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20 April 2009
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In this issue: Imminent Risk of Mass Atrocities in Sri Lanka, Conviction of Ex-Peruvian President Fujimori, Editorials and Reports on RtoP, and the Upcoming Events

I. Escalating crisis and NGOs warn of imminent risk of mass atrocity crimes in Sri Lanka


II. Latest reports on advancement of the RtoP norm in Asia


III. Conviction of ex-Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori sets precedent

IV. Featured editorials and commentary on RtoP


V. Upcoming events and coverage of UCLA conference


I. Escalating crisis and NGOs warn of imminent risk of mass atrocity crimes in Sri Lanka

The imminent risk of mass atrocity crimes occurring in the designated civilian safe zone remains high, with estimates of 60,000- 100,000 civilians trapped in a 12 kilometer beach in Northern Sri Lanka. In an offensive intended to end the long violent conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Sri Lankan military is accused of using indiscriminate force against the Tamil civilian population in the remaining LTTE-controlled territory. Numerous reports indicate that the LTTE is using violent force to prevent those wishing to flee the conflict area from doing so. Human Rights Watch has observed massive human rights violations and failure to abide by international law obligations by both parties to the conflict.

Following calls by the UN and others for a humanitarian pause, a two day ceasefire from 12-14 April was called by President Mahinda Rajapakse to observe the Tamil and Sinhalese New Year. The brief lapse in hostilities ended after 48 hours, and reports of intense fighting in the designated civilian safe zone have raised flags of imminent mass atrocity crimes and large scale loss of life. Information from today, 20 April 2009 coming out of the rapidly shrinking space indicates that up to 25,000 civilians fleeing the safe zone as the Sri Lanka government once again issues an ultimatum of surrender to the LTTE within 24 hours.

ICRtoP will closely monitor the situation in Sri Lanka, both in relation to the protection of civilians and the application of the Responsibility to Protect. To see compiled articles, statements, and reports on the escalating humanitarian and human rights disaster in Sri Lanka, please see our Special Listserv of 9 April 2009, which can be found here:

The latest statement by Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Sir John Holmes on Sri Lanka, dated 16 April 2009:

1. Open Letter to the UN Security Council Regarding the Situation in Sri Lanka
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
15 April 2009

The situation in Sri Lanka has reached a point of extreme urgency. With the government having resumed its military offensive after a two-day pause, the approximately 100,000 civilians trapped between the army and the rebel force, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), are now at grave risk of mass atrocities. The LTTE continues to shoot at non-combatants who try to leave and to use them as human shields, as a result few civilians were able to leave during the brief lull in fighting. Government forces, which have engaged in intense shelling and aerial bombardment both of the combat area and of an adjacent o-fire zone, are believed to be preparing a final assault. John Holmes, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, has stated that bloodbath . . . seems an increasingly real possibility.r
We are writing to you as members of the Security Council because we believe that the very grave risk of mass atrocities compels the international community, and the Security Council specifically, to take measures to protect civilians, as states pledged to do when they adopted the responsibility to protect at the UN World Summit in 2005. At the core of this norm is the obligation to act preventively to protect peoples from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, rather than waiting until atrocities have already occurred, as states have too often done in the past. There can be little doubt about either the magnitude, or the imminence, of the peril civilians now face in Sri Lanka. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has stated that casualties may reach atastrophic levels if the fighting is not stopped.

We recognize that in the face of a ruthless insurgency the government of Sri Lanka has not only the right but the responsibility to protect its people. But states engaged in armed combat do not have the right to perpetrate atrocities against civilians; nor does the cruelty of an armed opponent absolve states of the responsibility to protect citizens from atrocities committed in the course of such a war.

We recognize as well that the current threat of mass atrocities arises at least as much from the behavior of the LTTE as it does from the Sri Lankan army. Nevertheless, the state has the sovereign obligation to protect its own people; and when, according to the terms of the World Summit Document, a state is anifestly failing to do so, the international community is obliged to act. While we view the two-day pause observed by the government of Sri Lanka as a preventive act in the spirit of the responsibility to protect, the army states that it has now returned to ormal operations. The resumption of hostilities directed indiscriminately at military and civilian objects constitutes manifest failure both by the state and by the LTTE.

