and Chechnya have been characterized by violations of human rights and humanitarian law, and yet the international community has taken very different approaches to each conflict, intervening extensively in the former controversy through embargoes and military force, and taking a largely hands-off approach to the latter conflict as an "internal Russian affair."
This apparent inconsistency in approach by the international community, and the controversial results of the United Nations' intervention in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia, provide an effective context in which to address the question of what role can and should the international community play in intrastate ethnic conflicts.
Juan Méndez is General Counsel to Human Rights Watch and former Executive Director of Americas Watch. Since 1982, Méndez has participated in numerous on-site missions to investigate violations of international humanitarian law, and has authored many of the resulting reports as well as articles on various human rights issues.
John Bolton is the President of the National Policy Forum in Washington, D.C. Bolton was formerly Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs in the Bush Administration, where he formulated, articulated and implemented U.S. policy within the UN system and directed U.S. policy during the Persian Gulf War.
|Point/Counterpoint is a regular feature of The Human Rights Brief. The purpose of the section is to encourage meaningful, intellectual discussion on contemporary issues in human rights and humanitarian law through the presentation of two diverse, though not necessarily opposing, opinions on the subject at hand. Commentaries for the Point/Counterpoint section are generally solicited by The Brief; however, the Editorial Board welcomes submissions, comments and suggestions. The newsletter does not facilitate exchange of the authors' compositions prior to publication. The views expressed in the Point/Counterpoint section are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of The Human Rights Brief, the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, or their Directors or staff.|
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