|11 November 2008 News Update [Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Francis Deng Releases Statement on DRC; South African Development Community (SADC) Meets to Discuss Zimbabwe, Congo]|
11 November 2008
Responsibility to Protect-Engaging Civil Society
In this issue:
I. R2P and the Crisis in the DRC
1. STATEMENT BY THE UN SPECIAL ADVISER OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL ON THE PREVENTION OF GENOCIDE ON THE SITUATION IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
2. SADC HEADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENTS MEET TO DISCUSS CONGO, ZIMBABWE
II. Civil Society Organizations reference R2P in DRC Crisis
1. HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH -- BRITAINS COWARDICE IN THE CONGO
2. OXFAM INTERNATIONAL -- ACTION MUST REPLACE EUROPEAN IR-MILES DIPLOMACY AS CEASEFIRE BREAKS
3. IR2PHE CONGO: INFORMATION AND ACTION
4. COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONSONGO: SECURING PEACE, SUSTAINING PROGRESS
III. Crisis in Darfur
1. MIA FARROWE OWE THEM PROTECTION
2. JOHN BOLTONSPIRATIONS DONT MAKE FOREIGN POLICY
3. ENOUGH, GENOCIDE INTERVENTION NETWORK, AND THE SAVE DARFUR COALITION -- LETTER TO PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: A PEACE SURGE IN SUDAN
IV. Crisis in Burma
1. BURMESE MILITARY ACCUSED OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
V. R2P in the News
1. FORMER BANGLADESHI AMB. HARUN UR RASHID--HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION OR R2P?
2. JAMES RUBINED HERRING AGGRESSION AND THE GENOCIDE EXCUSE
VI. Related Events
1. GENEVA ACADEMYIGHT TO LIFE IN ARMED CONFLICT ZONES
I. R2P and the Crisis in the DRC
1. Statement by the UN Special Adviser of the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide on the Situation in Democratic Republic of Congo
7 November 2008
The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Francis Deng, has a responsibility to determine, from existing sources of information, whether there is a risk of genocide in any part of the World and, with a view to prevention, to alert the international community to such risks wherever they may emerge.
Within the context of his responsibilities, the Special Adviser has closely followed the situation in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Noting the tragic history of loss of life in the region over at least the past 15 years, including on the basis of ethnicity, the Special Adviser has been especially alarmed by the escalation of violence in the past few weeks.
The Special Adviser notes that the intention to destroy an ethnic population group, in whole or in part, is a grave crime under international criminal law - one which the international community, including Member States in the region and beyond, has an obligation to prevent and to punish when it does occur. He emphasizes that the belligerents in Eastern Congo must refrain from actions that might encourage genocide and that they, and any actors who provide material support, will be held accountable if they fail to do so.
The Special Adviser welcomes the initiative launched in Nairobi to resolve the current crisis. He is also in contact with relevant authorities to indicate his own intention to visit the countries of the region as soon as possible to assess recent developments from the perspective of his mandate and to provide advice and support accordingly.
2. Extra-Ordinary Summit of the SADC Heads of State and Government Meeting
Sandton, South Africa
9 November 2008
The SADC [South African Development Community] heads of State and representatives of government met on 9 November 2008 to discuss the ongoing political and security situation in the Eastern Congo and Zimbabwe. The extra-ordinary meeting was held in Sandton, South Africa, and convened to develop strategies and decisions to address the situation. Some suggested commitments were implementing the Nairobi Communique and Goma Process, as well as calling for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian corridor. The group pledges that SADC and the Great Lakes Region ould not stand by and witness incessant and destructive acts of violence by any armed groups against innocent people of DRC, if and when necessary SADC will, within the Nairobi framework, send a peacekeeping force into Kivu Province to the DRC. Linked are official details and remarks from the meeting.
II. Civil Society Organizations Reference R2P in DRC Crisis
1. Human Rights Watch -- Britains Cowardice in Congo
10 November 2008
Tom Porteous is the London Director of Human Rights Watch.
The difference between the British Government's timid handling of the current crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and its bold military intervention in Sierra Leone just eight years ago could hardly be starker.
