17 October 2011
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1. International Federation of Human Rights - Silence is not an option! Syrians cannot afford to wait: Arab and International civil society present measures to the League of Arab States to intensify leadership on Syria
2. Human Rights Watch - IBSA: Push Syria to end bloodshed
3. Javier Solana, Reuters Blog - Failing the Syria Test
4. Chris Keeler, Foreign Policy Journal - The End of the Responsibility to Protect?
III. Libya: Civilians at risk in pro-Gaddafi strongholds at fighting continues, NTC abuse of prisoners condemned
1. Amnesty International Report - Libya: Detention abuses staining the new Libya
2. Human Rights Watch - Libya: Protect Civilians in Sirte Fighting
1. Rachel Gerber, Stanley Foundation - Prevention: Core to the Responsibility to Protect
2. Remarks from Former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Gareth Evans - Responding to Mass Atrocity Crimes: The “Responsibility to Protect” After Libya
26 October 2011 - Roundtable by the Foundation for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities in collaboration with the Central European University of Budapest: “Prevention of Genocide in Practice, Ideas for Cooperation in the Great Lakes Region”
Eighteen Member States, one regional organization and one Observer referred to the Responsibility to Protect during the General Assembly’s opening debate held from 21-27 September 2011. A majority of the statements were supportive of the norm; governments stressed the need to implement RtoP consistently and improve on operational issues. Many remarks focused on the international response to the crisis in Libya, as well as the crisis in Syria where many Member States took the opportunity to call on the Syrian government to stop civilian attacks and on the Security Council to take action to end the violent crackdown.
Read ICRtoP’s compilation of statements referencing RtoP from the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly Open Debate.
Taking place during the opening of the Session, on 23 September, the governments of the Netherlands and Guatemala and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) hosted the 4th annual Ministerial meeting on RtoP during which twenty-five Member States reaffirmed their commitment to the norm, including first-time participants Egypt, Qatar, France and Brazil. On 12 October, GCR2P released a briefing analyzing all RtoP statements made by Member States during the 66th United Nations General Assembly opening debate as well as the Ministerial meeting.
Amid events in the General Assembly, the UN Security Council took the opportunity to recall in a Presidential Statement, following its thematic dialogue on Preventive Diplomacy on 22 September, that Member States bear the, “primary responsibility to respect and ensure the human rights of all individuals within their territory and subject to their jurisdiction, as provided for by relevant international law, and also reaffirms the responsibility of each individual State to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.”
Following an emergency meeting in Cairo on 16 October, the Arab League adopted a Resolution calling on the Syrian government and opposition to hold a dialogue within fifteen days. Though the League refrained from suspending Syria, in spite of some internal pressure, the Syrian government expressed reservations with the adopted Resolution and stated that such a dialogue could only be held in Syria. The UN has raised the death toll in Syria to 3000 as of 14 October 2011.
International pressure continues to mount on Syria to stop security forces’ attack on peaceful protestors. Despite its veto of a Security Council Resolution condemning the violence in Syria on 4 October 2011, Russia reminded Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the veto is “in no way a carte blanche” for the Syrian government to continue violent suppression of protests. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay recommended that the Security Council refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court on 13 October saying that, “The Syrian government has manifestly failed to protect its population,” and warning that, “The onus is on all members of the international community to take protective action in a collective manner, before the continual ruthless repression and killings drive the country into a full-blown civil war.”
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch on 16 October called on India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) to spearhead a collective response by sponsoring a Resolution in the General Assembly condemning the violence against civilians permitted by the Syrian government. On 17 October, the International Federation of Human Rights along with 121 NGOs from around the world called on the League of Arab States to uphold its responsibility to protect. The letter recommended specifically that the League freeze Syria’s membership, impose sanctions and an arms embargo, isolate Syria diplomatically and economically, support the OHCHR fact finding mission and encourage Security Council action in response to the crisis.
1. Silence is not an option! Syrians cannot afford to wait: Arab and International civil society present measures to the League of Arab States to intensify leadership on Syria
International Federation of Human Rights
17 October 2011
In a letter to Secretary General of the League of Arab States Dr. Nabil El Araby, 121 NGOs called on the League to urgently address the crisis in Syria.
