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This essay assesses the actions of the international community in the Balkans Conflict through the lens of international law. Although foreign intervention is recognized today as a practice of national and global security, the historical normalization of non- intervention within the United Nations Charter is investigated for its role in the brutal massacres throughout Former Yugoslavia. As a watershed moment that guided contemporary foreign policy, this series of war crimes is understood to be fuelled by hesitation and failure of Western and European nations to aid a resolution- actions that have left permanent scars on the governments and people within the Balkans today.


For more than four years after the breakup of Yugoslavia and the subsequent onset of war, the international community sat in hesitation. With over 140,000 people killed and millions of civilians displaced in the Balkansit was the greatest European genocide since the Holocaust. Meanwhile, the Western world and its allies watched this massacre worsen with no clear strategy or urgency to step in. The international community’s deferred intervention in the fatal affairs of Former Yugoslavia was fundamentally a consequence of reluctance towards foreign intervention law. Normalizations of non-intervention as a means of international respect from the United Nations Charter discouraged assistance from Europe and the West to the Balkans. Peacekeeping fatigue in the United Nations (U.N.) and the absence of America willing to assert itself as a superpower nation halted attempts at mobilizing a resolution for this series of human rights violations. Despite the eventual intervention, Former Yugoslavia was left with permanent economic, social and political trauma from the prolonged conflict that persists in the regions today. While contemporary international law and U.N. declarations recognize the lessons on intervention learned from this crisis, it is nevertheless the case that the bloody demise of Yugoslavia could have been avoided if the international community reacted sooner.

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Author: Abigail Fair


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