In 2000, Tony Blair dispatched a small force to Sierra Leone to save an imperilled United Nations peacekeeping operation which was incapable of protecting itself let alone civilians threatened with killings by a rebel army. The decision is now seen as the pinnacle of New Labour's "ethical foreign policy". Before anyone had even heard of the concept of the "responsibility to protect", the UK's muscular intervention in Sierra Leone rescued the UN. (...)
The crisis in the eastern DRC presents remarkably similar challenges. A UN peacekeeping force is struggling to protect itself and failing to protect civilians. A warlord supported by neighbouring Rwanda is seeking to impose his political demands on North Kivu province by force. His opponents, including local militias and Rwandan Hutu rebels linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, are supported by the Congolese government.
The consequences of all this: the perpetuation of untold human suffering. Daily killings of civilians, the recruitment of child soldiers, torture, massive forced displacement of the population and a fast-diminishing prospect of a return to peace and normality. And where is the UK this time? Worse than dithering, it is actually blocking the deployment of an EU military force which is the only realistic way rapidly to assist the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), which has been deeply compromised by its restrictive mandate and lack of rapid response capabilities, in time to make a difference for those in need of urgent protection.
In speech after speech, the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, talks up human rights and his concept of "civilian surges". But in the face of civilian torment at the hands of brutal warlords supported by two governments, Rwanda and the DRC, which receive large amounts of British development aid, he blocks the most immediate means of extending a helping hand and calls instead for respect for ceasefires (which are not being respected) and political dialogue between Rwanda and the DRC. Political dialogue is crucial to helping to resolve Congo's problems, but it won't result in immediate solutions and it does not substitute for the need to protect Congo's citizens today and in the coming weeks and months. Even if Britain feels it cannot act decisively and boldly in the DRC, it should at least not be blocking other EU member states from doing so. MONUC desperately needs reinforcements of troops and equipment. Some EU members are apparently ready to act. The UK should immediately support that initiative, at least politically and preferably by offering some of its much-vaunted military expertise as well.
A professional show of force and international resolve was enough to break the cycle of violence in Sierra Leone and set its region on a solid path to peace. Lasting peace won't come easily or quickly in the Congo. But standing by while civilians are killed, raped and pillaged is a sure recipe for further escalation of the conflict.
For todays press release from Human Rights Watch on the protection of civilians in DRC, please see: http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008/11/10/congo20172.htm
2. Oxfam International: Action must replace European ir-miles diplomacy as ceasefire breaks
10 November 2008
The linked press release comes from Oxfam International, which is an NGO that provides humanitarian support to those living in poverty and unstable environments to increase sustainability. Oxfam calls on international leaders and governments to provide protection to civilians in the DRC who are living in severe insecurity as a result of the broken ceasefire. They implore leaders to step up and provide real and effective diplomacy on the ground that will be effective, in addition to negotiations that have been underway.
e hear excuse after excuse from European countries about why they can't help and they pass the buck to another country, another continent. Their inaction has very human consequences, as the thousands that fled Kibati and Kanyabayonga could tell them. 5.4 million people have died over the last 10 years. How many more must suffer before Europe will take effective action? The international community is failing in its Responsibility to Protect civilians in eastern Congo, said Juliette Prodhan, head of Oxfam in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
3. iR2PHE CONGO: INFORMATION AND ACTION
IR2P: The Individual Responsibility to Protect
iR2P focuses individual accountability to the Responsibility to Protect and acting in solidarity with those living in R2P situations and conflict affected areas. They have compiled a very comprehensive page on the situation on DRC which links to further information, and is a useful tool in mobilizing the grassroots community and encouraging action. Furthermore, there is a petition available for President-elect Barack Obama, encouraging action in the DRC. Some recommendations include applying international pressure and dialogue, strengthening MONUC, allowing greater humanitarian access, and reforming the FARDC.