(…) We, the 121 undersigned NGOs representing civil society working in the Arab world, call on the League of Arab States to deliver on the promises it made to the Syrian people in September and to properly address what the League itself called an "extremely worrying" situation. Its statement must now be followed by concrete measures to bring an end to the continuing violence against civilians.
The international community and the League of Arab states have so far failed to fulfill their responsibility to protect the Syrian population. The crackdown is claiming more and more lives, and heavy weaponry continues to be used against unarmed civilians daily. The continued failure to respond to the mounting crisis in Syria will fundamentally delegitimize Arab leadership across the region. Leadership from the Arab League leadership is essential for any effective international response to the Syrian crisis.
We believe you can change the situation for the better. The current punitive measures adopted by governments so far will be limited in impact unless Syria feels pressure from corresponding measures within the region. Individual governments, whether acting alone or together, can send a powerful signal to the Syrian regime by threatening to withdraw diplomatic representation and suspending trade in Syrian exports.
The Syrian government has a fundamental responsibility to protect their population from mass atrocity crimes notably crimes against humanity. Instead, the regime is actively trying to provoke a civil war and stir sectarianism as a matter of policy.
The League of Arab States must act now in the interests of long-term peace and stability in the region and to prevent further loss of civilian life. We urge the League in the emergency meeting for the council of Arab Ministers of Foreign Affairs to take all needed actions to fill the current vacuum in political leadership and address the crisis in Syria by:
1. Enforcing a policy of economic isolation of the Syrian regime as long as the crackdown continues,
2. Imposing restrictive measures on persons and companies of the Syrian regime directly involved in the crackdown so as to deprive the Syrian regime of financial revenues required to perpetuate the crackdown,
3. Isolating the Syrian regime diplomatically,
4. Requesting the chair of the Arab League’s Human Rights Committee, to request a report on the situation in Syria which is a member of the Committee.
5. Supporting the efforts of the UNHRC fact-finding mission investigating alleged human rights violations,
6. Encouraging UNSC to increase pressure on the Syrian regime despite the failure of the October 4 UNSC meeting,
7. Enforcing a freeze to Syria’s membership rights.
8. Enforcing a full arms embargo (…)
Read the full letter
2. IBSA: Push Syria to end bloodshed
Human Rights Watch
16 October 2011
India, Brazil, and South Africa are not leveraging their rising global influence to help stop the bloodshed in Syria, Human Rights Watch said today. Leaders of the three countries should use their two-day Heads of State and Government Dialogue Forum, hosted by President Jacob Zuma on October 17, 2011, to categorically demand that the Syrian government end its widespread and systematic attacks on antigovernment protesters and activists. Syria should also grant access to UN investigators and human rights monitors, Human Rights Watch said.
The “IBSA” forum in Pretoria brings together India, Brazil and South Africa, all of whom currently hold non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. In August, an IBSA delegation went to Syria and met with the president and foreign minister.
“IBSA leaders shouldn’t sit by and watch as Syria implodes,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Their efforts at private dialogue have achieved nothing, and hundreds more Syrians have died in the meantime.” (…)
On the eve of the IBSA summit, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, issued a statement confirming her office’s finding of “credible allegations of crimes against humanity in Syria.” (…)
Rather than relying on what have proven to be unreliable assurances from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, South Africa, India, and Brazil should focus on the facts and information about the widespread abuses ongoing in the country. They should spearhead efforts in the UN General Assembly to ensure that the Syrian government immediately halts all unlawful use of lethal and excessive force against demonstrators.
The IBSA countries should sponsor a General Assembly resolution to call on the Syrian government to end the arbitrary arrest and torture of detainees, account for all those who have been subject to enforced disappearances, cooperate with the UN Commission of Inquiry, and grant access to human rights monitors, humanitarian organizations, and independent journalists. (…)
“By abstaining, India, Brazil, and South Africa have failed the Syrian people and emboldened the Syrian government in its path of violence against them,” Houry said. “Their proclaimed distrust of the Western motives shouldn’t blind them into siding with an abusive government. Syria’s current behavior repudiates the very democratic ideals to which IBSA countries are committed.”
After failing in its efforts to intercede with the Syrian government, Turkey supported the vetoed Security Council resolution and has announced plans to impose sanctions on Syria. The League of Arab States convened an emergency meeting, on October 16, to map out ways “to stop the bloodshed and machine of violence.”