There is widespread agreement about what must be done immediately: The LTTE must allow those civilians who wish to leave to do so; in return, the government of Sri Lanka must agree to observe a more extensive ceasefire, guarantee the safety of those civilians and treat them according to international standards governing internally displaced peoples. Donors and others with close ties to the government of Sri Lanka must press for action, as must those with influence over the LTTE.

However, it is the Security Council, according to the terms of the 2005 agreement, which must authorize imely and decisive measures to prevent or halt mass atrocities. The Council must be prepared to bluntly characterize the violence in Sri Lanka as mass atrocity crimes; to demand that the government of Sri Lanka grant access to the conflict zone to humanitarian groups and to the media, both of whom it has barred until now; to dispatch a special envoy to the region, and/or to consider the imposition of sanctions. And ultimately, it must help facilitate a durable political solution to the fighting.


Jan Egeland, Director, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, and member of the International Advisory Board, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Gareth Evans, President of the International Crisis Group, former Australian Foreign Minister, and Co-Chair of the International Advisory Board, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Juan Mndez, President, International Center for Transitional Justice, former UN Secretary-Generals Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and member of the International Advisory Board, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Mohamed Sahnoun, President, Initiatives of Change-International, former Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General, and Co-Chair, International Advisory Board, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Monica Serrano, Executive Director, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Ramesh Thakur, Founding Director of Balsillie School of International Affairs, Distinguished Fellow, The Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo in Canada, and the member of the International Advisory Board, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Thomas G. Weiss, Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, and member of the International Advisory Board, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Full Letter:

Press Release:

Crisis in Sri Lanka
Source: International Crisis Group
Date: 20 Apr 2009

The following statement was issued by the Board of Trustees of the International Crisis Group meeting over the weekend in Washington, DC:

A humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sri Lanka involving the possible deaths of tens of thousands of civilians trapped between government and insurgent LTTE (Tamil Tiger) forces in a tiny strip of land not much bigger than Central Park in Manhattan.

As many as 150,000 or more (1) civilians are so trapped. Their living area is being shelled by the Sri Lankan military, and the Tamil Tigers are using them as human shield hostages. Dozens are dying every day, and there are grave shortages of food, water, and medical treatment. Available reports suggest 5,000 civilians, including at least 500 children, have died since mid-January, and 10,000 have been injured.

With both the government forces and Tamil Tigers abdicating their responsibility to protect civilians from mass atrocity crimes, urgent, determined, and united international action is necessary to ensure their safety by the United Nations Security Council, other multilateral organisations, and individual countries with relations with Sri Lanka.

The International Crisis Group urges that the following specific steps be taken:

- The Sri Lankan government should halt its offensive and accept a humanitarian pause monitored by the UN and the ICRC of at least two weeks to give a chance for relief supplies to get in and a humanitarian corridor to be established for civilians to get out.

- UN agencies and the ICRC should be allowed to conduct a needs assessment, and based on the actual number of those trapped in the so-called "no fire zone", bring in the relief supplies needed so long as civilians remain.

- UN agencies and the ICRC must be allowed full access to all areas and at all locations where either civilians or surrendered Tamil Tiger fighters might cross over into government controlled areas. Both civilians and fighters who agree to lay down their arms need stronger international guarantees of their safety. Only international supervision, unhindered by the government, can provide the necessary level of protection.

- The Tamil Tigers should immediately allow civilians to leave the area and cease forced recruitment.

- All means of influencing the Tamil Tigers must be explored, particularly stepped up restrictions on foreign financing and support for the group. The Tamil diaspora has an important role in persuading the LTTE to agree to an internationally supervised pause and allow the trapped civilians to leave the target area.

- But continuing intransigence by the Tigers should not be an excuse for delaying a humanitarian pause, or the government forces acting in a way that results in the death and maiming of their own citizens.

- It should be made very clear by relevant governments and international organisations to leaders of both the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government that they are liable to be held personally accountable for breaches of international humanitarian law.

Sri Lanka's development partners should make clear that continued non-emergency funding will not be available if the war ends in a bloodbath.


