7 December 2011
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1. Irwin Cotler, Ottawa Citizen –Syrians Die While the World Dithers
2. International Crisis Group Report –Uncharted Waters: Thinking Through Syria’s Dynamics
3. Marika Alpini, Eurasia Review –Right to Intervene and Right to Protect: Dilemmas of Humanitarianism in Syria Analysis
1. Citizens for Global Solutions –CEO Don Kraus Talks About Gbagbo’s Arrest and the International Criminal Court
2. Human Rights Watch –Côte d’Ivoire: Gbagbo’s ICC Transfer Advances Justice
1. International Federation for Human Rights –Yemen: The European Union Should Uphold Accountability for Ongoing Human Rights Violations Committed against Civilians
2. Sudan: Joint NGO Appeal Urging the African Human Rights Commission to Respond to Atrocities in Sudan
3. Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect Policy Briefs –Viet Nam and Burma/Myanmar
1. Michael Emerson, Center for European Policy Studies –The Responsibility to Protect and Regime Change
2. Gareth Evans, Foreign Policy –End of the Argument
3. Kyle Matthews and Jonathan Hutson, Embassy Magazine –Using Witnesses in the Fight for Human Rights; Canada Should Leverage its Arab League Links to Pressure Russia and China on Syria
4. Carsten Stahn, Hague Justice Portal Report –R2P, the ICC and the Libyan Arrests
8 December 2011, University of Westminster –Assessing “The Responsibility to Protect” Ten Years On
8 December 2011, Peace Research Institute Oslo –UN NATO and the Libya Intervention: Promise or Peril for the “Responsibility to Protect?”
8 December 2011,The Center for International Human Rights at John Jay College, Technology and Human Rights –The Role of Information Technology and Social Networking Platforms in Mobilizing People to Advance the Cause of Human Rights and Social Justice
The humanitarian situation in Syria continued to deteriorate with a series of kidnappings in Homs on 4 December, which resulted in more than 60 deaths. Residents reported that Sunni Muslims had been kidnapped mostly by Alawite gangs supportive of the government while Alawite human rights activists claimed the kidnappings and violence occurred on both sides. This incident followed a particularly violent month, with over 700 deaths thus pushing the death toll since the beginning of the conflict to well above 4,000, according to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denies his responsibility for the crackdown on protestors.
The international and regional communities have continued to take increasingly robust measures to pressure the Syrian government. After months of attempting peace negotiations with the Syrian regime, the Arab League suspended Syria’s membership on 12 November. The League later agreed to impose sanctions on 27 November after Syria refused to allow international monitors into the country. On 3 December, the Arab League ordered travel bans and in-country flight restrictions should the government continue to refuse entry of international monitors, and later, on 5 December, refused a proposal by the Syrian government to admit Arab League observers on the condition that the sanctions be lifted and threatened new sanctions.
Following a 17 November Resolution condemning the violence in Syria and calling for the government to allow access to the UN Commission of Inquiry and implement the Arab League’s peace plan, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria presented its report and findings at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 28 November. The Commission, active from mid-September to late November, met with Arab League members, victims of the Assad regime’s human rights abuses and NGO representatives. Following the Syrian government’s refusal of entry, the Commission’s investigation was conducted without direct country access. Despite this, the Commission found significant evidence that the Syrian population had been victim to crimes against humanity throughout the country, including sexual violence, torture, arbitrary detention and murder, at the hands of Syrian military and security forces. Ms. Pillay briefed the Human Rights Council on 2 December, emphasizing the risk of civil war in the country given the continued armed resistance to government security forces and reiterated her call for a referral of the case to the International Criminal Court. Ms. Pillay stated, “In light of the manifest failure of the Syrian authorities to protect their citizens, the international community needs to take urgent and effective measures to protect the Syrian people.”
Turkey, the European Union and the United States have all increased pressure on the Assad government to cede power. Turkey announced plans on 30 November to freeze Assad’s assets and suspend financial relations with his government. Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, “We hope that a military intervention will never be necessary. However, the Syrian regime has to find a way of making peace with its own people to eliminate this option. If the oppression continues, Turkey is ready for any scenario." On 1 December, the European Union took “restrictive measures” against the regime on 1 December, including a ban on trade in Syrian public bonds and on the operation of Syrian banks in EU countries. On the same day, the U.S. Treasury Department also imposed more sanctions, including blacklisting a top Syrian military official.
1. Syrians Die While the World Dithers
29 November 2011
(…) Eight months ago we already knew of the savagery in Syria yet did nothing. Indeed, four days after the first mass shooting - and after thousands had been detained - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was still calling Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad "a reformer." Moreover, the Western response in the weeks and months that followed continued to be dithering and delay, matching the deafening silence from the Arab world. The only "action" came from Russia, which blocked United Nations reports on Syrian nuclear ambitions and threatened to veto any Syria-related resolutions at the UN Security Council. (…)
Finally, belatedly, after 4,000 Syrian civilians had been massacred and tens of thousands detained and many brutally tortured, the Arab League met in early November and set forth its conditions to Syria - asking for troops to be withdrawn from urban centres, demanding the release of political prisoners, calling for deployment of civilian monitors, and engaging with the opposition - but Assad responded to these demands with increased brutality and repression. The Arab League has since suspended Syria, and just this past weekend adopted unprecedented sanctions against Syria, including economic and financial sanctions, travel bans, and asset freezes; yet, the killing - including some 70 fatalities this past weekend alone - continues.