“The IBSA countries should not be the last to wake up to the severity of the crisis facing the Syrian people,” Houry said. “If the IBSA forum is to fulfill its founding goal of providing a credible alternative to the political dominance of the North, it needs to lead on human rights.”
3. Failing the Syria Test
Reuters Blog: The Great Debate
13 October 2011
On October 2nd in Istanbul, Syria’s disparate opposition movements gave the go-ahead for the formation of a “Syrian National Council.” This is the most important step yet taken by the fragmented forces that have been trying since May to lead a peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The Council’s formation boosted the morale of those who have been demanding stronger and more unified representation.
But a mere two days after its creation, the embryonic Council suffered its first big setback. France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Portugal, in collaboration with the United States, presented a draft resolution before the United Nations Security Council seeking to condemn repression in Syria and put an end to the use of force against civilians. (…)
The object was plain: to gain a Russian, and consequently, a Chinese abstention. But Russia and China vetoed the proposal anyway, and only nine members of the Security Council voted in favor, with Brazil, India, South Africa, and Lebanon abstaining. (…)
Finally, the Security Council vote exposed a clear division within the international community. Among the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, all of which happen to be on the Security Council currently – two vetoed and the rest abstained (along with Lebanon, for obvious reasons). (…)
Of course, there is no “one size fits all” model for intervention, but that does not justify evading our “responsibility to protect” – a fine concept promoted by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and adopted by all UN member states in 2005. Support for the resolution would have weakened Assad’s position, as it would have revealed him as isolated from his traditional allies, Russia and China. It would also have shown the international community to be unanimous in its rejection of repression and committed to protecting the Syrian people (though the draft made no mention of military intervention). (…)
In recent years, with countries such as China, India, and Brazil taking their rightful place on the international scene, the G-7 has given way to the G-20. Likewise, an ambitious reform of the International Monetary Fund was adopted in 2010 to reflect changes in the global distribution of power.
But this change in global governance must not be limited to economic policymaking. After all, globalization has brought many overall benefits, but also less friendly aspects, such as the ones dealing with global security. Despite our growing interconnectedness, the UN Security Council has not yet been unable to achieve sufficient consensus to resolve pressing matters such as Syria.
Nobody ever said that the road to stronger global governance would be straight or simple to navigate. But there are no detours: without effective structures of power and a genuine commitment from all players, the future does not look promising for global stability and prosperity.
4. The End of the Responsibility to Protect?
Foreign Policy Journal
12 October 2011
Critics of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and interventionism in general have long accused international humanitarian action of being a form of imperialism cloaked in humanitarianism. The BRIC/IBSA countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa; hereafter referred to as BRICS) are beginning to unite around this skepticism, countering western enthusiasm. The first four BRICS countries refused to vote in favor of the decision to intervene in Libya due to a desire to pursue policies of non-intervention. When NATO used the UN mandate in Libya to justify regime change, BRICS countries only hardened their support for non-intervention, with South Africa joining the quasi-alliance in the UN. After the recent resolution condemning Syria failed to pass through the UN Security Council, it seemed clear that for many politicians in BRICS countries, humanitarian intervention has become no more than an inappropriate violation of national sovereignty. Consequently, though the intervention in Libya can be considered a success, it has created a general cloud of suspicion surrounding western humanitarian efforts that will continue to be an obstacle to the implementation of the R2P doctrine elsewhere. (…)
R2P in Syria
Unlike in the Libyan case, the proposed resolution concerning Syria did not authorize any use of international force or sanctions, but rather was a strict condemnation of the violence. The resolution did, though, hint at the possibility of later sanctions should the violence continue and never explicitly ruled out foreign military action. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said that the resolution would not “ease the situation” and the Russian envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, called the resolution a way to legitimize “already adopted unilateral sanctions and [an attempt] to forcefully overthrow regimes.”
The countries that abstained—Brazil, India, South Africa and Lebanon—all stressed the importance of finding a peaceful settlement through dialogue and reiterated the importance of Syrian territorial integrity. The link between NATO actions in Libya and the unwillingness of western allies to explicitly rule out the use of force in Syria was evident in the reactions of those opposed to the resolution.