(1) UN satellite imagery as of 23 March 2009 shows more than 30,000 tents in the area: estimates of the number of men, women and children at risk vary depending on assumptions about the average numbers in each tent.

Board of Trustees


Christopher Patten
Thomas Pickering

President and CEO

Gareth Evans

Executive Committee

Morton Abramowitz
Emma Bonino*
Cheryl Carolus
Maria Livanos Cattaui
Yoichi Funabashi
Frank Giustra
Stephen Solarz
George Soros
Pr Stenbck

Adnan Abu-Odeh
Kenneth Adelman
Turki al-Faisal
Kofi Annan
Louise Arbour
Richard Armitage
Paddy Ashdown
Shlomo Ben-Ami
Lakhdar Brahimi
Zbigniew Brzezinski
Kim Campbell
Naresh Chandra
Joaquim Alberto Chissano
Wesley Clark
Pat Cox
Uffe Ellemann-Jensen
Mark Eyskens
Joschka Fischer
Yegor Gaidar
Carla Hills
Lena Hjelm-Walln
Swanee Hunt
Anwar Ibrahim
Mo Ibrahim
Asma Jahangir
James V. Kimsey
Wim Kok
Aleksander Kwaniewski
Ricardo Lagos
Joanne Leedom-Ackerman
Jessica Tuchman Mathews
Moiss Nam
Ayo Obe
Christine Ockrent
Victor Pinchuk
Fidel V. Ramos
Gler Sabanc
Ghassan Salam
Thorvald Stoltenberg
Ernesto Zedillo

Chairmen Emeritus

Martti Ahtisaari
George J. Mitchell

3. Joint Statement Regarding Humanitarian Crisis in Sri Lanka
French Foreign Ministers David Milliband and Bernard Kouchner
15 April 2009

The following joint statement was made on 15 April by the French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Bernard Kouchner and United Kingdom Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Milliband regarding the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka.

We welcomed President Rajapakse's announcement on 12 April of a pause in the Sri Lankan government's military offensive as a first step towards the protection of civilian life. But we are deeply concerned that there was no large scale movement of civilians away from the conflict area to safety as we had hoped to see, in the short period allowed for the pause. It is clear that the LTTE have been forcefully preventing civilians from leaving the conflict area and we deplore their determination to use civilians as a human shield. We do of course continue to call on the LTTE to renounce terrorism and lay down their arms as a necessary element for a long-term solution.

We urge President Rajapakse to announce a new pause. Democratic governments are rightly held to higher standards for civilian protection than terrorist organizations. We also urge the LTTE to allow civilians to move to safety. It is vital that a pause in the fighting should be long enough to give civilians the opportunity to leave the conflict area, and for the UN to build confidence amongst the population that they will be safe if they leave. Both sides must abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and do all they can to protect civilians. This includes giving international humanitarian agencies unimpeded access to those affected by the fighting so that they can deliver adequate supplies of assistance. ()


The New York Times published an article on 16 April 2009 with commentary on the statement made by Ministers Milliband and Kouchner, as well as the open letter sent by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect to the UN Security Council. The article is linked here:

4. Mexico says statement by Lanka "not accurate"
The Daily Mirror
13 April 2009

Mexican Ambassador to the UN Claude Heller, who holds the presidency of the UN Security Council in April, told reporters yesterday a statement issued by the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry regarding talks between Sri Lanka and Mexico last week was "not accurate".

"It is not an accurate statement," Ambassador Heller said when asked to comment on the statement. "We were very clear that in the case of Sri Lanka there is a concern of the responsibility to protect the population".

The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry Statement:
Following talks in Mexico City between Foreign Secretary, Dr Palitha Kohona and senior Mexican government officials, including Vice Minister Gomez-Robledo, Mexico has reassured Sri Lanka of its firm support at international fora, including the UN Security Council. Mexico is holding the presidency of the Security Council in April.

Mexico confirmed that they do not have any intention of permitting the Sri Lankan situation to be placed on the Security Council agenda, as it does not pose a threat to international peace and security.

