The mid-nineteenth century was the formative period of doctrines that dominated international law debates in Latin America until well into the twentieth century. José María Torres Caicedo (1830–89) is one of the least-known international law scholars from those years. Torres Caicedo’s vast experience as a diplomat provided him with a sharp political instinct, which nurtured his academic work about international legal affairs. A look into his writings exposes the politics behind present-day principles, such as sovereign equality and non-intervention. It also reveals the stance of Latin American intellectuals with regard to the Eurocentric notion of the ‘civilized State’. In the field of the law of aliens, Torres was a major influence in the development of the Calvo Doctrine. His contributions to international law are all the more relevant, as historians place Torres as one of the first authors designating Central and South America as ‘Latin America’. This term was closely intertwined with Torres Caicedo’s views on foreign policy and international law.
The article offers a historical approach to one of the most understudied areas of international humanitarian law by focusing on the successes and shortfalls of the two international armed conflicts with the highest numbers of civilians interned in global history. Through the study of State practice during Word War I and Word War II, the author addresses the causes and justifications that led to massive internment of enemy aliens, the practical determination of the need of those measures, and the role of ethnicity for internment. Lessons drawn from those experiences not only clarify and humanize abstract legal provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions but also warn about harmful deviations from the intended purpose of those norms for future cases.
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