GoJIL Vol. 6, No. 1 (2014)
Bystander Obligations at the Domestic and International Level Compared
This article examines whether States have a legal obligation to assist victims of serious breaches of fundamental obligations owed to the international community as a whole. This so-called ‘bystander State responsibility’ is compared with a similar legal obligation to assist victims at the domestic level. First, the method of comparing the legal obligations of international bystander States with the legal obligations of domestic bystanders is examined. Is it appropriate to compare the two legal frameworks, and why (not)? What can we learn from such a comparison? After these preliminary remarks, the types of situation in which bystander intervention is – or ought to be – legally required are identified in general terms. This is followed by an exposé of the raisons d’être of bystander obligations. After having looked at reasons why bystanders ought to intervene in theory, the article analyzes justifications for not intervening in practice, both at the domestic and international level. Finally, the different stages of bystander intervention are compared. First, the bystander must be aware of the need to intervene, then the bystander must accept personal responsibility to do so, and then the bystander has to choose the appropriate type of assistance.
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