4. Congo: Securing Peace, Sustaining Progress
Council on Foreign Relations
Anthony Gambino is an independent consultant on international development and foreign policy. He was previously the director of USAIDs program for DRC, and has consulted for the U.S. Senate and the State Department. He was a member of the Women for Women International Panel that was included in our special DRC listserv that called DRC a R2P situation.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a country of tragedy and promise on a massive scale. Nearly one-quarter the size of the United States, the DRC is home to important tropical forests, vast hydroelectric potential, and resources ranging from diamonds to zinc. It is also home to an ongoing humanitarian disaster. A war that began in 1998 caused widespread death and displacement. Though it officially ended in 2002, violence has continued, particularly in the east. The International Rescue Committee estimates that more than five million Congolese have died since 1998--including more than 500,000 per year since the official end of the war.
Despite some positive developments, such as democratic elections in 2006 and an increase in foreign investment, the country continues to face severe security and development problems. In this Council Special Report, Anthony W. Gambino analyzes these problems and proposes steps the United States can take to help. He details the country's social, economic, and security challenges, ranging from lawlessness and corruption to poverty and poor health. He then recommends two priorities for U.S. policy: combating insecurity in the east and promoting sustainable development. To bolster security, the report urges the United States to ensure that the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC has an appropriate mandate and sufficient personnel and resources to remain in place for the foreseeable future, at least through the planned 2011 elections. On development, the report makes a number of recommendations, including increased U.S. assistance for the elections, environmental protection, and health.()
Full Report: http://www.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/Congo_CSR40.pdf
III. Crisis in Darfur
1. We Owe Them Protection
Globe and Mail
3 November 2008
Mia Farrow is a humanitarian, actor and a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She will be participating in the 1 December 2008 Munk Debate on Humanitarian Intervention, where she will face off against former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton. More information on the Munk Debates can be found at http://www.munkdebates.com/. Also appearing will be Gareth Evans and Rick Hillier.
At 6 a.m. on Aug. 25, Kalma camp, home to 90,000 displaced Darfuris, was surrounded by Sudanese government forces. By 7 a.m., 60 heavily armed military vehicles had entered the camp, shooting and setting straw huts ablaze. Terrified civilians - who had previously fled their burning villages after being attacked by this same government and its proxy killers the janjaweed - hastily armed themselves with sticks, spears and knives. Of course, these were no match for machine guns and automatic weapons. By 9 a.m., the worst of the brutal assault was over. The vehicles rolled out leaving scores dead and more than 100 wounded. Most were women and children. The early-morning time of the attack ensured no aid workers were present as witnesses. (...) How is it that a military assault on displaced civilians in a refugee camp creates barely a ripple in the news cycle? How does such outrageous human destruction prompt so little outrage? How is it that those who have been tasked with protecting the world's most vulnerable population have failed - and failed, and then failed yet again - in their central responsibility? What does this say about the United Nations and the powerful member states? How have we come to such a moment? (...)
The message of the Kalma massacre is chillingly clear for Darfuris. But this assault on civilians in full view of the international community raises the question of what the massacre says about the rest of us. The only message we have sent to the Sudanese government is that they can now attack refugee camps and the world will watch and do nothing.
Smoothly, many in the international community lament Darfur's genocide but say that its solutions are beyond the boundaries of national interests and they invoke the concept of "national sovereignty." I contest that statement. The United Nations has, in 2005, clearly stated that the international community, through the United Nations, has the responsibility to "protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity."
"Responsibility to protect" means the international community must "react" when states are unable or unwilling to protect those living within their borders. The international action can be political, diplomatic, economic or military. The latter should be at the ready in "extreme and exceptional cases," which it defines as "cases of violence which ... shock the conscience of mankind."
The responsibility to protect has redefined the concept of sovereignty by clearly stating that it involves not only the rights of nation states, but the responsibilities of civilian protection they bear. The responsibility to protect marks the end of centuries of inviolate borders and impunity within them. In principle.
The reality is something else. Over my 10 trips to the Darfur region since 2004, I have seen men, women and children fleeing for their lives. In terror they fled their burning homes, in terror they endured the rapes and unthinkable atrocities. In terror and dread they await the next attacks. In terror they have waited for more than five unthinkable years for protection that has not come.