Simply put, the Syrian response continues to be more mayhem, more murder, more cruelty, more arrests, and more disappearances. Indeed, it now appears that all the conditions for invoking the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine exist in Syria, if they have not already been in place for some time.
At the UN World Summit in 2005, more than 150 heads of state and governments unanimously adopted a declaration on the Responsibility to Protect, authorizing international collective action "to protect (a state's) population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity" if that state is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens, or worse, as in the case of Syria, if that state is the author of such criminality.
The doctrine was first referenced in the case of Kenya's postelection violence in 2007-'08. Earlier this year, the doctrine was invoked by the UN Security Council after the bloodletting in Libya.
Since the mass protests in Syria began, those seeking freedom and democracy have looked for international support and solidarity in their struggle against the murderous regime. Indeed, The Economist headline in April should have already been the necessary wake-up call to act against Assad's murderous regime. But, inaction and indecision from the rest of the world have allowed the situation to escalate and a tenfold increase in civilian deaths - and detentions - has occurred as a result.
What is required now is a UN Security Council resolution - it is astonishing that no such resolution has yet been adopted - in order to implement the conditions of the Arab League and begin acting on our international legal obligations under the Responsibility to Protect. Indeed, last week's condemnation of Syria - the first action it has taken - came from the human rights committee of the General Assembly, a symbolically important move that is far short of the Security Council resolution required to implement R2P. (…)
As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon once put it, "loss of time means more loss of lives." The Security Council must act - and now. It is our collective responsibility to ensure R2P is not empty rhetoric, but an effective instrument for preventing mass atrocity, protecting people, and securing human rights.
Tragically, we have not yet done what needed to be done despite our knowing the cruel, desperate reality of the situation on the ground in Syria. Indeed, after all this time - after all this killing - we still do not have a UN Security Council resolution. If the Responsibility to Protect is to mean anything, it means acting here - and acting now. (…)
2. Report - Uncharted Waters: Thinking Through Syria’s Dynamics
International Crisis Group
24 November 2011
The Syrian crisis may or may not have entered its final phase, but it undoubtedly has entered its most dangerous one to date. The current stage is defined by an explosive mix of heightened strategic stakes tying into a regional and wider international competition on the one hand and emotionally charged attitudes, communal polarisation and political wishful thinking on the other. As dynamics in both Syria and the broader international arena turn squarely against the regime, reactions are ranging from hysterical defiance on the part of its supporters, optimism among protesters that a bloody stalemate finally might end and fears of sectarian retribution or even civil war shared by many, through to triumphalism among those who view the crisis as an historic opportunity to decisively tilt the regional balance of power.
Yet, almost entirely missing is a sober assessment of the challenges provoked by these shifts and the very real risk that they could derail or even foreclose the possibility of a successful transition. In particular, five issues likely to shape events have been absent from the public debate:
Many in Syria and abroad are now banking on the regime’s imminent collapse and wagering that all then will be for the better. That is a luxury and an optimism they cannot afford. Instead, it is high time to squarely confront and address the difficulties before it is too late. In the “draft political program” it released on 20 November, the Syrian National Council ‒ an opposition umbrella group – presented the image of an entirely peaceful movement enduring savage repression. The regime and its allies regularly describe the crisis solely as the local manifestation of a vicious regional and international struggle. The two black-and-white narratives are in every way contradictory and mutually exclusive. Both miss a central point: that successful management of this increasingly internationalised crisis depends on a clear-eyed understanding of the grey zone that lies between. (…)
3. Right to Intervene and Right to Protect: Dilemmas of Humanitarianism in Syria- Analysis
23 November 2011
Marika Alpini is a Research Associate at the Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), think-tank based in UAE and Lebanon which offers consult to media, think tanks, NGOs, militaries and governments of the Middle East, and international private about military and strategic affairs.
(…) As a consequence of the doubtful effectiveness of the “right to intervene” and “humanitarian interventions,” another international norm, referring to the principle of “responsibility to protect” (R2P), was created to justify external intervention in the case of human rights violations committed by a state. This norm, whose importance has been remarked in various UN resolutions and reports, prompts the international community’s intervention when a state does not fulfil its responsibility to protect its citizens from what are defined “mass atrocities.” According to the R2P doctrine, sovereignty is seen as a “responsibility” and the state is retained accountable for its citizens’ wellbeing.
R2P comprises a broader range of peaceful tools such as political, economic and social measures in order to prevent and halt these crimes perpetrated in a state and uses military force as the last resort. Parts of the R2P measures are therefore economic sanctions, which have already been multilaterally implemented against Syria, as well as the different degrees of diplomatic engagement.