South Africa said that previous council texts “had been abused and implementation had gone far beyond mandates” and that the council “should not be part of any hidden agenda for regime change.” The Russian foreign ministry was even more forthright, releasing a statement directly comparing the mission creep in Libya to the Syrian resolution:
(…) The situation in Syria cannot be considered in the Security Council in isolation from the Libyan experience. The international community is wary of the statements being heard that the implementation of the Security Council resolutions in Libya as interpreted by NATO is a model for its future actions to exercise the “responsibility to protect.” It’s not hard to imagine that tomorrow “united defenders” may begin to apply this “exemplary model” in Syria as well. (…)
The Future of R2P
(...) Interestingly, this stand against the interventionism of the R2P in Syria was made possible by the implementation of the same doctrine in Libya. It is impossible to remove the current impasse from the context of the Arab Spring, including the intervention in Libya. Thus, we cannot predict how the world would have responded to the Syrian uprising without NATO’s abuse of Resolution 1973. (…)
III. Libya: Civilians at risk in pro-Gaddafi strongholds at fighting continues, NTC abuse of prisoners condemned
As armed conflict continued in pro-Gaddafi strongholds Sirte as of 12 October, Human Rights Watch expressed concern over civilian protection. Shells fired by NTC forces have reportedly hit several civilian homes, and there have been reports of indiscriminate rocket fire into the city. The International Committee for the Red Cross estimated that approximately 20,000 citizens had fled Sirte as of 11 October. The violence eased in Sirte on 16 October, and, NTC fighters claimed on 17 October to have taken control of Bani Walid the second remaining stronghold.
A 13 October report by Amnesty International entitled “Detention abuses staining the new Libya” called attention to arbitrary arrests and to those held in prisons by anti-Gaddafi militias, where torture, beatings and other discriminatory ill-treatment are common. Mona Rishmawi, legal advisor to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters on 14 October that up to 7,000 detainees are being held in these makeshift detention centers.
1. Libya: Detention abuses staining the new Libya
13 October 2011
Excerpts from the introduction:.
(…) Armed militia opposing Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi have captured and detained about 2,500 people in the capital Tripoli and surrounding areas since the National Transitional Council (NTC) took control of these areas in late August 2011. Those detained include al- Gaddafi soldiers and alleged loyalists, commonly known as the “fifth column”. Among them are members of the Internal Security Agency, Revolutionary Committees and Revolutionary Guards – bodies associated with the worst repression of Colonel al-Gaddafi’s 42-year-old rule – as well as “volunteers”, including children (under 18 years), who responded to calls by Colonel al-Gaddafi to join his forces. Sub-Saharan Africans suspected of being mercenaries comprise between a third and a half of those detained in Tripoli, its suburbs of Janzur and Tajura, and al-Zawiya, a city about 100km west of Tripoli.
Detainees are being held in former prisons as well as in makeshift detention facilities such as schools, football clubs and apartments. These are not overseen by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, but are simply controlled by local councils, military councils and brigades
(kataeb), or by the Free Libya Armed Forces (members of the regular armed forces who took sides against Colonel al-Gaddafi and civilians who took up arms).
Beatings and other ill-treatment are common, particularly upon capture and in the first days of detention. Impunity for such abuses remains entrenched. Libyan and foreign detainees have also complained of torture at the hands of their captors and guards. At least two guards in two different detention facilities admitted to Amnesty International that they beat detainees in order to extract “confessions” more quickly. In one detention centre, Amnesty International delegates found a wooden stick and rope, and a rubber hose, of the kind that could have been used to beat detainees, including on the soles of their feet, a torture method known as falaqa. In another, they heard the sound of whipping and screams.
Detainees are held without legal orders and, with rare exceptions, without any involvement of the General Prosecution, as the justice system remains paralysed. In at least two cases known to Amnesty International in al-Zawiya and Tripoli, officials responsible for detentions ignored release orders issued by the judicial police and prosecution.
In meetings at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, including with Acting Minister Mohamed al-Allagi on 10 September, NTC officials reiterated their commitment to reform the justice system and to ensure that prosecutions and trials would happen normally without further delays. NTC Chairman Mostafa Abdeljalil had given similar assurances in a meeting with Amnesty International delegates in May 2011. However, even in Benghazi, which came under NTC control in February, trials of individuals detained by NTC supporters had yet to start at the time of writing in mid-September. Investigations into alleged crimes and decisions to detain or release individuals continue to largely fall under the remit of various committees and individuals – some with little or no legal expertise or knowledge of human rights law and standards.