Dr Kohona explained how the LTTE had cleverly 'herded' thousands of civilians into the tiny no-fire-zone in the north east of Sri Lanka, while pulling back its combatants and weapons also into it with the intention of sheltering behind this human shield and using these thousands of human hostages to save itself. He repeated the call of the Government to the LTTE to let these hostages go (which will automatically result in a cessation of hostilities) and lay down their weapons for the sake of the civilians. ()

Mexico also expressed its appreciation of the large quantities of food and medical relief supplies being sent by the Government to the people held hostage by the LTTE with the assistance of the UN and the ICRC. ()


5. Sri Lanka: Immediate humanitarian truce needed so trapped civilians can reach safety
Amnesty International
16 April 2009

Amnesty International calls on the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) to declare an immediate humanitarian truce so an estimated 100,000 desperate civilians caught in the middle of the conflict zone can leave for safety.

An official two day ceasefire between the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers expired yesterday, however Amnesty International contacted two medical professionals working in a health facility in the no - fire zone who described a scene of chaos. Urgent humanitarian aid is needed as reports emerge that food and medical supplies are running low. ()

Amnesty International is unable to verify these reports as the conflict zone has, in effect, been sealed off by the Sri Lankan government denying aid workers and independent human rights observers access to the area. The UN reported in March that more than 2,800 civilians have been killed and more than 7,000 injured since the beginning of the year.

The UN reports that Tamil Tiger fighters killed six civilians trying to flee the conflict zone during the ceasefire.

n urgent humanitarian pause must be implemented immediately. Thousands of civilians are in grave danger from the continuing fighting and are in fear for their lives. The government of Sri Lanka needs to allow independent monitors to ensure that civilians feel safe to come out of the Tamil Tiger controlled areas. The Tamil Tigers must also ensure that civilians are not being used as a buffer against government forces, said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty Internationals Asia Pacific Director.

Press Release:

II. Latest reports on advancement of the RtoP norm in Asia

1. The Responsibility to Protect: Conceptual Misunderstanding and Challenges of Application
Consortium of Non-Traditional Security Studies in Asia
April 2009

Housed at Singapores S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies , the Consortium of Non Traditional Security Studies in Asia is made up of think tanks, research institutes and advocacy groups focused on alternative approaches to peace, security, and stability in the Asian region.

The worlds attention was recently focused on the International Criminal Courts arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. His indictment comes at a time when the United Nations is refining the issues inherent in the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), as well as legal issues regarding various states responsibilities and culpability for inaction or indifference towards mass atrocity crimes.

This Alert is the first of two issues focused on the R2P. This issue seeks to 1) provide a basic understanding of the R2P by looking at its development and principles, 2) clarify the myths and debates surrounding the doctrine, and 3) identify existing challenges in the application of R2P. Finally, with an eye towards the application of R2P in ASEAN, we look at the attempts of the African Union to incorporate the R2P within its regional framework.

Full Brief:

2. The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) and Pillar Two of the Responsibility to Protect
Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
March 2009

Of the three pillars of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), the measures that States, regional and sub-regional arrangements and the UN might take to exercise their pillar two responsibilities are least well understood. The range of possible assistance that might be provided to State extends from small scale bilateral partnerships to comprehensive assistance arrangements. ()

In short, pillar two activities are primarily concerned with assisting the State to exercise its responsibility to protect. By doing so, pillar two actively strengthens the State and its sovereignty. In the past decade, there has been a flourishing of global partnerships aimed at strengthening States. Much of this activity makes a direct contribution to helping States exercise their R2P and should therefore be properly understood as pillar two activities. This case study report briefly considers one such example the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). Although it has encountered many challenges, RAMSI provides an excellent example of pillar two engagement at work, and the lessons learned from RAMSI can inform the development and implementation of R2Ps second pillar.

Full Report:

III. Conviction of ex-Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori sets precedent

1. Peru conviction is message to dictators everywhere
Jos Miguel Vivanco
8 April 2009

Jos Miguel Vivanco is the executive director of Human Rights Watchs Americas Division.

Peruvians are celebrating an extraordinary victory this week: the conviction of their former president, Alberto Fujimori, for death squad killings carried out during his rule in the 1990s.

The Peruvian Supreme Court found him guilty of egregious human rights abuses, including the massacre of innocent civilians, and sentenced him to 25 years in prison -- a stiff message to other leaders that justice can eventually catch up to even the most powerful.

