Chicago Journal of International Law


One possible way to bring mass murder under international law is to abandon the principle of territorial sovereignty, that is, the idea that the "internal matters" of a state are subject only to the national laws of that state. This idea is commonly traced back to the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, which ended the Thirty Years War. Alleged mistreatment of religious minorities had been put forth as sufficient justification for one country to invade another, but the Treaty of Westphalia decreed that how governments treat their own subjects would be regarded under international law as an internal matter. The doctrine of national sovereignty remains a cornerstone of international law. The UN Charter Chapter 1 (Purposes and Principles) declares: "[n]othing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter." Regardless of the practical arguments in favor of abandoning the Westphalian principle of national sovereignty, it is safe to say that such a change would be a radical departure from existing and long-standing precedents of international law. This Development seeks to demonstrate that existing provisions of international law regarding self- determination (especially as that concept has developed just in the last few years) already contain a framework for preventing the mass murder of minority groups.