The NTC faces numerous challenges in its efforts to gain control over the whole of Libya and in reining in various armed militias, some of them operating independently and on their own initiative. The NTC has publicly committed to respect international human rights law, and called on its supporters to treat captives with dignity and to avoid revenge attacks and other reprisals. On 13 September, in response to Amnesty International’s report The Battle for Libya: Killings, disappearances and torture, which documented abuses by all parties to the conflict, the NTC condemned abuses “by all sides” and committed to “putting its efforts to bring any armed groups under official authorities and will fully investigate any incidents brought to its attention”.
The NTC needs to act swiftly and take concrete measures to translate these pledges into reality. Among other things, it must investigate abuses by its supporters as well as by al- Gaddafi forces, and bring to justice those responsible for human rights abuses.
Read the full report
2. Libya: Protect Civilians in Sirte Fighting
Human Rights Watch
12 October 2011
Forces on both sides fighting in the Libyan city of Sirte should minimize harm to civilians and treat all prisoners humanely, Human Rights Watch said today. Fighters aligned with the National Transitional Council (NTC) have reached the center of the city, after attacking Sirte for more than three weeks.
NTC-aligned forces that capture pro-Gaddafi fighters and civilians suspected of actively supporting Gaddafi forces should promptly transfer their detainees to NTC facilities in Tripoli or Benghazi to minimize the danger of abuse from forces that were engaged in combat, Human Rights Watch said.
“Commanders on the ground in Sirte need to make sure that their forces protect civilians and allow them to flee the combat zone,” said Fred Abrahams, special advisor at Human Rights Watch. “All prisoners should be treated humanely and transferred to the NTC authorities who can better ensure their safety.”
The NTC political leadership has repeatedly called on fighters not to loot or commit revenge attacks, but forces on the ground do not always heed those calls, Human Rights Watch said. (…)
The laws of war require warring forces to attack only military targets. Attacks that do not discriminate between combatants and civilians, or that can be expected to cause harm to civilians disproportionate to the expected military gain, are unlawful. Forces must take all feasible steps to protect civilians under their control from attacks and avoid deploying in densely populated areas. (…)
1. Prevention: Core to the Responsibility to Protect
The Stanley Foundation
10 October 2011
All questions are leading questions. Yet, once asked, we tend to lose sight of the way a particular question shapes its answer. We find ourselves all the more bemused when that answer begs fresh questions of its own – many knottier than the one with which we started.
The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), a collection of eminent political thinkers that outlined the concept known as the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), convened in 2001 with a very specific question in mind: “When, if ever, it is appropriate for states to take coercive action – and in particular military – action, against another state for the purpose of protecting people at risk in that other state.”
At the close of a decade that seemed to approach mass violence in fits and starts, ICISS set itself to determine when and how the international community should respond to the gravest forms of human brutality. Their final report duly outlined these parameters, setting criteria for “humanitarian intervention” that fit squarely within the confines of pre-existing international law. (...)
(…) Motivated both by analytical rigor and political expediency, ICISS sandwiched its discussion of international response to atrocities between what it described as a “responsibility to prevent” and a “responsibility to rebuild.” Prevention and reconstruction were deemed more politically digestible than response, and many hoped the merger of responsibilities would make the prospect of intervention easier to swallow.
Once introduced, however, the logic of prevention as core to the global atrocity agenda was difficult to deny. Why wait to halt a massacre if early engagement might avert it entirely?
Political adoption of the Responsibility to Protect in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document thus emphasized peaceful, preventive means and made the novel commitment to “assist states under stress” and help them “build capacity to protect their populations.”
The R2P consensus secured at the World Summit has been since summarized as incorporating three pillars of responsibility: 1) the primary responsibility of the state to protect its populations from four circumscribed mass atrocity crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and war crimes), 2) the concurrent responsibility of the international community to assist states in their efforts to do so, and 3) the responsibility of the international community to take collective action should national authorities fail to protect their populations from imminent or unfolding atrocities. (…)
Claiming state ownership over the primary responsibility to protect opened space to consider a set of questions fundamentally more transformative for global policy – and more invasive – than ICISS’s initial query. First, “how must states structure their institutions and approach their own internal governance to ensure the greatest level of protection from the threat of civilian-targeted violence?” and “when and how should the international community exercise its responsibility to engage, assist, or (when necessary) confront sovereign states over the way they choose to guarantee the physical security of their own populations?”