It is one of the first times a nation's own independent courts have convicted a former leader for such serious human rights crimes and it sets an important precedent for a region that suffered so much from political violence and rights violations. Equally significant, the ruling came after a lengthy televised trial, which was clearly fair to the defendant -- despite Peru's previous history of authoritarianism and weak rule of law. ()

For a decade, his government used bribery, extortion, and intimidation to concentrate power in the presidency, subverting the democratic process and eliminating normal checks by the judiciary, legislature, and media on government abuses. He led Peru from 1990 to 2000, presiding over the war with the Shining Path guerrillas and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. He was convicted of authorizing killings and kidnappings by paramilitary death squads. Fujimori is to be tried separately on multiple corruption charges. (...)

In country after country, particularly in Latin America, victims were inspired to challenge the amnesty laws of the 1980s and 1990s that had allowed the perpetrators of atrocities to go unpunished and, often, to remain in power. Thanks to these efforts, former leaders in Argentina, and Uruguay have also faced human rights trials.

After the creation of UN tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the world established the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and serious war crimes when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. The ICC is now investigating crimes in the Central African Republic, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in March the court indicted President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan on charges of crimes against humanity in Darfur. ()

The verdict will also send a powerful message to current heads of state who may be tempted to use abusive tactics to resolve their political problems. As Fujimori discovered yesterday, crimes they may be able to get away with while in power can come back to haunt them years later.

Source :

IV. Featured editorials and commentary on RtoP

1. Bans a bit of a bust on R2P
The Ottawa Citizen
Ramesh Thakur
13 April 2009

Ramesh Thakur is a key architect of the Responsibility to Protect and served as a commissioner in the 2001 ICISS Report.

One of John Bolton's parting gifts to the international community was the selection of Ban Ki-moon as secretary general of the United Nations. Among the chief qualifications that Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, was interested in was a man of modest ambitions and talent to match in order to bury the conceit of liberal internationalism. Ban may yet surprise us all.

A bit more than a year before Ban took office, a summit of world leaders, meeting at the UN in fall 2005, unanimously adopted "the responsibility to protect" -- now commonly referred to as R2P -- as a powerful new global norm. Former secretary general Kofi Annan described R2P as one of his most precious achievements. Ban has not been shy of adopting R2P as his own cause, confident enough of his own worth not to worry that he will merely be advancing his predecessor's legacy. ()

Interestingly, Ban referred to R2P even during the year-long campaign to succeed Kofi Annan as secretary general. After he took office, his task was the harder for so many countries seeing him as Washington's choice. The problem was compounded by choosing an American as his special adviser, one with little professional background on the subject.

Ed Luck did come to the post with several other key assets and advantages: a deep knowledge of UN-U.S. relations; intimate familiarity with the UN system and structures, including the institutional bottlenecks to reform; the ability to think, speak and write clearly and succinctly; and the confidence of Ban. ()

Drawing on Luck's wide-ranging consultations and reflections, on Jan. 12 Ban published his report on "Implementing the responsibility to protect." The report rightly took as its key point of departure not our original 2001 report but the relevant clauses from the 2005 outcome document. It clarifies and elaborates some things, for example the fact that force is the last resort does not mean we have to go through a sequential or graduated set of responses before responding robustly to an urgent crisis. ()

This year's report is effective and clever in repackaging R2P in the language of three pillars: the state's own responsibility to protect all peoples on its territory, international assistance to help build a state's capacity to deliver on its responsibility, and the international responsibility to protect. ()

More seriously, the report goes over the top in elaborating on the metaphor by insisting that the "edifice" of R2P will tilt, totter and collapse unless all three pillars are of equal height and strength. This is simply not true. The most important element -- the weightiest pillar -- has to be the state's own responsibility. And the most critical is the international community's response to fresh outbreaks of mass atrocity crimes.

Mercifully, and contrary to what many of us feared, the report did not retreat from the necessity for outside military action in some circumstances. But it did dilute what was the central defining feature of R2P.

The commission was called into existence to deal with the problem of brutal leaders killing large numbers of their own people. In this it built on the landmark Brahimi report of 2000 which noted that the UN cannot be neutral between perpetrators and victims of large scale violence. We are all happy to assist the good guys build state capacity. The challenge is what to do with the bad guys, those intent on grave harm who use sovereignty as a licence to kill with impunity.