Yet, there can be also some incongruences pointed out regarding the attitude of the international community towards the application of this norm, which has been called upon for the intervention in Libya. First of all, it calls for the international community’s intervention – with the UN acting as governing body – only when the crimes committed reflect one of the four mentioned categories. For Rwanda and Srebrenica, cases of genocide could be recognized as such only after the massacres had been accomplished and the victims could be counted. Secondly, it seems highly unlikely that given the veto power within the Security Council, an objective assessment of human rights violations will be applied, for example towards Chechnya, as it has been applied against an isolated leader such as Gaddafi.
On the other hand, economic sanctions, used as diplomatic tool against violent regimes, appeared to have collected in the past twenty years more failures than successes. The humanitarian crisis and increased wealth of organized crime in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as well as the worsening economic conditions leading to stronger nationalism in Milosevic’s Serbia before the Kosovo War are just the most evident examples. In Libya, they were considered successful in forcing Gaddafi to abandon his plans related to stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Yet, they have remarkably affected the long-lasting economic stagnation of the country and as the latest events showed, they were not overall very effective in changing the nature of the regime. (…)
If the final goal of the measures embraced by humanitarian interventions and R2P is to guarantee “human security” for the citizens of a state, then an approach with longer-term views should be adopted. “Human security,” as defined by the UN, aims at guaranteeing “freedom from fear and freedom from want” to the citizens of a country and opposes the traditional conception of national security, because it links national, regional and global stability to people-centred security, rather than to state security against external threats.
International assistance exclusively to the deposition of a brutal dictatorship without an objective assessment of the risks to the political, economic and social contexts of a country, is not likely to produce security, peace and well-being for the population. A regime-change occurring for external intervention and nation-building implemented exclusively by the international community are more likely to build puppet or failing states, rather than sustainable and democratic statehood in Syria. The interventions occurring in the past fifteen years provide many of these examples.
A strong democratic consciousness clearly is emerging from Syria; the international community is now calling to assist the formation of democratic structures that could guarantee a real resolution of the situation in Syria. To achieve this goal, a more coherent and unbiased approach towards human rights protection and violations is required from the international and regional organizations involved, as well as from Western, Arab and GCC countries. If the final aim is to protect civilians from state violence in a sustainable way, it must be recognized that humanitarian interventions and R2P measures might be too narrow scope. As long as national political and economic interests prevail over real “human security” goals, the principles of humanitarianism in international politics will be seriously endangered. Syria is now posing many of these dilemmas to the international community.
Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo was flown to The Hague on 30 November to be tried on four counts of crimes against humanity following his involvement in the post-election violence in Côte D’Ivoire from late 2009 to mid 2010. Gbagbo appeared before the International Criminal Court to face trial on 5 December. He is the first ex-head of state to be tried by the Court. In May 2011, Ivorian President Ouattara asked the ICC to investigate the post-election violence, during which crimes against humanity were seemingly perpetrated by forces allied with both Gbagbo and Ouattara. According to Human Rights Watch, the ICC has charged more than 120 people associated with pro-Gbagbo forces and no one from the Ouattara camp. “The many victims of abuse meted out by forces loyal to President Ouattara also deserve to see justice done,” said Elise Keppler, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch.
1. CEO Don Kraus Talks About Gbagbo’s Arrest and the International Criminal Court
Citizens for Global Solutions
30 November 2011
Citizens for Global Solutions CEO Don Kraus was interviewed today about the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo of Cote D'Ivoire who was transferred to the International Criminal Court today on charges of committing crimes against humanity and the state of international justice for WORT radio in Madison, Wisconsin.
Listen to Citizens for Global Solutions CEO Don Kraus talk about Gbagbo’s arrest and the ICC
2. Côte d’Ivoire: Gbagbo’s ICC Transfer Advances Justice
Human Rights Watch
29 November 2011
The transfer of former President Laurent Gbagbo to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for his alleged role in international crimes during Côte d’Ivoire’s devastating post-election violence is a major step toward ensuring justice, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called on the ICC prosecutor to move swiftly on investigations for grave crimes committed by forces allied with the current president, Alassane Ouattara.
Gbagbo’s refusal to step down when the Independent Electoral Commission and international observers proclaimed Ouattara the winner of the November 28, 2010 presidential run-off set off six months of violence. At least 3,000 people were killed and more than 150 women raped during the conflict period, often in targeted acts by forces on both sides along political, ethnic, and religious lines. (…)
Efforts by both the ICC and the Ivorian government to ensure accountability for the post-election crimes are important in returning the rule of law to Côte d’Ivoire, Human Rights Watch said. However, investigations with a view to prosecutions are needed without delay for individuals implicated in grave crimes who fought in the forces allied with Ouattara. (…)
In May, Ouattara asked the ICC to open an investigation into the post-election violence, indicating that Ivorian courts would not be able to prosecute those at the highest levels for the worst crimes committed. The ICC judges authorized the prosecutor to open an investigation on October 3, citing evidence of war crimes and likely crimes against humanity by both sides’ armed forces and allied militia groups. Gbagbo’s arrest and transfer on November 29 is the first for the ICC’s investigation in Côte d’Ivoire. Credible information suggests that several Gbagbo allies implicated in serious crimes may likewise be subject to imminent ICC arrest warrants.
