FEEDBACK – The Foundation’s Talks and Debates: The responsibility to protect | October 16, 2015

Invoked to justify the intervention in Libya, the use of the responsibility to protect was vetoed by the Security Council in the case of Syria. Dr. Sandra Szurek, Prof. Emeritus of the University Paris Ouest Nanterre, told us why during one of the Foundation’s Talks and Debates.     Interact with our peers, expand our […]

Invoked to justify the intervention in Libya, the use of the responsibility to protect was vetoed by the Security Council in the case of Syria. Dr. Sandra Szurek, Prof. Emeritus of the University Paris Ouest Nanterre, told us why during one of the Foundation’s Talks and Debates.

 


 

Interact with our peers, expand our horizon, foster internal debate, innovation and critical thinking in the fields of ethics and politics, all fall within the mandate of Handicap International Foundation. To this extent, the Foundation regularly invites experts in their respective line of business to discuss an issue during one of its Talks and Debates.Held at Handicap International’s headquarters in Lyon, the Foundation’s Talks and Debates are for each and everyone to enjoy whether they are permanent staff members, volunteers, interns, working at headquarters level, within one of our National Associations or in the field. Therefore, each Talk and Debate is recorded, either subtitled or dubbed in English, and made available to all on this blog (ENG versionFR version).

On September 22, 2015 the Foundation’s Talks and Debates were dedicated to the responsibility to protect, a legal concept, which should not be confused with the principle of humanitarian intervention or the right to intervene. Adopted within the framework of the United Nations Millennium Declaration of 2005, the responsibility to protect (RtoP or R2P) is a legal concept, unlike the right to intervene for instance, which instructs States to protect their population from the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

Hence, according to this principle, the primary responsibility lies with the States: they are the ones responsible for their populations’ well-being and the ones liable if their safety is at risk, especially if nothing is done to prevent serious Human Rights violations. This is all the more true if the State in question is the one guilty of perpetrating a crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or an ethnic cleansing.

Dr. Sandra Szurek on the responsibility to protect. © Sonia Zdorovtzoff / Handicap International
Dr. Sandra Szurek on the responsibility to protect. © Sonia Zdorovtzoff / Handicap International

If the States fail to protect their population, then, the responsibility to protect enjoins the international community to act accordingly. This can take the shape of assistance provided to the State in question so as to help it carry out its duties. Here it is about reinforcing the State’s internal capacity, granted that it is willing but unable to protect its population from the aforementioned crimes. The use of the responsibility to protect by the international community can also consists in directly assisting said State in protecting its population. By law, such peacekeeping operation should be carried out within the mandate of the United Nations, whether under Chapter VI or Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and should be combined with “appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means”. Eventually, the 2005 World Summit Outcome document, in which the responsibility to protect is established, states that “collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, < is a viable option > should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

In other words, the responsibility to protect gives the international community the right to step in order to protect an endangered population under certain circumstances (peaceful means have been used and failed; very serious and specific crimes are being perpetrated on a large-scale; said peacekeeping operation is carried out within the mandate of the UN; etc.).

In the last ten years, that is to say since its creation, the responsibility to protect has been invoked twice but used only once.

In 2011, a multi-state coalition indeed began a military intervention in Libya to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. The latter reiterates “the responsibility of the Libyan authorities to protect the Libyan population and reaffirms that parties to armed conflicts bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of civilians”. It condemns “the gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and summary executions”, which can amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes, depending on the situation. And above all, UN resolution 1973 deplores “the failure of the Libyan authorities to comply with resolution 1970“, a document in which the UN Security Council demands, among others, an immediate end to the violence and urges the Libyan authorities to respect Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

In her presentation, Dr. Sandra Szurek reviews the facts that led to the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 and therefore, the use of the responsibility to protect in the case of Libya. Additionally, she explains why the R2P was invoked to justify an intervention in Libya but was vetoed by the Security Council in the case of Syria.

Dr. Sandra Szurek, Prof. Emeritus of the University Paris Ouest Nanterre, is specialized in Public International Law, Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law. She is a member of the Scientific Committee of the French Human Rights Review, Vice-Chairperson of the French Association for the United Nations (AFNU) and an associate professor at the Research Centre of the Institute of Advanced International Studies (IHEI) of the University Paris II Panthéon-Assas.

 


 

 

To watch Dr. Sandra Szrurek’s presentation on the responsibility to protect, click here.

Pour visionner l’intervention du Dr. Sandra Szurek sur la responsabilité de protéger, cliquer ici.

 

Core R2P Documents

On 15 July, 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a speech in Berlin, Germany called “Responsible Sovereignty: International Cooperation for a Changed World”. With this speech, Ban Ki-moon offers clarity on the concept of Responsibility to Protect, a pivotal first expression from the Secretariat on what R2P is and is not, the challenges in advancing R2P and his personal commitment to turn the concept into policy. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon later released reports on R2P in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.


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