R2P's added value is that it crystallized an emerging new norm of using international force to prevent and halt mass killings by reconceptualizing sovereignty as responsibility. It aims to convert a shocked international conscience into timely and decisive collective action. This requires urgent clarification both with respect to when it should kick in as an international responsibility (Darfur? Zimbabwe?) and when not (Russia in Georgia last year? Israel in Gaza this year? To deal with natural disasters? To enforce nuclear nonproliferation?); who makes these decisions; and on what basis. Do R2P operations require their own distinctive guidelines on the use of force? How and where can we institute systematic risk assessments and early warning indicators to alert us to developing R2P-type crises? How do we build international capacity to deliver R2P?

On these key issues, we are no further ahead today: we seem to be recreating the 2005 consensus instead of operationalizing and implementing the agreed collective responsibility. The use of force by the UN against a state's consent will always be controversial and contested. That's no reason to hand over control of the pace, direction and substance of the agenda of our shared, solemn responsibility to the R2P skeptics.

Source: unavailable

1. The Option to Protect: The New Terms for Humanitarian Intervention
Spiegel Online
Richard Herzinger
13 April 2009

Richard Herzinger is the editor of ie Welt (the World) and ie Welt am Sonntag (the World on Sunday).

It is difficult to recall a contribution to the German political debate that has been as roundly ignored, both in Berlin political circles and by the wider public, as President Horst Khler's comments on the unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In November 2008, Khler argued that "if we are serious about the values we all stand for," then Europeans must be prepared to "provide soldiers to put a stop to these murders." ()

Yet however it is defined, national interest cannot serve as the sole basis for decisions regarding participation in interventions abroad. The international community of states, and thus in principle every nation, has long accepted the fundamental obligation to intervene in cases of grave violations of human rights -- even if their prevention does not promise any party an economic or geopolitical advantage. In 2005 the United Nations accepted the principle of "responsibility to protect," which in essence argues that if a state is not willing or able to protect its population from serious violations of human rights, the world community must intervene. This does not have to entail military intervention, but the latter cannot be excluded as a final option. While the "responsibility to protect" has not been explicitly codified in international law, its adoption by the United Nations has given it quasi-legal status. ()

Lessons of the Recent Past
() The current situation in Congo has revealed once again that democracy cannot be guaranteed simply by holding free elections. Following the Congolese elections, EU troops were rapidly withdrawn without any safeguards in place against a relapse into civil and gang warfare. Such safeguards should have included exerting diplomatic pressure on neighboring Rwanda to prevent it from meddling in Congo's problems. ()

The crisis in Burma in the summer of 2008 presented another facet of the challenge posed by humanitarian disasters. While Burma's autocratic regime did not cause the humanitarian crisis brought about by Cyclone Nargis, the junta exacerbated it by obstructing the delivery of international aid. ()

If the West intends to seriously entertain the idea of intervening in a country against the will of the national government, it must accept both the necessity of military means and the risk of violent confrontation with local power holders. It must also accept that such action may lead to a decline in relations with powers -- such as China and Russia -- that usually see humanitarian intervention as a masked attempt to extend Western influence. Moreover, in order to ensure the establishment of sustainable political and social structures following the disempowerment of a regime, the intervening powers must move rapidly from directly providing emergency aid to a program of nation building. This can take years, if not decades, of intensive engagement and requires enormous material investment. ()

The fatal consequences of this development are not limited to Congo. For years now they have been evident in the approach to the Sudanese province of Darfur. In order to avoid intervening itself, the West has sent in a poorly equipped African Union protection force, which is unable to do more than merely observe the murderous campaign being conducted by the Sudanese government and its militia allies against the country's black African population. ()

Trial and Error
In historical terms, humanitarian interventions are still a new phenomenon. It is only since the 1990s that the international community has broken with the dogma of classical international law that prohibits interventions in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Since then, conceptions of international law have gradually shifted in the direction of international civil rights. However, the enforcement of such rights remains largely based on an arbitrary principle of trial and error -- with fundamentally uncertain outcomes. Of course, there can be no master plan tailored to deal with all the humanitarian catastrophes that could conceivably occur. However, more conscious, systematic foresight; more international coordination; and a more targeted division of labor in the prevention and pacification of conflicts are goals that are not only possible but indispensable if the international community is to avoid repeatedly being taken by surprise by crises. ()


3. R2P is a No-Go
Ottawa Citizen
Matteo Legrenzi
14 April 2009

Matteo Legrenzi is an assistant professor at the University of Ottawas Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. He is also the recent editor of Beyond Regionalism? Regional Cooperation, Regionalism and Regionalization in the Middle East.