The Challenge Ahead
As R2P enters its second decade, we find ourselves facing questions even more complex than the one with which we started. The logic of prevention points us further upstream, where evidence tends to be fuzzy and qualitative. We grapple to identify the essence of atrocity violence – its root incentives and enablers – and seek to better understand when and why elites consider systematic civilian-targeting the best means to meet their objectives.
When it comes to pinpointing concrete policies for atrocity prevention, satisfying answers are few. Policy discussions on the topic often devolve into listings of measures that span the full spectrum of the conflict prevention, statebuilding, and development agendas. Vague nods are always given to the importance of “good governance,” “security sector reform,” and the “rule of law.”
To put it mildly, atrocity prevention remains an imprecise science. Moving forward, policy actors and experts must delve deeper and more deliberately into the dynamics of atrocity violence. We must develop a framework for prevention that at once targets these unique dynamics across the various phases of potential crisis andprioritizes atrocity-focused objectives within broader efforts to prevent conflict, promote security, and encourage economic development. (…)
A Framework for Prevention
Maximizing the policy potential to prevent atrocities requires active effort on behalf of individual states and the international community to target atrocity risks across all phases of potential crisis.
Before crises emerge, states must reflect on their own institutions and governance approaches. With international assistance as appropriate, they must proactively self-structure their security, justice, political, and economic sectors to provide a solid buffer between the people and the interests of potential perpetrators.
As crises appear on the horizon, global attention must shift to influencing the decision-making of elites and reducing any incentives to target civilians. In the course of ongoing atrocities, the international community must mobilize all means at its disposal to prevent escalation – countering potential perpetrators, determining how best to provide immediate protection, and planning for the needs of long term conflict resolution and reconstruction.
Following atrocities, ties must be reforged and institutions rebuilt in ways that not only better protect, but reassure those scarred by violence.
Folding this complex array into a single policy doctrine is far from simple, and many R2P advocates have balked at the attempt. The concept was first developed, remember, to rally political will to act in the most egregious cases. Some fear such an extensive broadening of actors, roles, and activities labeled “R2P” will dilute the concept and undermine its potential to mobilize. Others note the imprecision that currently frustrates implementation of this preventive framework, and are reassured by the relative clarity that comes from limiting R2P to crisis response.
One of the great lessons to be learned from the word genocide, however, is that a term’s potency is not the best measure of its power to shape behavior. The more consistently R2P seeps into our collective consciousness and informs our policy approaches across the crisis spectrum, the more it becomes a part of the DNA of global policy. As atrocity prevention becomes instinct, global leaders will be more – not less – likely act in the most severe cases.
We still lack concrete policy prescriptions for atrocity prevention and the few answers we have are muddled. But the questions we now face have brought us closer to the core of the true challenge: how to create a world in which mass violence is no longer seen as a viable means to achieve political ends. (…)
2. Remarks from Former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Gareth Evans: Responding to Mass Atrocity Crimes: The “Responsibility to Protect” After Libya
6 October 2011
Abstract: This is a transcript of a speech made by Gareth Evans, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs (1988-96) on 6 October 2011 at Chatham House. He discussed the future of the 'responsibility to protect' norm, arguing that the principle is now firmly established, but that its effective implementation will continue to be a work-in-progress for a long time to come.
(…) Martin Gilbert has described the responsibility to protect as the most significant adjustment to sovereignty in 360 years. That’s a pretty big call but there’s actually a good argument to be made that he was right. (…)
The core elements of responsibility to protect and the crucial differences between this and humanitarian intervention I think need to be reiterated on occasions like this because the differences do get constantly blurred by those with short memories or a cynical or sceptical disposition.
Whereas humanitarian intervention was all about coercive military responses to extreme threat situations and only about that, responsibility to protect is much more nuanced, much more multi-dimensional. The first thing about R2P for short – responsibility to protect – is that it involves a presentational shift from the language of the right to intervene to the language of responsibility to protect; so you no longer talk about the right of the big guys or anyone else to throw their weight around but the responsibility of everyone to prevent these atrocities occurring; you talk not in terms of intervention as the key idea but protection, so you shift the paradigm, the way of looking at this away from the interveners to the victims, those who suffer – death, rape, displacement, violence, horror – in these situations.