The ICC prosecutor should also pursue cases involving crimes committed during the 2002-2003 armed conflict and its aftermath, Human Rights Watch said. The 2010 violence capped a decade of human rights violations and impunity in Côte d’Ivoire. The failure to address the worst earlier abuses risks undermining important efforts to enshrine the rule of law, Human Rights Watch said.
Ouattara has promised repeatedly that anyone implicated in crimes committed during the post-election period will be brought to justice. But in terms of charges brought at the national level, the reality remains in stark contrast. (…)
1. Yemen: The European Union Should Uphold Accountability for Ongoing Human Rights Violations Committed against Civilians
International Federation for Human Rights
5 December 2011
On the occasion of a series of high level meetings which FIDH organised with EU officials across the institutions, Tawakkol Karman, President of Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC) and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Ezzedine El Asbahi, President of the Human Rights Information and Training Center (HRITC), urged the European Union (EU) to take a firm stand for the people of Yemen in their struggle for justice, accountability, human rights and democracy.
10 days after the signature of the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative on Power Transfer in Yemen and while deadly attacks on demonstrators and human rights violations continue on the ground, the Yemeni delegation accompanied by FIDH strongly denounce the immunity clause of the GCC agreement and urged the EU to :
“The guarantees of impunity given to Ali Abdallah Saleh to leave power are unacceptable”, said Tawakkol Karman to Catherine Ashton and to the 27 Political and Security ambassadors, quoting the UNSC resolution 2014 : “All those responsible for violence, human rights violations and abuses should be held accountable.”
Both highlighted the fact that the GCC initiative has not been accepted by the people of Yemen and the demonstrators, who have heavily suffered from the repression since the beginning of the protest movement and are still targeted by the regime. “People in the streets do not accept the initiative as it stands, especially when they see that dozens of people were killed in Taiz and other cities after the 23rd of Novembre”, warned Ezzedine El Asbahi.
The need for setting up of a comprehensive, independent and impartial international investigation into alleged human rights abuses and violations has been voiced by the UN Human Rights Council resolution of October 14th and by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The president of the European parliament, Jerzy Buzek, also backed up this recommendation after meeting with FIDH’s delegation: “neither transition nor reconciliation can be achieved without justice.The crimes and massive human rights violations of the recent months, which are still going on today, require a proper, independent investigation.”
See the letter
2. Joint NGO Appeal Urging the African Human Rights Commission to Respond to Atrocities in Sudan
30 November 2011
The following letter was signed by ICRtoP Steering Committee Member International Refugee Rights Initiative and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, as well as the African Centre for Peace and Justice Studies, Arab Coalition for Darfur, Arab Program for Human Rights Activists, Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre, Kamma Organisation for Development Initiatives, the International Federation for Human Rights, Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Organisation, and Refugees International.
The undersigned African and international non-governmental organisations would like to update the Commission on the conflicts in the Sudanese border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and their impact on civilians, including refugees who have fled to South Sudan. We believe it is now more critical than ever that the Commission demand that all parties to the conflict agree to a ceasefire and allow unimpeded humanitarian access to the two areas. It is also imperative that the Commission urgently authorise a fact finding mission to Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States to assess the human rights situation, and ensure that its findings are reported to the concerned regional institutions without delay. (…)
The most recent figures from the United Nations (OCHA Weekly Humanitarian
Bulletin 11-17 November) indicate that:
We are especially concerned by the recent spread of the conflict into South Sudan, and the impact this is having on both the civilian population in the border areas and refugees who have fled the conflicts to South Sudan. On 15 November in a briefing to the UN Security Council, the Head of the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping, Mr Herve Ladsous, confirmed that:
The escalation of rhetoric between the Government of Sudan and the Government of South Sudan, particularly in regard to allegations of cross border support of rebel groups and incursions into one another’s territory, has heightened concerns that the two states could revert to war.
In response to these developments, the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Dr. Jean Ping, issued a media release (attached) expressing ‘deep concern at the tension at the border’ between Sudan and South Sudan, and indicating that this is a matter that the AU is now seized of. He urged ‘both Governments to exercise utmost restraint and to refrain from any act that may further aggravate the already tense situation on their common border.’ He also reiterated the AU’s resolve ‘to assist the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan to address the various challenges they face’.