2. Aspirations Don't Make Foreign Policy
Globe and Mail
3 November 2008
John Bolton was George Bushs appointee as the United States ambassador to the U.N., and is infamous for his abrasive style of diplomacy and contrarian nature at the U.N. He is a contentious figure in U.S. foreign policy, with some praising his efforts at reform and others infuriated by his lack of respect and agenda as a U.N. representative, before his resignation in 2007. Bolton stated that his proudest moment in his career was when he persuaded President Bush to nsign the Rome Statute. He will also be participating in the Munk Debate on Humanitarian Intervention.
The central problem with the case for humanitarian intervention is that the arguments advanced in its favour are largely incoherent. All will agree that there are situations of human suffering that deserve attention, but most are far removed from even the most expansive definition of ational interests. What's more, proponents of interventionism rarely explain to the citizens of countries like Canada why their sons and daughters are to be put in harm's way, albeit for noble purposes.
So, what precisely are these advocates proposing to do, and what is the utility in grouping such disparate examples together under the label of humanitarian intervention? Proponents are never sure who they are going to save, but consider the situations in Sudan, Somalia and Burma.
In Sudan, we see a genocidal civil war. What began as a conflict between the government and the indigenous population in Darfur now risks spreading to the neighbouring countries of Chad and the Central African Republic. Hundreds of thousands of people have died. In Somalia, there has been a near-complete breakdown in central government authority. In the south, this has resulted in fractious warlordism. In the north, in Puntland and Somaliland, we see a state of near secession. For almost 20 years, the country has verged on anarchy. In Burma, a long-standing dictatorship has recently blocked international humanitarian assistance following a major natural disaster. There is no doubt that thousands died unnecessarily due to the inaction of the military junta. Each of these cases represents a humanitarian crisis, but the circumstances vary dramatically. What precisely do advocates of intervention wish to be done in each of these vastly different situations? More importantly to the debate about humanitarian intervention, what clarity is there in lumping them together under one set of norms and actions? (...)
On Sudan, UN authorization of an African Union peacekeeping force has faced constant obstruction in the Security Council. China and Russia have threatened vetoes at every step - why would anyone think they will change their ways? As for Somalia, in the early 1990s, the United States intervened unilaterally to try and open the channels of humanitarian assistance, but within two years of turning the mission over to the UN, the country had again descended into chaos. Why would the UN do better in Somalia this time than it did last time? Where Burma is concerned, the Bush administration fought hard just to get its discussion on the Security Council's agenda. We ultimately prevailed, but it was certainly not easy, and the resulting council action was marginal. Are these three cases emblematic of the much vaunted nternational community?r
Third, I have found that many who advocate the doctrine of responsibility to protect, and particularly military intervention, are very casual with other people's blood. It is much easier to advocate for the use of force when you are not the one doing the heavy lifting.
The reality of international military capabilities is that when observers on the sidelines express high ideals for what the international community should be doing, they are generally referring to the United States. And as tragic as the situation is in Darfur, in a democracy we have to be able to explain to American citizens why they should put their sons and daughters at risk where there are no vital U.S interests, even in an area of undoubted humanitarian tragedy.
There has been much talk about creating a standing volunteer rapid response force that can act in the name of the responsibility to protect, but this force will be faced with the very same logistical restraints as any national army. If under the UN, it will be subject to all of the UN's limitations. Once deployed, it is entirely unclear how the apid response force would ever be able to extract itself from what are often intractable, long-term conflicts.
I am afraid that in the end, the principle of the responsibility to protect remains fundamentally aspirational. And aspirations do not make a foreign policy.
3. ENOUGH, Genocide Intervention Network, and the Save Darfur Coalition--Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama: A Peace Surge for Sudan
John Prendergast, John Norris, Jerry Fowler
6 November 2008
The letter to President-Elect Barack Obama is on behalf of ENOUGH, Genocide Intervention Network, and the Save Darfur Coalition.
The message of Sudan activists all over the United States is clear: Don't try to contain the damage from the war in Darfur--end the war. Don't just declare that genocide is taking place--end the genocide. Don't just try to manage the consequences of crisis after crisis in Sudan--end these crises.