And that’s not just a linguistic device to shift the focus in this way. It does require a fundamental mindset change and the reason for inventing this language, utilising this language, is that we did want to produce a new mindset among those debating this issue so that we could get away from that horrifically divisive debate.
The second thing about the responsibility concept is that it involves the idea of a sequence of responsibility, starting with the spotlight on the sovereign state itself and its responsibilities and only then shifting to the responsibility of the wider international community. Humanitarian intervention by contrast is focused entirely on the external players. If there’s a problem with actual or impending mass atrocity crimes it’s the responsibility of the international community to fix it.
The third thing about responsibility to protect, characteristic of this new concept, is that it involves a sequence of responses. Whereas again humanitarian intervention was one dimension – the military – with responsibility to protect there are multiple dimensions in the response continuum. You start conceptually with the idea of prevention, long-term structural as well short-term operational prevention. (…)
The best proof of acceptance of responsibility to protect in international discourse actually lies in a series of debates almost wholly unreported in the media that have taken place in the UN General Assembly now in 2009, 2010 and again post Libya in July 2011, in which it’s become apparent that the basic responsibility to protect doctrine is alive and well, whatever the caution may be that’s still widely evident about how it should be applied, particularly in really extreme cases when all other options except the coercive military one seem to have been exhausted or appear unachievable. (…)
But of course getting this kind of agreement in general principle is only the beginnings, not the end, of the story. What matters is effective implementation of the principle in practise and here there remain, as has been the case from the beginning, three big challenges – conceptual, institutional and political. (…)
I’ve long thought, and the Syrian situation to me reinforces this, that the most pressing unfinished business with respect to R2P is the need to get started the really serious debate we haven’t yet had on the criteria for coercive military intervention, criteria of legitimacy – not the criteria of legality, that’s clear; Security Council support – criteria of legitimacy. If we can get a larger measure of agreement than we have at the moment as to what are the conditions, and there are a number of them, not just the last resort one, that would in principle justify this most extreme response. If we can get the Security Council to embrace, endorse and accept those guidelines as guidelines for their own decision making in the future and if we can ensure that those criteria are applied with some rigor and consistency to new situations as they arise, I suspect it will be a lot easier to avoid the kind of inevitable escalator, or to vary the metaphor, slippery slide argument, which has paralysed the Security Council response on Syria making, as we know, some countries unwilling to even foreshadow non-military measures like targeted sanctions or ICC investigation because of the concern that any inch conceded will indeed be driven a mile. (…)
Read the full transcript
1. Roundtable: “Prevention of Genocide in Practice, Ideas for Cooperation in the Great Lakes Region”
Foundation for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities in collaboration with the Central European University of Budapest
Central European University, 1051 Budapest, Nádor utca 9
26 October 2011, 9:00 AM
Research makes evident that, even if escalation to mass violence often happens swiftly, the progression of events toward genocide is gradual, and there is ample time for the international community to warn, alert and build up the necessary capabilities to prevent the tragedy. It means genocide is preventable!
The relatively long period of the development of extremely fragile situations enables and commits the world of academia to contributing through in-depth researches to the assessments of situations and the exploration and identification of both the long-term threatening tendencies and the development and expansion of theoretical frameworks for effectively and timely addressing the challenges.
The Foundation for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities declared as one of its main objectives to narrow the gap between early warning and early action and facilitate the cooperation among the stakeholders including the representatives of academia committed to the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. (…)
In that spirit, the Foundation, in cooperation with one of its founders, the Central European University, initiates a roundtable where the representatives of academia and policy makers could discuss and explore the best ways and possibilities of cooperation to prevent genocide and mass atrocities in the Great Lakes Region.
The hosts of the event believe that the roundtable will launch a series of dialogue which will pool the world of academia and provide possibilities for regular exchange of information, sharing lessons learned and best practices with a view to help avoiding duplications and improving the division of labour in addressing the threats of genocide and mass atrocities.
This roundtable is the Pre-event of the 4th Budapest Human Rights Forum that will take place on the 26th and 27th of October at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Hungary.
Read more information
Read the full concept note