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A humanitarian intervention is a military intervention conducted in order to provide urgent relief from serious and persistent human rights violations. Prior to the creation of general international organizations, humanitarian interventions were effectuated by the unilateral action of one state in the territory of another, which, by the early twentieth century, would have been unlawful but for, arguably, the humanitarian justification. Now, humanitarian intervention also refers to interventions for humanitarian purposes by international organizations. Such organizational actions are significant, from a legal standpoint, only if the humanitarian impulse is the sole authoritative basis for the action in question. The term humanitarian intervention has also been used more generally for any strategic program with a human rights objective. I will use the term in its classic military sense.

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