14 November 2011
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Enhancing accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law
1. Amnesty International – Arab League vote to suspend Syria puts pressure on Security Council to act
2. Human Rights Watch – Syria: Crimes Against Humanity in Homs
3.Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Atlantic – How the world can peacefully intervene in Syria
1. Refugees International- Libya: Protect Vulnerable Minorities & Assist Civilians Harmed
2. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect – Background Briefing: Responsibility to Protect after Libya and Cote D’Ivoire
3. David Rieff, New York Times – R2P, R.I.P.
1. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect – Policy Brief: The Lord’s Resistance Army and the Responsibility to Protect
1. Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy – Arab leaders shouldn’t kill their people?
2. Centre for International Policy Studies and Ottawa Graduate School of Public and International Affairs – 4 November Event Summary: The Responsibility to Protect 10 Years On: Reflections on Its Past, Present and Future
17 November, Pretoria, South Africa –Institute for Security Studies- ISS Seminar: The Norm of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) after Libya
15-16 November, Madrid, Spain –Organization of American States (OAS) and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) – International Conference: Strengthening Global Peace and Security for Development
On 9 November 2011, the Security Council held its 12th Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, focusing this session on how to enhance accountability for violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law. In advance of the debate, Security Council President Portugal held a 1 November meeting organized with OCHA on the role of the Council in enforcing accountability for massive violations of human rights.
Accountability and protecting civilians
During the debate, over forty Member States remarked on key issues highlighted at the 1 November meeting. These topics included mechanisms for ensuring individual criminal responsibility, improved fact-finding and reparation for victims. Opening the debate, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon reiterated that the promotion of accountability for violations of IHL was one of the five core challenges identified in his 2009 and 2010 reports on the protection of civilians. Navi Pillay, who highlighted several country situations, called for investigations of all sides of the conflict in Cote d’Ivoire, urgent prosecutions of perpetrators to end cycles of violence in Sudan and fair and effective transitional justice in Libya. While applauding the Council for strengthening its capacity to set up and support international and national processes on justice, truth and reconciliation, she pointed to the need for the Council to better follow-up on the recommendations of these mechanisms. Statements were also given by Assistant-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Catherine Bragg, International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission representative, Mateya Kelley and Director of International Law and Cooperation at the International Committee of the Red Cross, Philip Spoerri.
RtoP prominently featured in the debate
Many Member States took this opportunity to reiterate their support for the Responsibility to Protect, recalling the crucial role of the international community in taking appropriate measures to prevent and halt mass atrocity crimes. Several States highlighted the relevance of the norm to the debate, including Norway which reminded that civilian protection should not be seen “in isolation” from the Responsibility to Protect. Guatemala noted that the commitment to RtoP at the 2005 World Summit was “one of the most outstanding achievements obtained” at the meeting and recalled that the second pillar of RtoP meant that governments were responsible for seeking international assistance when unable to fulfill their responsibilities. South Africa reminded that while the primary responsibility to protect civilians remains with the State, should the State fail, the international community has a collective responsibility to act in accordance with the 2005 World Outcome Document and the Constitutive Act of the African Union. In contrast, Sudan expressed contempt for the “propaganda” of RtoP while Venezuela claimed that RtoP had been established by “ideologues of neoliberalism and savage capitalism.”
Speakers discussed many measures within the RtoP framework to prevent and respond to threats to civilians. Member States highlighted the distinct responsibility of the Security Council in adopting sanctions, referring cases to the ICC and mandating fact-finding missions or Commissions of Inquiry. Lebanon reminded that the broad range of tool available to States and to the international community should be applied on a case-by-case basis.
Though many speakers stressed that national authorities bore the primary responsibility to protect, the role of international actors was prominently featured regarding the deteriorating situation in Syria. Many Member States expressed serious concern and called for further action from a number of actors to protect civilians. The United Kingdom called on Syria to end the violence and admit UN monitors while Nigeria asked that Syria comply with the Arab League agreement. Several States denounced the lack of action by the Security Council, including Japan, Germany, France, and the United States.
