Tuesday, October 21, 2008

State Sovereignty versus R2P

By Mary Elizabeth Grant, VP of International Human Rights Law Society

Armenian genocide - 1.5 million people killed between 1915 and 1923; Holocaust - 6 million people killed during World War II; Cambodian genocide - 2 million people killed from 1975 to 1979; Rwandan genocide - 800,000 people killed in 90 days in 1994; Bosnian genocide - 200,000 people killed between 1992 and 1995; Darfur genocide - 200,000 to 400,000 people killed between 2003 to date.

“...If humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica -- to gross and systematic violations of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity? ...Surely no legal principle -- not even sovereignty -- can ever shield crimes against humanity ... Armed intervention must always remain the option of last resort, but in the face of mass murder, it is an option that cannot be relinquished.” We, The Peoples, 2000 Millennium Report by Kofi Annan.

After the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed, the international community appeared to vow, “Never Again”. “Never Again” would the international community allow genocide to occur. Kofi Annan, Speech at Stockholm International Forum, 11/2/2004. Despite the pledge, four genocides have been committed since World War II, resulting in approximately 3.2 million deaths. The genocide in Darfur continues despite the international community’s awareness of committed atrocities. Why hasn’t the international community taken more decisive action to prevent these genocides or to stop them once the systematic killing has begun? Tony Blair summed up the issue in a speech he gave in Chicago in 1999. He said, “The most pressing foreign policy problem we face is to identify the circumstances in which we should get actively involved in other people’s conflicts.”

In an attempt to reconcile the issues of intervention versus state sovereignty, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), a task force of a dozen experts on international law and conflict, published in December, 2001 a 91-page report entitled The Responsibility to Protect. The report proposed that while state sovereignty gives states the right to control their borders and to establish governance over their citizens without interference from the international community, it also creates the responsibility for states to protect their citizens. The report suggested that if a state fails to protect its citizens from atrocities like genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, the international community bears the responsibility to protect the state’s citizens by preventing, reacting, and ultimately rebuilding areas affected by mass suffering.

The responsibility of prevention is based on the theory that genocides and other atrocities are planned. Planning consists of implemented stages, such as classification of citizens into groups--like ethnic or religious groups, promotion of hatred of the targeted group through publicized propaganda, dehumanization of the targeted group, and round up of the targeted group. The stages that lead to these horrors are discernible, thus prevention is possible through intervention, such as the use of negotiations, political pressure, sanctions, and aid that helps a state establish economic development, political stability, and an effective judicial system.

The responsibility to react advocates military intervention when the use preventive measures and reactive techniques, such as negotiations, political pressure, and sanctions, fail. In order to determine if military intervention should be used, six thresholds must be met. (1) There must be just cause in that crimes against humanity that “shock the conscience” are being committed; (2) military intervention must be the last resort after all other nonviolent means of intervention have been exhausted; (3) the level of military intervention must be the least encroachment on state sovereignty as possible; (4) success of the military intervention must be reasonably likely and likely to do more good than harm; (5) military intervention must be used solely to protect citizens and not for the selfish interests of the interveners; (6) military intervention should occur with the authority of the United Nations Security Council or, if not granted, then authority from the General Assembly or a coalition of nations as long as the other thresholds have been met.

The responsibility to rebuild requires the international community to provide, particularly after a military intervention, the state with assistance with recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation, addressing the causes of the harm the intervention was designed to halt or avert.

The United Nations publicly adopted the concept of Responsibility to Protect in 2005 at the UN Summit of World Leaders. In 2006, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1674, which said: “Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity... The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means... to help to protect populations... In this context, we are prepared to take collective action... should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” They also agreed that if a state fails to do so, it is then the responsibility of the international community to protect that state’s population.

The international community has strived to implement portions of the R2P doctrine such as peace negotiations to end the genocide in Darfur; however, the genocide continues in Darfur. The steps of military intervention and strong sanctions to end the genocide have been blocked by states who see R2P as

a threat to state sovereignty, in that advocating military intervention will in the long run lead to abuses and trumped-up reasons for invasion of countries. United States invasion of Iraq provided ammunition for states fearing that interest in protecting citizens would translate to interveners pursuing their own selfish interests at the expense of the citizens, state and mission.

The responsibility to protect will remain an ideal until the perception that intervention equals abolishment of sovereignty is changed. For this change to occur, clear guidelines must be established that define in detail the circumstances requiring international intervention. Those guidelines must be agreed upon by the international community as the universal standard for action. States must be reassured that only intervention that is backed by the majority of the international community will be advocated. Strong sanctions must be established to punish unilateral intervention. Until similar steps are taken, state sovereignty will prevail over human rights.

Article citing from original R2P report at http://www.iciss.ca/report-en.asp

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