It is now critical that the Commission take swift action to address these developments. We respectfully urge the Commission to take up the recommendations in the resolution on the situation in Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile States that was adopted by the NGO Forum that preceded the 50th session of the Commission.The resolution (attached) called on the Commission to inter alia:
See the full letter
3. Policy Briefs: Viet Nam and Burma/Myanmar
Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
APC R2P Brief, Vol. 1 No. 3 (2011) – Ethnic Minority Protection in Viet Nam: An R2P Challenge
(…) Areas of Concern
There were other areas of disadvantage and discrimination identified in the UN Independent Expert’s report, however, which present a challenge for the Vietnamese government in upholding its responsibility to protect its ethnic minority groups. These areas of concern, as outlined in the 2011 report, related foremost to the denial of religious freedoms. It was also identified that some cases of protests against these restrictions resulted in the violations of other human rights, such as the freedoms of movement, expression and assembly. Furthermore, as the Independent Expert identified, this has led to more serious violations, such as arbitrary detention and mistreatment of detainees. (…)
Reports about human rights violations against members of these ethnic minorities – such as wrongful imprisonment, ill-treatment and torture – are not sporadic accounts of isolated incidents of abuse. Rather, these violations should be seen as characteristic of many of the interactions between these minorities and the Vietnamese State.
Upholding the Responsibility to Protect
Viet Nam has voiced is commitment to the Responsibility to Protect and has demonstrated this commitment at both the international level and in terms of its progress on upholding and protecting the rights of its peoples at the domestic level. The government’s treatment, however, of particular ethnic minority groups which challenge the State’s policies and attempts to assimilate them, render these minorities at heightened risk to mass violations of human rights in Viet Nam today. This situation, were conflict between these minorities and the government to escalate further, would place these minorities at risk for the potential commission of mass atrocities.
The reason for these violations is often traced back to tensions between the State’s sometimes heavy-handed methods of governance and assimilation of ethnic minorities on the one hand, and the challenges which arise to this governance from minorities on the other. These tensions cannot be reduced to cultural differences between the people in the hills and the State on the plains. They arise partly from legitimate concerns held by some minorities regarding the State’s development and cultural assimilation policies and continued social and economic inequities in the highland regions. The Vietnamese government interprets these minorities’ protests as attempts to foment unrest and so reacts with sometimes violent means in the name of ensuring the stability of the state and preventing suspected secessionist claims made by subversive, ethnonationalist groups.
Concerns have been raised regarding the government’s capacity for solving conflict without resorting to violent means in cases of demonstration, dissatisfaction or dissent. The VCP’s handling of challenges to its policies regarding ethnic minorities are not condusive to preventing human rights violations from escalating into more wide-spread violence. In order for the government to uphold its responsibility to protect ethnic minorities in Viet Nam, preventative and mitigating measures must be taken to address the present early warning signs.
Protecting Ethnic Minorities: A Way Forward
The tension between maintaining and protecting ethnic minority rights and managing cultural diversity within Viet Nam must be addressed in a way which fully upholds the State’s obligations under international human rights’ treaties and responsibility to protect its population. There are a number of that steps that can be taken to strengthen Viet Nam’s capacity to prevent and resilience against mass atrocities:
Read the full policy brief
APC R2P Brief, Vol. 1 No. 2 (2011): Burma/Myanmar Spring: Surreal or So Real?
(…) Myanmar and the Responsibility to Protect
The government’s heavy handed policy towards armed ethnic groups in the country remains a major concern. Military operations against the Karens, Shans, and Kachins for example have reportedly been sustained, which also targeted civilians. It is in this particular area where the government and the military have shown minimal progress to date, which is a condition for the United States to lift sanctions. Peace talks with several ethnic rebel groups have been going on for several weeks, which are all preliminary. Some ethnic leaders remain wary of the central government’s sincerity about the peace talks. Even so, the government has reportedly dropped an unpopular precondition for ethnic forces to join the “border guard” units of the military.
Indeed, the government should seriously consider initiating a ceasefire agreement with armed ethnic groups in order to create an atmosphere that is conducive for meaningful peace negotiations. ASEAN and the rest of the international community should help facilitate peace efforts in the country and provide assistance in peace building between the government and ethnic groups in the country. The wealth of experience from the Cyclone Nargis disaster in 2008 could be an important springboard for ASEAN and the UN to assist the central government in this regard. It should be recalled that it was ASEAN through its backdoor diplomacy that persuaded the military junta to allow international humanitarian assistance into the country. Initially, the junta refused said assistance from Western countries like the US and France, especially after the latter wrongly invoked R2P to intervene in the in Burma/Myanmar after the humanitarian crisis brought about by Cyclone Nargis. (…)
Read the full policy brief
1. The Responsibility to Protect and Regime Change
Center for European Policy Studies
1 December 2011
The responsibility to protect (R2P or RtoP) is a relatively new normative construction of the United Nations, which was launched in 2005 at the World Summit, in the aftermath of the terrible Central African genocides and other atrocities of the recent past. The summit’s concluding document declared that it is the responsibility of governments to protect their own citizens, and in particular from “genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”. When they fail, the international community shall have the responsibility to “take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”.
