Invoking humanitarian intervention to save lives in Libya
Yayan GH Mulvana
The Jakarta Post
14 March 2011
The writer is assistant special staff to the President for international relations. The opinions expressed
(…) As reported by various media, many quarters have called for an intervention by the international community to save lives in Libya. The call has been made greater as the number of casualties among civilians from the military actions by the Libyan authorities is increasing. (…)
(…) The UN Security Council through its press statement (SC/10180) condemned the violence and use of force against civilians.
Others have warned that attacks against civilians by military forces and mercenaries may constitute crimes against humanity, for which President Muammar Qaddafi and his authorities could be held
The international intervention called for by concerned parties in order to save lives in Libya is
also known as humanitarian intervention. (…)
(…) Having seen the failure of the international community to help prevent the Rwanda and Srebrenica genocides, Annan was convinced of the critical necessity of using force to save helpless lives in a country ravaged by horrific internal conflicts.
In his “Millennium Report of 2000”, Annan challenged the UN Member States with a question: “If humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica, to gross and systematic violation of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity?”
Years of debates among governments, especially through the UN forums, did not lead to an agreement on the concept of right to humanitarian intervention. The opposing views contend that humanitarian intervention contravenes the principles of state sovereignty and territorial integrity as enshrined in the UN Charter.
But Annan believed that state sovereignty was being defined. In his views, states are instruments at the service of their peoples, not vice versa, and individual sovereignty — the fundamental freedom of each individual — was enhanced by a renewed and spreading consciousness of individual rights.
As objection against the right to humanitarian intervention was strongly persistent, a new angle to emphasize the norms of protection was needed.
It began with the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty when in its 2000 report the Commission introduced the concept of responsibility to protect, known in later stage as R2P.
In 2004, Annan endorsed the concept and believing that if needed, use of force by the international community was a possible step as a last resort.
R2P seems to have received greater support although the opposing views believe it is nothing but the same wine in a different bottle, it is as controversial as the right to humanitarian intervention.
During the 2005 High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly, heads of state and government agreed, among others, that “they are prepared 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”.
The international community now has high hopes that the UN Security Council through its resolution 1970 (2011) will prevent larger casualties in Libya.
Through the resolution, the Security Council recalls the Libyan authorities’ responsibility to protect their population.
The implementation of tough measures under resolution 1970 (2011) that comprise, among others, International Criminal Court (ICC) referrals, arms embargos, travel bans, asset freezes, and the establishment of a new sanction committee, should help to immediately end the violence and make the Libyan authorities fulfill their responsibility to protect the Libyan population.
When the Libyan authorities fail to protect their population, and casualties continue to increase, an urgent need to explore other means, including those that refer to Chapter VII of the UN Charter and to the paragraph 139 commitment of the 2005 Summit, will arise. (…)