In short, President-Elect Obama must lead a concerted international peace surge for Sudan, and diplomacy must be backed by well-conceived and consistently escalating pressure on Khartoum and other combatants to create the proper conditions for a lasting peace. More effective protection of civilians and continued steps toward accountability for crimes against humanity, which are vital in their own right, will help advance this peace surge.
Five-and-a-half years into Darfurs crisis, and three-and-a-half years after the signing of a peace deal for southern Sudan (the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA), there is no prospect of a peace deal for Darfur and no coherent effort to ensure that the CPA gets implemented. This is a damning indictment of U.S. and international efforts in Sudan to date. Despite an abundance of rhetoric, it is clear to all parties, including the Sudanese government, that the United States government and its international partners are content simply to manage the consequences of the crisis in Sudan, rather than resolve the situation.
The costs of this approach have already been immensely painful for the Darfuris, who continue to be killed and driven from their homes in large numbers by government and rebel attacks as a U.N. force is incapable of protecting them. Equally important, without a substantial investment in peacemaking in Darfur and peace implementation for all Sudan, the facts on the ground have the potential to become much worse: Darfurs war likely will continue to escalate, the CPA may collapse and reopen a direct north-south conflict, many more people may die, rebel groups will become larger and even more lawless, and Sudan will potentially disintegrate as a state. In addition, a wider war could also open up fronts in eastern and northern Sudan; continued war in Darfur will further fuel proxy war in Chad and the Central African Republic; and north-south tensions in Sudan could lead to the Lords Resistance Army becoming more active in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. Sudans potential fracturing in particular has a range of serious international security implications ranging from disruptions in oil supplies to the increased ability of terrorist groups to operate within such chaotic settings.
Certainly, protecting civilians is an important goal that will require significant energy and resources for the foreseeable future. But it is not sufficient. Protection efforts must be buttressed by a broader approach to end Sudans multiple conflicts. Pursuing the goal of civilian protection during the conflict should not obscure or divert energy from the larger and ultimate objective: bringing peace to Sudan by securing a credible deal for Darfur and implementing the terms of the CPA. As the two most influential countries with Sudan and two countries with the most to lose if the CPA collapses, the United States and China have compelling reasons to work jointly for lasting peace.
The CPA itselfhe agreement to end the 22-year war in southern Sudan and establish a framework for democratic transformation of the countryas reached in 2005 after a sustained investment in diplomacy, led in part by the United States and backed by significant incentives and pressures. That hard-won agreement would not now be in jeopardy if the investment in diplomacy had been maintained and the international community had continued its pressure to ensure that the agreement was implemented.
IV. Crisis in Burma
1. Burmese Military Accused of Crimes Against Humanity
Terraviva United Nations
9 November 2008
An onslaught by Burmese troops in the eastern part of the military-ruled country, running for three years now, is laying the junta open to charge of 'crimes against humanity'. This new charge adds to a growing list of human rights violations that the South-east Asian nation's ruling military regime is being slammed for, including the use of rape as a weapon of war in military campaigns in areas that are home to the country's ethnic minorities. The country has been under the grip of successive juntas since a 1962 military coup. Eyewitness accounts from civilians fleeing the territory under attack reveal a grim picture of the 'tatmadaw', as the Burmese military is called, targeting unarmed men, women and children in a ''widespread and systematic way,'' say human rights and humanitarian groups. An increasing number of refugees have been crossing over to northern Thailand from among the Karen ethnic community, the second largest ethnic group in Burma, or Myanmar. Many of them live in the mountainous Karen State, the territory where South-east Asia's longest --and largely ignored -- separatist conflict is being waged between Burmese troops and the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU).
''Myanmar's troops are overtly targeting civilians; they are actively avoiding KNU military installations. That is why we are describing the attacks as 'crimes against humanity','' says Benjamin Zawacki, South-east Asia researcher for Amnesty International (AI), the global rights lobby. ''The violations are widespread and systematic.''