Yet at the global level there is a huge chasm of disagreement over the competition for primacy of norms, broadly between the West and the ‘Rest’ of the world. The West sees R2P as an important advance in international norms, complementing the existing Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which was designed to provide for the possibility of armed intervention in the case of inter-state aggression. R2P adds a new principle, which may authorise forceful intervention in the internal affairs of states. The ‘Rest’, led by Russia and China, give primacy to the principle of non-interference. The West also endorses the principle of non-interference as a general proposition. The issue, however, is when should R2P override the non- interference doctrine.
Libya 2011 has now become the most famous instance of R2P being operationalised through Resolution 1973 of 17 March 2011, which legitimised the intervention by France, the UK, the US and other NATO allies to enforce a no-fly zone and to take any steps (short of putting boots on the ground) to support rebel forces in their civil war against Khadafi. The passing of Resolution 1973 of the Security Council was greatly helped by the resolutions adopted by the African Union and Arab League, without which Russia and China would surely not have abstained from using their veto cards as permanent members of the Security Council.
As the intervention in Libya progressed, China and especially Russia voiced regrets over having abstained, claiming that the NATO forces had overstepped their mandate for enforcing a no-fly zone, escalating their action into one of enforcing regime change. Indeed that had become the objective, but how could the R2P principle be enforced without this? It was obvious enough that Khadafi was prepared to continue to slaughter his people in a civil war to retain power. Nonetheless Russia and China complained rather disingenuously that they had been duped by the West, claiming that the NATO allies were converting R2P into a instrument of regime change.
And then the spotlight switched to Syria, and immediately Russia declared that it would block any R2P resolution, because the West could not be trusted to stick to a limited mandate. In any case, the West had no stomach for a Libya-type intervention. While the issues of political morality were not really different between Libya and Syria, there were major differences in other respects: Syria would be a far more difficult proposition militarily and the complexity of security in the region was such that the law of unintended consequences would have ominous potential. Turkey could open its frontier to refugees and the West could implement economic and political sanctions. But the effort would stop there. (…)
But then the murderous repression by the Syrian authorities went on and on as the months passed by, and quite remarkably the Arab League acted again, with Turkey participating in its meetings as if it were an honorary member of the organisation. On 23 November, the League delivered a three-day ultimatum to Syria to stop its murderous repression. Having received no satisfaction, it decided on 27 November to sanction Syria by cutting off all transactions with the central bank of Syria and its commercial banks, applying an asset freeze on senior officials, suspending funding for various projects, etc. The message was also delivered that Bashar Assad had to go: regime change, please.
What has been going on in Syria has become unbearable for its Arab neighbours to stand by and watch (excepting Lebanon and Iraq who abstained, but did not block the Arab League action). It bears some similarities with how the EU viewed the humanitarian atrocities that came with the break-up of Yugoslavia. Military intervention is still not expected in Syria, although France’s foreign minister has now floated the idea of a ‘humanitarian corridor’ into Syria, without saying whether this should be militarily protected. But the key point is that the Arab League and the West have moved closer together. Both are interested in advancing democratic freedoms, albeit some faster than others, both are prepared to act across state borders to protect the people in their close neighbourhood, both are prepared to advocate regime change explicitly in extreme cases (Libya, Syria, Yemen). This marks a certain recovery of the R2P doctrine after the critique of the Libyan campaign by Russia and China. It not so clearly now the West versus the Rest.
Download the full report
2. End of the Argument
Just 10 years ago, the international response to mass-atrocity crimes -- genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other large-scale crimes against humanity -- was a consensus-free zone. For all the "never again" rhetoric and human rights conventions launched with fanfare and sincerity after World War II, an unholy mess was made of dealing with every major man-made human catastrophe from Cambodia in the 1970s to Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s.
Today, the "responsibility to protect" doctrine, or R2P, has become a commonplace of international diplomacy, invoked in crises from the Congo to Kenya to, most notably, this year's struggle in Libya. So how did we go from complete ideological division on the response to mass-atrocity crimes to the current overwhelming consensus, at least on basic principles?
The problem had always been the bitter conceptual divide between those, largely in the global North, who rallied to the banner of "humanitarian intervention" or the "right to intervene," and those, largely in the global South, who -- conscious of their fragility and remembering too well the "civilizing missions" of the former colonial powers -- argued that state sovereignty was absolute and internal events none of the rest of the world's business. (…)
There were three basic reasons the new idea caught on so quickly. First, we used language that was inherently less confrontational -- emphasizing no one's "right" but everyone's "responsibility," and placing the focus on action "to protect" rather than "to intervene." Second, it was made clear that the primary responsibility to protect people at risk lies with the state itself, not outsiders. And third, it was emphasized that R2P was about a lot more than coercive military intervention.
Whereas the choices under "humanitarian intervention" boiled down to either sending in the Marines or doing nothing, those under R2P are nuanced and multidimensional: Start with preventive activity of all kinds; if that fails, move to diplomatic persuasion, then to nonmilitary forms of coercion like sanctions, and only as an absolute last resort to military action.
