The Responsibility to Protect Introduction: Since the dawn of time there have been occurrences of massive violations of human rights. The 20th century in specific brought with it not only inter-state wars but also internal conflicts. However, in the last hundred years there has also been a substantial growth in international cooperation and solidarity. Through the creation of international organizations, such as the United Nations, and the growing number of non-governmental organizations, the 20th century has seen a paradox between humanity’s will to combat war and injustice and its apparent failure to put this into action.
The Responsibility to Protect is a new international concept, the gist of which is that states have a responsibility to protect not only their people, but also those whose states have failed them. The aim of this paper is to give a more defined and comprehensive view of this concept. In order to do so, it is imperative to look at how the international community has responded to massive violations of human rights in the past, and for this end a brief description of the Rwanda genocide will be given.
It will then go on to outline the history of Responsibility to Protect, focusing on its reception at the United Nations. Finally, a concise view on the crisis in Darfur will be given in relation to the Responsibility to Protect concept. The Rwandan Genocide: a failure to intervene Although much can be said about the genocide that took place in Rwanda, for the purpose of this paper I will focus on the role of the international community, more specifically the United Nations. The genocide took place in 1994 and it has become known as one of the bloodiest, most rapid massacres that have ever taken place.
This particular case of genocide also stands out because of the utter failure of the international community to intervene. Before the beginning of the genocide there was already a peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, namely the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). They were there to oversee a recent power deal brokered between the Hutus and Tutsis, which was intended to ease tensions in the country and make sure that both groups were equally represented in government. However, despite the United Nations presence in the country, the genocide was not eterred. The international community had a chance to stop it before it ever began, as the Security council had been warned that large-scale ethnic cleansing was about to take place in the country, and this has now become common knowledge. As stated in the article by Adelman and Suhrke, “The governments of Western countries and the highest levels of the UN – possessed clear information about an upcoming genocide and could thus have stopped it if they wanted to”. Yet, in spite of all the warnings, nothing was done to stop what was now the inevitable.
Once the killings began in earnest, the peacekeeping forces on the ground were unable to do anything. This is because their mandate prohibits them to shoot unless they are shot at, and like an army, they must follow orders, which at this point were not to intervene. The head of UNAMIR, General Romeo Dallaire, outlines in his autobiography “Shake Hands With the Devil”, how on numerous occasions he contacted the UN headquarters asking for them to expand his mandate; his cries for help were ignored. One of the examples he gives is that before the genocide began he was told that some Hutus were storing a large amount of machetes.
When he asked permission from his superiors to raid and confiscate the cache of weapons, he was categorically told that he was not to do anything about it. UNAMIR suffered a massive blow when ten Belgian peacekeepers in charge of guarding the Prime Minister, who was a Tutsi herself, were butchered by Interahamwe militia. This in turn led to Belgium, who had volunteered the majority of troops to UNAMIR, recalling their troops, as it was no longer safe for them to stay. In the peak of crisis, the Security Council made the decision to withdraw most of its forces from Rwanda, leaving Dallaire with only 262 men at his disposal.
Eventually, Dallaire was ordered to withdraw altogether from Rwanda. However, Dallaire refused to do so and stayed on with only a few men who opted to stay. This decision by Dallaire is what makes him, in my mind, one of our times only hero left. The Rwandan genocide was not kept under wraps; the media had a presence there and it was broadcasting what was happening throughout the world. According to the UN Convention of 1951, “competent organs of the United Nations…should take action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of Genocide”.
Furthermore, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, states that signatories are obliged to intervene when there is a clear case of genocide. These two together makes it clear that states should respond and, indeed, have an obligation to do so, to crimes of genocide. However, when questioned about this by journalists, a Clinton administration spokeswoman stated that genocide was not being committed; there were only ‘acts of genocide’ taking place. To this the reporter answered with another question ‘how many acts of genocide make a genocide? , to which she had no answer. By avoiding the use of the term genocide, the UN as a whole and its member states were able to ignore their duties under the above mentioned conventions, and find an excuse not to intervene in Rwanda. For any UN peacekeeping mission, their objective “is not to defeat the aggressor but to prevent fighting, act as a buffer, keep order and maintain a cease-fire…generally instructed to use their weapons only as self-defense”. This means that to begin with UNAMIR was already at a loss to stop the conflict.
Once Dallaire disregarded direct orders and stayed in the country, what was left of UNAMIR no longer received supplies. Dallaire stayed on until the end of the conflict. Him and his followers managed to save thousands of lives. Despite this, General Dallaire went back home a broken man, and the trouble that he has had readjusting is well documented. In the end the genocide claimed an estimated 800,000 lives in three months. Many leaders, including President Clinton, have now said that they realize they made a mistake and that they should have acted. However, that is of little comfort to the people of Rwanda.
