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International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect
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For justice and civilians, don’t rule out regime change
The Globe and Mail
Louise Arbour
26 June 2012
Responsibility to protect – the emerging principle that states can intervene in other states to prevent mass atrocities, invoked in the case of Libya – suffers from the same uncomfortable relationship with peace that justice does. In both cases, the desired objective – protecting civilians or bringing criminals to justice – falls short of, or is often even at odds with, the objective of peace. Humanitarian or judicial objectives address only the manner in which the conflict unfolds, not its ultimate resolution.
(…) Under both international criminal justice and R2P, the interventionist role of the international community is predicated on the fact that the state in crisis, which has the primary responsibility for protecting its people and dispensing justice, is “unwilling or unable” to do so.
This language of inability or unwillingness is overly diplomatic. It obscures the reality that in many modern conflicts, including those in Libya and Syria, the state itself, or at least its officials, have embarked on a deliberate rampage against part of the population. This is a huge leap from “unwilling or unable.”
If a state launches a massive criminal enterprise against its people, why should “all necessary measures” fall short of disabling those responsible, including by forcibly removing them from power? (…)
The only reason not to tie regime change explicitly to the protection of civilians or justice is that doing so would make an already elusive Security Council consensus in support of intervention completely unattainable. The solution seems instead to be doing it by stealth or deceit, as in Libya. Or not at all, as with the unenforced ICC indictments.
(…) Political negotiations, not war, should drive regime change (or, in its more palatable form, “transition”). But disassociating the other two pressing concerns – civilian protection and justice – from regime change, at least officially, leaves them hostage to a political process that has no teeth.
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