Since 2005, moving from rhetoric to effective practice has had its difficulties, and plenty remain. But step by step, R2P has been gaining traction, and 2011 was when it really came of age: institutionally, conceptually, and on the ground.
Better institutional machinery is rapidly evolving. The United Nations, regional organizations, and national governments have been establishing "focal points": officials whose day job it is to monitor emerging crises and energize responses. In the United States, President Barack Obama recently directed the establishment of an interagency Atrocities Prevention Board designed to coordinate government responses to these situations, taking those responses to a new level of effectiveness.
Conceptually, we have seen an end to most of the confused debates that plagued earlier crises in places such as Burma, Sri Lanka, and Georgia about what are and are not R2P situations. There was no argument about the events in Kenya in early 2008, those in Ivory Coast early this year, or those in Libya in the context of Benghazi, where Muammar al-Qaddafi talked -- in language eerily reminiscent of the Rwandan genocidaires -- of showing "no mercy and no pity" for the "cockroaches" who had risen against him.
Most dramatically, the U.N. Security Council has now not only expressly invoked R2P but given it effective sharp-end military application in Ivory Coast and Libya. The Libya intervention was much more prolonged and the interpretation by the NATO-led forces of the scope of its mandate much more controversial, but it unquestionably worked -- certainly in preventing a major massacre in Benghazi and arguably in preventing many more civilian casualties elsewhere than would otherwise have been the case. If the response had been as effective in 1994 in Rwanda, 800,000 victims of the worst modern genocide would still be alive.
Major U.N. General Assembly debates, most recently and importantly in the aftermath of the Libya controversy in July, have shown overwhelming commitment to the fundamental principles of R2P. As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in September, "Our debates are now about how, not whether, to implement the responsibility to protect."
True, there remains an ever-present political challenge to get key governments to overcome their inertia and their sometimes cynical self-interest. In October, the Russian and Chinese veto of a very cautiously drafted Security Council resolution threatening sanctions against the Syrian regime was an unhappy demonstration that for every two steps forward on R2P there is usually a step back.
But by any measurement, the achievement of the past decade -- universal agreement that state sovereignty is not a license to kill -- has been tremendous.
3. Using Witnesses in the Fight for Human Rights; Canada Should Leverage its Arab League Links to Pressure Russia and China on Syria
Kyle Matthews and Jonathan Hutson
23 November 2011
Kyle Matthews is the Senior Deputy Director of the Will to Intervene Project at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University. Jonathan Hutson is the Director of Communications for the Enough Project.
Ending genocide and other mass atrocities is a noble goal not yet realized, yet there is reason for hope.
In 2001, thanks to the leadership of Canada, a new international security and human rights doctrine was introduced. Known as the Responsibility to Protect, in 2005 all 192 countries seated at the United Nations endorsed the principle that should a country be unwilling or unable to protect its citizens from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or ethnic cleansing, then the international community must take action.
In the ten years since the R2P doctrine came into existence, the world has suffered instances of grave, foreseeable, and preventable mass atrocities. Some of these instances amounted to crimes against humanity, and even genocide. The political will to mount a robust protection mission was absent in the case of Darfur, where the government of Sudan killed hundreds of thousands of its own civilians. As many scholars and activists note, Darfur was R2P's first test, and the first failure of the international community to implement the new norm to protect civilians.
More recently, the world has watched ruthless leaders clinging to power. For example, China and Russia have so far blocked the United Nations Security Council from acting collectively in response to the situation in Syria, where Bashar al-Assad continues his brutal crackdown. Meanwhile, in this age of the Internet, the iPhone, Twitter, Facebook, and Skype, collective memory is always growing. And increasingly, ordinary people are showing a willingness to lead the way in documenting human rights crimes and holding despots to account.
In Sudan, the same regime indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes—including genocide—in Darfur has recently unleashed indiscriminate bombardment of civilians in Southern Kordofan. (…)
Yet in a Darfur redux situation, President Omar al-Bashir, an indicted genocidaire, has largely been allowed to conduct this campaign without meaningful action by the UN. But that does not mean Bashir will get away free, thanks to the power of citizen journalists, social media, Hollywood star power, and commercial satellites.
Enough is part of a consortium called the Satellite Sentinel Project—conceived in October 2010 by George Clooney while on a trip to Southern Sudan with Enough's Co-founder, John Prendergast. Using high-resolution satellite imagery provided by DigitalGlobe and analyzed by a team at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, with additional analysis by DigitalGlobe, SSP is the world's first early-warning system to detect, deter and document threats to human security. The Enough Project provides field reports, communications strategy, and uses social media to involve people around the world in pressuring governments to respond.
Since its launch in December, SSP has correctly predicted an armed invasion of Sudan's disputed border region of Abyei, confirmed village razings and civilian displacement, and documented eyewitness reports along with irrefutable, near-real-time visual evidence of mass killings and eight mass graves in South Kordofan.
