Humanitarian intervention is the act of a state (or states) to threaten or use military force within another country’s boarders so as to prevent or end widespread violations of fundamental human rights of people other than its own citizens and without permission from the state within whose boarders force is applied (Buchanan et al, 2003).
Though sovereignty has been generally defined as supreme authority over a territory defined by boundaries, different scholars tend to disagree over its exact definition. Sovereignty can be absolute, or non-absolute. Absoluteness of sovereignty lies in the scope of matters over which the authority holder is sovereign (Philpott 2010). The sovereignty can also be both internal and external, adds Philpott, and this means the state has sovereignty within its borders and in regards to outsiders who may not interfere with the governance of the sovereign (2010).
Along these definitions, the use of humanitarian intervention seems impermissible. But when you introduce the notion of individual sovereignty, as opposed to state sovereignty, the issue becomes a subject of debate. This paper seeks to explore whether, when a government fails to protect the rights of its citizens, the practice of humanitarian intervention is compatible with an international system that is based on the principle of state sovereignty.