The role of Canada as a "norm entrepreneur" in international relations is justifiably hailed in discussions about world affairs. Concepts such as "human security" and "Responsibility to Protect" often abbreviated snappily as R2P, have been pioneered by Canada. It is, however, important to bear in mind that such concepts are viewed with hostility in much of the world and certainly play a minor role in the decision-making processes of most states, and for good reason.

Occasionally calls to mobilize Canada's diplomatic network in support of such notions reverberate through Ottawa. The current government is perceived as not incisive enough in the promotion of these "emerging" norms in international relations. ()

The fact that R2P is supposed to be implemented under the aegis of the UN Security Council reinforces the suspicions of many that R2P would turn into another tool by great powers to put pressure on weaker states. The ready invocation of R2P by Russia after its invasion of Georgia in August 2008 did not do anything to allay these fears. This was one of the many steps that Russia has taken to reassert its influence in the former Soviet sphere as the balance of power shifted in its favour. It is a step that Russia would have taken anyway but it now had the handy "emerging norm" of R2P to buttress the legitimacy of its actions.

It is important to draw a basic distinction between the advocacy of human security and the promotion of responsibility to protect. In international relations theory these two concepts are often portrayed as sitting along a continuum. R2P is seen as a logical progression of the concept of human security.

In terms of advocacy however, the difference in impact of these concepts on Canada's international image, and consequently on Canada's capability to advance its interests, could not be sharper. () The promotion of R2P is an entirely different matter. It touches the concept of sovereignty, the cornerstone of the current international system. States and peoples in the global south guard their sovereignty jealously. This is not surprising given that it was often achieved after long struggles with colonial powers that kept meddling well after it was very clear that they were no longer welcome. ()

In many Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt, opposition to R2P is the only thing that unites the government and the Islamist opposition. Furthermore, R2P inevitably gives rise to double standards and hypocrisy. Most Arabs, for example, would view the failure to protect the civilian population in Gaza from Israeli incursions and blockades as a dereliction of western "responsibility to protect," no matter all the nuances of the legal debate or the Israeli desire to curb rocket attacks.

Conversely, in much of the world the emphasis on human rights abuses in Sudan is seen as a case of the West wanting to impose its values on a Muslim country and failing to understand the complexities of a conflict that has serious economic and political roots. Questions about double standards inevitably crop up: Why would R2P apply to Darfur and not other situations of mass human suffering?

Such concerns are brought into particular focus when we consider, for example, that the conflict in Congo has directly and indirectly claimed the lives of more than three million people since 1998 and yet it does not exert the same diplomatic urgency as the horrendous situation in Darfur. These concerns are inevitable when we try to cast an all-encompassing normative net to cover situations that are wildly different in nature and try to make them fit into criteria that can be twisted and turned.

The "first do no harm" principle is often invoked, as well it should be, by supporters of R2P to explain why even in their eyes it is not a good idea to exert more than a perfunctory protest over the actions of the Russian government in Chechnya. This implicitly recognizes balance of power as an important consideration and yet at the same time it hollows out the universality of a supposedly "legal" norm. ()

There is probably no harm in trying to dress up age-old political mediation, such as the one carried out by Kofi Annan in Kenya, as "R2P." This sort of intra-state political mediation by external actors has been taking place for hundreds of years. Canadian officials, though, should not be seen as advocating the establishment of a norm of humanitarian intervention in states of the global south under the rubric of R2P, something usually done, by the way, without specifying who exactly is going to carry out such intervention. ()