''This campaign started in November 2005 and has escalated. They did not even stop during the annual monsoon period (from May to October), which was not the case before,'' he explained during an IPS interview. ''There has been a shift in strategy and intensity. It is no more a dry season offensive.''
The military campaign is the largest and the longest sustained drive in a decade. ''The Burmese army is rotating soldiers every six months and they have penetrated areas deep in the Karen area,'' David Tharckabaw, vice president of the KNU, said in a telephone interview from an undisclosed location. ''Nothing is being spared. They are even destroying fruit plantations like mangosteen.''
The list of abuse document by AI, and corroborated by other humanitarian groups, include villagers being beaten and stabbed to death, being shot by the 'tatmadaw' ''without any warning'' and being tortured and subsequently killed. Karen civilians have also reportedly been subjected to forced labour, disappearances and their rice harvest being burned down. ()
V. R2P in the News
1. Humanitarian Intervention or Responsibility to Protect?
United News of Bangladesh
Harun ur Rashid
7 November 2008
Barrister Harun ur Rashid is the former Bangladeshi ambassador to the U.N.
While the right to humanitarian intervention may be seen in most of the developed world as justified because of gross abuse of human rights or ethnic cleansing, many developing countries argue that sovereignty is violated by such interventions.
The right to intervene is perceived as aggressive violating the sovereignty of states and a new term has been adopted replacing the right of intervention in international law. It is called "responsibility to protect."
The core idea is that sovereign states would retain the primary responsibility to protect their own people from mass atrocity crimes. But if they manifestly fail to do, either incapacity or ill will, the international community has a collective responsibility to take appropriate action. That need may not be military; the emphasis is on prevention and assistance for states in need, with any further response being by the least coercive and intrusive effective means possible. Military force may be needed, but only in extreme and exceptional cases like Rwanda and Kosovo, with the UN approval. The responsibility to protect concept was originally proposed by a Canadian-sponsored international commission in 2001. And it took only four years for the concept to be adopted, without dissent, by the UN General Assembly, meeting at the heads of government level at the 2005 World Summit.
It is one thing to have a new norm of international law, but quite another for it to be genuinely universally accepted. It is another thing for it to be effectively applied in practice. Some progress has certainly been made. The international community's immediate response to the post-election ethnic violence in Kenya at the beginning of this year-and by diplomatic rather than military means-has been an excellent example of the concept at work in stark contrast to the indifference that was demonstrated the Rwandan genocide in 1994. While the Darfur situation in Sudan has been deemed a case of responsibility to protect the non-Arabs, international response so far has been ineffective. There are two reasons for such apathy or inaction. One is the continuing war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the other is that Africans should be involved in settling their problems.
Three big challenges remain for the new concept at work: first, the conceptual framework including its scope and limit must be understood. This is important so that the concept is not seen as either too broad to be misused or too narrowly focussed to allow genocide to go on. Second, the use of diplomatic means must be in play to resolve the situation and third, when preventive or reactive action is necessary, it must achieve the goal without disproportionate use of force. ()
Dictators must be aware that the days of non-accountability are over. Human rights are not a matter of domestic concern. They are elevated to a matter of international concern and international community should ensure that those rulers who abuse grossly human rights or fails to protect their own people from genocide or crimes against humanity must be put on trial for justice.
There was a joke at the UN corridors that if a persons kills an individual, he goes to gallows or sentenced to life imprisonment, if a person kills twenty individuals he goes to mental asylum and if a person kills hundreds of thousands of people, he comes to Geneva for peace talks. Hopefully the joke must not be translated into action given the norm "responsibility to protect" under international humanitarian law
2. Red Herring Aggression and the Genocide Excuse
James P. Rubin
7 November 2008
James Rubin teaches International Affairs at Columbia University, and was an assistant secretary of State in the Clinton Administration.
Why did Russia really invade Georgia? In late September, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appeared before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and offered a rather stunning explanation. Lavrov--who previously spent a decade as Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, where he mastered the body of international precedents and U.N. Security Council resolutions that together make up the de facto law of nations--informed his audience that, by attacking Georgia,Moscow was implementing a principle endorsed by the Security Council in 2006: the "responsibility to protect."
