Friday, December 14, 2007

R2P - A Lot of Work Remains

I found this paper delivered by Gareth Evans, President, International Crisis Group at The Hague just a few days ago. It's an update on the R2P or "responsibility to protect" initiative promoted by the Martin government and now, judging by the carnage of Darfur, still struggling. It's an academic issue for Canada, given that our military is essentially bogged down for the foreseeable future in Afghanistan. But it remains an important doctrine. What follows are excerpts from Evans presentation dealing with the thorny question of the use of force under R2P and the hurdle of the UN Security Council.

The R2P idea is very straightforward. The sovereign state itself has the primary responsibility to protect its people from genocide and other mass atrocities – ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and war crimes – occurring within the boundaries of that state. But if the state in question is unable or unwilling to take the necessary action that responsibility shifts to the wider international community.

...if prevention fails and atrocities are occurring or imminently about to occur, the responsibility to protect means the responsibility of the state itself, or others if it doesn’t act, to react appropriately. This may involve diplomacy and persuasion, but also as necessary more coercive measures like economic sanctions and criminal prosecution, and ultimately – but only in extreme cases, and as a last resort – military intervention. And, particularly after a military or other coercive intervention, R2P involves the responsibility to rebuild - to provide full assistance with recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation, to address again the causes of the harm that intervention was designed to halt or avert.

Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity… We accept that responsibility and will act in accordance with it…

The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to help to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII…, 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.

The cumulative weight of the post-World War II human rights instruments, the Genocide Convention, the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court, and now the unanimous endorsement of the concept of the responsibility to protect by the General Assembly at the highest level, has made it simply no longer possible to argue – as it was possible to argue for centuries before – that sovereignty is a license to kill.

Although that won’t stop some people trying, for example the Shanghai professor who was quoted in USA Today a few weeks ago as saying ‘China has used tanks to kill people on Tiananmen Square. It is Myanmar’s sovereign right to kill their own people too.’ There are some parts of the world in which we have a lot of education still to do.

...when is it legal, and legitimate, to use military force in R2P situations. The issue here is about coercive force, applied without the consent of the state in question, not about peace operations for civilian protection purposes mounted consensually.

...many, particularly in the global South, to see R2P as being only about the use of force, and just another way of talking about ‘humanitarian intervention’, which throughout the 1990s debate was indeed a concept synonymous with military coercion. is inevitable that use of force issues have dominated the R2P debate. There is an emotional context here: the conscience-shocking atrocity-crime situations that resonate most in our memory, certainly in this country, are the ones where we know that the timely use of military force would have saved thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of innocent lives – the cases like Rwanda in 1994 and Srebrenica in 1995 when force should unquestionably have been used but wasn’t. These are the cases that make us ask ourselves each time, with a mixture of incomprehension, rage and shame, how we can possibly find ourselves saying ‘never again’ when we have said it so many times before.

the ICISS commission advocated ...that for any decision about the coercive use of military force, against the will of the state in question, the Security Council adopt as guidelines five criteria of legitimacy. All of them have an explicit pedigree in Christian ‘just war’ theory, but their themes do resonate equally, and are not inconsistent, with the other major world religious and intellectual traditions. They are as follows:

(1) Just Cause: Is there serious and irreparable harm occurring to human beings, or imminently likely to occur, [essentially genocide or ethnic cleansing].
(2) Right Intention: is the primary purpose of the proposed military action to halt or avert human suffering, whatever other motives may be in play?
(3) Last Resort: has every non-military option for the prevention or peaceful resolution of the crisis been explored, with reasonable grounds for believing lesser measures will not succeed?
(4) Proportional Means: is the scale, duration and intensity of the planned military action the minimum necessary to secure the defined human protection objective?
(5)Reasonable Prospects: is there a reasonable chance of the military action being successful in meeting the threat in question, with the consequences of action not likely to be worse than the consequences of inaction?

the problem of what exactly is to be done in a situation in which the criteria of legitimacy seem manifestly to be satisfied, yet the cloak of formal legality is not available because, for whatever reason, the Security Council, fails or refuses to authorize the relevant military action: in other words, what most people would now accept was the situation with Kosovo in 1999.

which of two evils is the worse: the damage to international order if the Security Council is bypassed, or in the damage to that order if human beings are slaughtered while the Security Council stands by?

The object must be to create a worldwide intellectual and political environment in which, when the next Rwanda or other conscience-shocking man-made human rights catastrophe comes along, as unhappily it surely will, there is a reflexive protective response – and the only question is not whether to act, but when, where and how. I hope that this World Legal Summit can play its part in creating that environment. None of us want to have to say ‘never again’ ever again.

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