4. Is "the responsibility to protect" an imperialist idea?
The Ottawa Citizen
Kate Heartfield
14 April 2009

I've got a lot of problems with the doctrine of the Responsibiity to Protect a doctrine that has never been used, and that would have to overcome serious political obstacles if it were ever to be used. ()

The fact that R2P has never been used doesn't stop people from attacking straw men, as Matteo Legrenzi did in an op-ed in the Citizen today. He writes that Russia invoked the principle to justify its invasion of Georgia last year. True enough, but just because Russia makes a ludicrous argument, doesn't mean anyone has to buy it and indeed, no one did. We shouldn't judge the principle of R2P by attempts to abuse it. ()

But I don't think the perception-of-imperialism argument should scupper R2P altogether. To my mind, it makes more sense to formulate policy based on reality, not perceptions. It's true that the perceptions matter, and must be addressed, but that's no reason to abandon the concept that human beings have a right not to be attacked by their own governments.

I also found his dismissal of the UN's adoption of R2P a bit odd. Here's the paragraph I mean:

It is true that R2P was endorsed by world leaders at a UN World Summit in 2005 and later adopted as a resolution by the UN General Assembly. We should remember, though, that all manner of initiatives get voted on by the UN General Assembly, from Sport for Peace and Development to the International Year of Older Persons. None of these shape the conduct of international politics.

Well, no, but the R2P doctrine was specifically, purposefully adopted to shape international politics. It didn't happen by accident. And the UN isn't some mysterious distant conclave; it's us. If Canada doesn't want to vote to suport a new international norm, it doesn't have to. So it should mean something when it does just as its support of international treaties and agreements (Kyoto, the optional protocol on child soldiers) should mean something too. We should either mean what we say, and be prepared to back it up, or shut up altogether. ()


V. Upcoming events and coverage of UCLA conference

1. International community coming to realize 'the responsibility to protect'
UCLA Today
15 April 2009

The author of a landmark report on stopping genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity said Tuesday, April 14, at UCLA that the international community is coming to realize that "the sin is not intervention; the sin is indifference."

"The landscape has been changing away from sovereignty as a license to kill," said Gareth Evans, former foreign minister of Australia and author of "The Responsibility to Protect," published in 2001 and signed by approximately 250 heads of state at the United Nations' world summit in 2005. ()

After decades characterized by lack of consensus at the UN on how to react to atrocities occurring in such places as Somalia and Kosovo, the "responsibility to protect" doctrine (R2P) established core principles on when to intervene. Evans said he believes that there was a turning point a year ago when international consensus as reached swiftly to intervene diplomatically in Kenya after an outbreak of post-election violence, including ethnic cleansing. ()

Evans said countries that perpetrate atrocities against their own people or who are incapable of preventing crimes of mass atrocity from occurring tend to be the same countries that harbor terrorists, permit the transfer of weapons of mass destruction, generate an outflow of refugees and generate drug and human trafficking problems.

According to the R2P doctrine, the duty to protect includes the responsibility to prevent atrocities by addressing the root and direct causes of internal conflicts and other manmade crises putting populations at risk; respond to situations of compelling human need with appropriate measures, which may include sanctions, international prosecution or, in extreme cases, military intervention; and rebuild by providing, particularly after military intervention, full assistance with recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation.

In response to a question about what has gone wrong with the international response to Darfur, Evans commented that the size and complexity of the situation in Darfur has made it inherently difficult to find a workable solution there. He added that international pressure has been limited, lackluster and not properly resourced.

Panels throughout the day at the conference brought together UN and U.S. State Department officials and academics from universities and think tanks across the nation, including UCLA Burkle Center senior fellow Gen. Wesley Clark; former foreign minister of Thailand and Burkle senior fellow Kantathi Suphamongkhon; Columbia University professor and UN special advisor for R2P Edward Luck; Nicole Willette of the U.S. State Department, and Georgette Gagnon of Human Rights Watch, among others.

Panelists discussed topics ranging from the origins and scope of the R2P doctrine; lessons learned from Kosovo, Rwanda and Bosnia; current challenges in Darfur, Myanmar and Zimbabwe; and prescriptions for the Obama Administration.


The link to the post-conference coverage webpage:

Browse Documents by Region:

International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect
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