Lavrov was referring to the U.N.'s new legal justification for intervention in the internal affairs of a member state. The concept--which arose out of the world's failure to stop genocide in Rwanda--envisions nations joining together to protect potential victims of mass human rights abuses or genocide, even if that means trampling on the sovereignty of another country by using military force. The inaugural test of this new principle came in Darfur. To date, no nation, including the United States, seems willing to live up to this "responsibility." But Russia, according to its foreign minister, is now doing exactly that. "If all this talk about 'responsibility to protect' is going to remain just talk," Lavrov said, "if all this talk about human security is going to be used only to initiate some pathetic debate in the United Nations and elsewhere, then we believe this is wrong. So, we exercised the human security maxim. We exercised the responsibility to protect."
Russia had previously accused Georgia of committing genocide against South Ossetia--despite the fact that the most reliable independent reporting has concluded that fewer than 100 civilians died during Georgia's initial incursion into the region. On August 30, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Georgia's goal was the "extermination of the peaceful population in South Ossetia" and asked, "What is this if it's not genocide?" None of this--the accusation of genocide, the invocation of "responsibility to protect"--was an accident. For it was the threat of genocide against Kosovo's Albanians that prompted nato, led by the United States, to initiate military action againstRussia's ally Serbia in 1999. Now, Russia is seeking to turn the tables--to exploit the human rights rhetoric of the West in order to establish international acceptance for a sphere of influence in Central Asia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. On September 12, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev made the analogy explicit: "There is certainly no serious argument which would allow one to ... separate the process of the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the decisions taken with regard to Kosovo."
According to the International Crisis Group, the United States and Europe are "struggling to come to terms with Russia's attempts to portray its support for breakaway regions in Georgia as a mirror image of what they did in Kosovo." It shouldn't really be such a struggle. For the truth is that Moscow's comparison is nonsense. Kosovo was all about moral intervention. Georgia is all about geopolitical resentment. It is imperative that the West not fall into Russia's analogy trap.
At least since the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, America has been the world's leading champion of self-determination. Russia, on the other hand, is rarely the first stop in a fledgling nation's campaign to win international recognition. Nor is Moscow a top destination for human rights campaigners trying to drum up support for action to stop ethnic cleansing, mass murder, or genocide. Indeed, until Georgia's attack on South Ossetia prompted a Russian invasion of Georgia itself, Russian foreign policy has been marked by a preference for the inviolability of national borders and a downright reluctance to support international action, especially military action, in the service of human rights. What's changed is that, after Georgia's offensive against South Ossetia this August, Moscow saw an opportunity to lock in an analogy to Kosovo--an analogy that was extraordinarily misleading. ()
America and Russia share a large number of common interests; we can and should work together on non-proliferation, climate change, terrorism, and the Middle East peace process. But we must also see to it that Russia pays a heavy price for its use of force in August. Fortunately, this is already happening. Moscow's diplomatic isolation is nearly unanimous. Even before the financial crisis struck last month, Russia's market was collapsing as a result of the Georgian war, making a mockery of Putin's boast that Moscow would soon be the world's financial center. In conjunction with the Putin era's domestic assault on political parties, the press, and civil society, the invasion of Georgia has done long-term damage to Russia's reputation. It will be a long time before Russia is considered a responsible power-- notwithstanding Foreign Minister Lavrov's ruminations about the responsibility to protect.
VI. Related Events
1. Geneva Academy of Human Rights and International Law
he Right to Life in Armed Conflict Zones Lecture
Prof. Bill Schabas
The Geneva Academy of Human Rights and International Law is hosting a lecture by Professor Bill Schabas on the he Right to Life, which will be focusing on the role of law in armed conflict zones. The lecture will be delivered in English.
The Right to Life in Armed Conflict
19 November 2008, 6:30 P.M.
Auditoire MR28- at Uni Mail, 40 Blvd du Pont d'Arve, Geneva.
More information: http://www.adh-geneva.ch/events/pdf/conferences/william_schabas.pdf
**Thank you to Emily Cody for compiling this listserv**