The Responsibility to Protect: The failure of the international community to react to the various cases of mass violations of human rights in the 20th century, and more specifically in the 1990s, led to the then Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan to call on states to try and resolve the “the conflict between the principle of non-interference regarding state sovereignty and the responsibility of the international community to respond to massive human rights violations and ethnic cleansing”. He did so by addressing the General Assembly in 1999 and 2000.
As a response the Canadian government set up an independent commission, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), to look deeper into the matter and to try to come up with a solution to the problem. The Commission was made up of various experts on the field and it liaised with governments, NGOs, universities and think tanks. The ICISS was charged with “Reconciling the international community’s responsibility to act in the face of massive violations of humanitarian norms while respecting the sovereign rights of states”.
In December of 2001, the Commission presented its final report to the United Nations. It was in this reported that the term Responsibility to Protect was first used, and that the concept as a whole was introduced to the international community. The report begins by outlining the definition of state sovereignty as embodied in the United Nations Charter; this is to say that sovereignty is seen as an absolute right that is held by a state, and that this dictates a principal of non-intervention in domestic matters by an outside power.
However, in the report, the definition of sovereignty is broadened “from sovereignty as control to sovereignty as responsibility in both internal and external duties”. This concept of sovereignty as responsibility is not new, as there are various mechanisms in place today that limit state sovereignty. These were put in place after the Second World War as a way to ensure that it never happened again. The first, and most obvious, of these mechanisms is the United Nations as a whole and the various treaties and covenants that have been signed under it.
As few examples are the UN Charter, The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, The Genocide Convention, and the Geneva Conventions and added statutes, to name a few. These documents embody a shift from sovereignty as impunity to international and national accountability. The second of these mechanisms also came about after World War two and it is the concept of human security. States have recognized that it is no longer only the security of a state that matters, but also the human aspect of it that is important.
Finally, the Security Council and regional organizations, such as the European Union, have also proven to be powerful mechanisms in limiting sovereignty. Tbis is illustrated by the various actions that these bodies have sometimes taken against a particular state, such as sanctions and occasionally outright intervention, such as the Korea War. Therefore, although the report of the ICISS broadens the definition of sovereignty, it is simply putting a name on a trend that has been taking place and gaining momentum since 1945.
Considering the ‘new’ definition of sovereignty as outlined above, the report goes on to explain the emerging principle that is the Responsibility to Protect. The report makes it clear that this is not the responsibility to intervene, but rather the obligation to protect those that are being let down by their own state. It states that sovereignty means that the primary responsibility to protect lies with the state itself.
However, “where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, it becomes the responsibility of the international community to act in its place” and “the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect”. Although the paragraph above makes it clear what the Responsibility to Protect means, there are various components to it, namely the three pillars of it, which are: Prevention, Action and Rebuilding.
The emphasis is placed on prevention, and the report states that the most important part of this is the political will of the international community and that it must “change its basic mindset from a ‘culture of reaction’ to that of a ‘culture of prevention’”. Prevention must deal with both the root causes and the direct causes of an impending conflict. There must also be an information network in place in order to ensure that the conflict is spotted early on enough. Action should come about only when all means of prevention have been exhausted.
It should begin with methods of deterrence, such as economic and military sanctions. However, when all other roads have failed, then and only then, should military intervention take place. Military intervention should only take place when “large scale loss of life, actual or apprehended with genocide intent or not, which is the product of either of deliberate state action, or state neglect or inability to act, or a failed state situation; or large scale ‘ethnic cleansing’, actual or apprehended, whether carried out by killing, forced expulsion, acts of terror or rape”.
If these criteria are met the report outlines various precautionary principles that must be met before the onslaught of intervention. These are: last resort, just cause, proportional means, reasonable prospects, and right authority. These principles have to be put in place so that the Responsibility to Protect can never be used as an excuse for a state to intervene in another state for its own ends. Rebuilding is an important factor of the principle of Responsibility to Protect. It becomes even more crucial if military intervention has taken place. This third pillar stipulates that when a state as suffered mass violations of human rights then there will be a need to rebuild society as a whole. In order to do so the international community must provide financial aid to the country in question. It must also provide assistance in any other way. If the state is not properly rebuilt then there is a chance that it might reoffend in the future. There are many aspects to rebuilding, but one of the most important is justice and reconciliation. The international community must provide a stage where perpetrators can be brought to justice, and help in any way it can with the reconciliation of the country.
The United Nations is the key for this notion to become reality. It provides a platform for states to reach consensus and establish treaties and legislations. It is also in the best interest of the organization to try and do so, for it would heighten its credibility. However, the United Nations is not an independent organ, it is a collection of member states, and therefore it is difficult to get consensus. In the past humanitarian intervention has been hindered or all together stopped by the veto power that the five permanent members of the Security Council hold.