SSP cannot single-handedly stop all the violence along Sudan's border. But what SSP can do is put evidence of mass atrocities on the six o'clock news, so that no officials can claim "we did not know". SSP is filling an information gap and involving ordinary people in moving the world ever closer to the noble goal of making "never again" a reality. (…)
See the full article
4. Report: R2P, the ICC and the Libyan Arrests
Hague Justice Portal
The arrest of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Abduallah al-Senussi constitutes a test case for international justice and the idea of ‘shared responsibility’, embraced by Heads of State and Government at the 2005 World Summit Outcome in the framework of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) doctrine. In February 2011, the UN Security Council adopted a unanimous resolution (Resolution 1970) to refer the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court (ICC) after the failure of the Gaddafi regime ‘to protect its population’. This resolution marked the first incident in which the ICC was expressly recognized in Council practice as a core element of preventing and adjudicating atrocities in line with the ‘R2P’ concept. The R2P principle is based on the idea that domestic authorities maintain primary responsibility to ‘protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity’. It contains at the same time a commitment to an international response in accordance with the United Nations Charter, should ‘peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail’ to live up to their responsibility. With the decision authorizing the use of force ‘to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack’ and the referral of the situation to the ICC under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the protection against atrocity crimes took a central place in the collective response to the Libyan conflict. This type of reaction is likely to be perceived as a possible precedent for other contexts. With the Security Council referral, international justice has become one of the primary means of constraining violence and securing accountability, not only in the context of hostilities, but also in ensuring justice after conflict. The debate over the proper forum for proceedings against Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Abduallah al-Senussi puts the interplay between domestic and international justice to a crucial test. (…)
1. Assessing “The Responsibility to Protect” Ten Years On
Security and International Relations Programme, University of Westminster
8 December 2011, 6:00 PM
Boardroom, 309 Regent Street, University of Westminster
The Security and International Relations Programme at the University of Westminster is hosting a roundtable on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) to mark the ten-year anniversary of the publication of the seminal report by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). The ICISS report has become a key document on humanitarian intervention and the international protection of human rights, and R2P has since achieved a remarkable ubiquity in international political discourse. NATO’s intervention in Libya in March 2011 – widely heralded as “R2P in practice” and the dawn of a new era” – reinvigorated this debate, while ongoing events in the Middle East and Africa have ensured the currency of the topic. This roundtable brings together prominent academic specialists in this field to assess the evolution of R2P and its likely future efficacy. (…)
This roundtable will be held on the 8th December 2011, at 18:00 in the Boardroom, 309 Regent Street, University of Westminster, W1B2UW. Places are limited; those not affiliated with the University of Westminster should contact Aidan Hehir to reserve a seat.
Participants include Professor Meryvn Frost, Kings College London, Professor Jennifer Welsh, Somerville College, University of Oxford, Dr James Pattison, University of Manchester, and Dr Aidan Hehir, University of Westminster.
Find more information
2. UN NATO and the Libya Intervention: Promise or Peril for the “Responsibility to Protect?”
Peace Research Institute Oslo
8 December 2011, 2:00 PM-3:30 PM
PRIO, Hausmanns gate 7, Oslo
From March to October 2011, NATO and the UN added another chapter to their stormy history when the alliance conducted a UN-mandated air operation to protect civilians under threat of attack in Libya's civil war. NATO officials and human rights activists have celebrated the operation as the first successful implementation of the "Responsibility to Protect". This doctrine calls for military intervention if a state is failing to protect its citizens from mass atrocities. However, NATO's intervention caused Russia and other influential UN members to accuse the alliance of "hijacking" the Security Council mandate to promote regime change in Libya. Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa have made it clear that they will be much more cautious when considering future NATO requests for intervention. In response, NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen has argued that UN Security Council approval for humanitarian interventions is desirable but should not be imperative.
Michael Harsch will discuss the political and moral dilemmas of humanitarian interventions and the potential for promoting a more effective NATO-UN partnership on these issues.
The discussants include Colonel Per Erik Solli (NUPI) and Research Professor Ola Tunander (PRIO), and the seminar will be chaired by PRIO Director Kristian Berg Harpviken.
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3.The Role of Information Technology and Social Networking Platforms in Mobilizing People to Advance the Cause of Human Rights and Social Justice
The Center for International Human Rights at John Jay College
8 December 2011, 6:00-8:00 PM
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
This event will take place in the BMW Building, 6th Floor, Rm. 615/616 at 555 West 57th Street, NY, NY 10019 (between 10th and 11th Avenues). Professor George Andreopoulos, Director of CIHR, will give welcoming remarks and Aferdita Hakaj, Assistant Director of CIHR, will moderate. Panelists include Fred Kirungi, Public Information Officer at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office, Shahram Hashemi, Board of Directors Executive at Amnesty International USA, Professor Sylvia Maier from the Center for Global Affairs (CGA) at NYU-SCPS and the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies, Raja Althaibani, a college student, human rights defender and photographer, and Sally Abdelghafar, founder of Youth International Empowerment (YIE).
Thanks to Elizabeth Dovell for compiling this listserv.