In the recommendations section of the Commission’s report they outline that “the Permanent Five members of the security Council should consider and seek to reach agreement not to apply their veto power, in matters where their vital state interests are not involved, to obstruct the passage of resolutions authorizing military intervention for human protection purposes for which there is otherwise majority support. ” Although this recommendation makes a lot of sense, it is unfortunate that it will most likely never happen. As shown in past conflicts the United Nations Peacekeeping missions can do little to quell a conflict once it has started.
Yet, the Peacekeeping aspect of the organization is arguably its most important humanitarian intervention feature. The Commission goes on to say that the traditional peacekeeping will have to change drastically, as“military intervention operations – which have to do whatever it takes to meet their responsibility to protect – will have to be able and willing to engage in much more robust action than is permitted by traditional peacekeeping, where the core task is the monitoring, supervision and verification of ceasefires and peace agreements, and where the emphasis has always been on consent, neutrality and the non-use of force. This would mean that states would have to be willing to take the risk of allowing some of their men to participate as part of the conflict, rather as bystanders. It would also mean more funding and manpower for the peacekeeping force. Like the restricted use of the P5 veto, this is a concept which makes a lot of sense but that unfortunately will most likely never see the light of day. The report was presented to the United Nations in December of 2001 and its reception was luke-warm at best.
The concepts that the report outlined were controversial and unfortunately, the timing was not the best. The 9/11 attacks were still fresh in people’s minds, and as the U. S. administration pushed for a war in Afghanistan; many states were worried that the report would provide an excuse for it. The report was served another blow when President Bush declared in 2003 that America had just cause for going into Iraq and that they were doing it to protect its people. In spite of the cold reception that the report received, the continuation of conflicts of a genocidal nature endured.
With the crisis in Darfur raging on, member states were forced to rethink their attitudes, and in the UN World Summit in New York in 2005, member states reached a consensus on the Responsibility to Protect. In the Outcome document of the Summit, the international community reaffirms its support in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the document. Although this was a big step towards acceptance of principle, the Outcome Document is not binding. This means that even if good will was shown on the day, there is no guarantee that states will act accordingly. Conclusion
If the last century has shown the world anything, it is that in order to stop mass violations of human rights from occurring there needs to be some form of mechanism in place that is strong enough to prevent them from happening. The ICISS were charged with finding a solution to this problem, and their answer was the Responsibility to Protect. In order for it to work there would have to be a whole shift in the culture that our political leaders inhabit. It would also need a lot of funding and manpower, and this will always be used as an excuse for why it cannot happen.
The main conclusion of this paper is that nothing can be done unless there is the political will for it happen. The report has some very controversial points, and accepting it, states would be agreeing to limitations on their sovereignty, as well as pledging to potentially intervene militarily and infringe on another state’s sovereignty. There would also be a need for the permanent members of the Security Council to accept some limitation to its all important veto power.
Unfortunately, I do not believe that this will happen; as time and time gain the world has witnessed the squabbling of this body of the UN, and the use of its veto power to stop actions, which could have helped many conflicts. “Meeting this challenge is more than a matter of aspiration. It is a vital necessity. Nothing has done more harm to our shared ideal that we are all equal in worth and dignity, and that the earth is our common home, than the inability of the community of states to prevent genocide, massacre and ethnic cleansing.
If we believe that all human beings are equally entitled to be protected from acts that shock the conscience of us all, then we must match rhetoric with reality, principle with practice. We cannot be content with reports and declarations. We must be prepared to act. We won’t be able to live with ourselves if we do not. ” This is a sentiment that is shared by most, and in order for it to become a reality, and for our world to be a better place there has be action on the part of states.
It is only then that the Responsibility to Protect will stop being an unattainable ideal and become a welcomed reality. Bibliography Books and journals: Bennett, A. LeRoy, and James K. Oliver. International Organizations : Principles and Issues. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2001. 156-63. Teson, Fernando R. Humanitarian Intervention: An Inquiry into Law and Morality. New York: Transnational, Inc. , 1988. 127+. Thomas, Weiss G. , and Cindy Collins. Humanitarian Challenges and Intervention. Oxford: Westview P, A Division of HarperCollins publishers, Inc, 1996. 89+. Reisman, Michael W. Legal Responses to Genocide and Other Massive Violations of Human Rights. ” . Pace, William R. , and Nicole Deller. “Preventing Future Genocides: An International Responsibility to Protect. ” World Order. Vol. 36. 2005. 15-32. . Websites: documents and articles http://www. iciss. ca/mandate-en. asp http://www. globalpolicy. org/security/issues/uvin. htm http://www. iciss. ca/pdf/Commission-Report. pdf http://www. beyondintractability. org/essay/human_rights_violations/ http://www. iciss. ca/menu-en. asp http://www. un. org/preventgenocide/rwanda/responsibility. shtml .