Brazil’s concept of “Responsibility while protecting”
Recognizing that the responsibility to protect had been a milestone in improving the protection of population from mass atrocities, Brazil took the debate as an opportunity to offer a new perspective on the question of the use of force under the RtoP framework. Brazil mentioned that they would soon circulate a concept paper on the idea that the international community, while exercising its responsibility to protect, “must demonstrate a high level of responsibility while protecting". Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti emphasized that both concepts “should evolve together, based on an agreed set of fundamental principles, parameters and procedures” of which he mentioned a few (see full speech here):
Brazil’s emphasis on the need to “do no harm” was echoed by a few States, particularly in the aftermath of NATO’s operations in Libya which generated much debate and controversy. Russia and China supported the proposed concept paper, with China cautioning that, “there should be no political motives or purposes involved, including regime change.” South Africa and India also reflected on lessons learned from Libya, emphasizing that civilians should not be harmed and alternative agendas should not be followed in the name of protecting civilians.
Follow our website, facebook and twitter to see our reflections and compilation of all RtoP-excerpts from the debate later this week.
Read a summary of statements from the Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
The situation in Syria remains serious for civilians as the UN raised the death toll on 8 November to an estimate of 3500, with tens of thousands of people, including doctors, nurses and wounded patients, arbitrarily arrested, detained and at serious risk of torture. At a 9 November Security Council meeting on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned of a heightened risk of armed struggle, as more Syrian soldiers defected from the government. Ms. Pillay urged the international community to insist for an end to the killings, release those arbitrarily detained and full access to the International Commission of Inquiry established by the Human Rights Council last August.
Violence has continued in many parts of the country including Damascus, Deir al-Zour, Idlib, Hama and Homs. Homs in particular has continued to see some of the most brutal attacks on civilians by Syrian security forces. Security forces opened machine gun fire on 3 November, killing at least 20, and the attacks continued as of 10 November. Civilians in Homs had been deprived of basic needs including food, water and medical supplies for a week as of 8 November. Human Rights Watch released a report on 11 November, “We live as in war”: Crackdown on protesters in the governorate of Homs, which is based on research between mid-April and the end of August. The report concluded that the systematic nature of human rights violations indicate that crimes against humanity were committed by the government in Homs. The report urged the Arab League to suspend Syria’s membership, and asked the Security Council to impose an arms embargo and sanctions against perpetrators of violations of human rights and refer the case to the International Criminal Court. The Syrian National Council, a principle opposition body in Syria, made a statement accusing the government of using warplanes, rocket launchers and heavy artillery to attack civilians, and said that Syrian families had been prevented from leaving the area by security forces. The statement called for Arab and international observers to verify the situation in Homs.
The League of Arab States responded to the most recent violence on 13 November during an emergency meeting when 19 governments voted to suspend Syria’s membership as of 16 November and impose sanctions on the Syrian government if Syria failed to comply with a previously reached agreement for peace. The terms of the agreement, reached by Syrian President Assad and the Arab League on 2 November, included the release prisoners, withdrawal of security forces from the streets, and participation in dialogue with the opposition. Since the agreement was made, Amnesty International said that over 100 had been killed. Calling on the Arab League to allow independent human right monitors into Syria on 10 November, Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Acting Director for the Middle East and North Africa said “Killings and arrests of unarmed protesters and others continue to be reported on a daily basis, making a mockery of Syria’s promises to the Arab League.” The International Crisis Group, admitting that there were obvious flaws in the agreement in a Conflict Risk Alert released on 3 November, maintained that all parties should sit at the table.
In addition to the decision made on 13 November, the Arab League encouraged Heads of State to pull their ambassadors from Damascus and consider recognizing the Syrian National Council if Syria did not adhere to the agreement. Meanwhile, King Abdullah of Jordan called on Assad to resign and Turkey strengthened its stance against the Syrian leader. Though Syria’s FM called the threat of suspension illegal, only Lebanon and Yemen voted against the measure. In Syria, crowds attacked the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and thousands participated in a pro-government rally in response to the Arab League’s decision.
Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition remains divided over issues including requesting foreign military assistance and whether to participate in dialogue with Assad’s government. The National Co-ordination Committee (NCC), another main opposition group, tried to meet with the Arab League on 9 November, but was prevented from doing so by protestors. One member of the NCC delegation met with the League, but the opposition remains divided and without significant international credit.
1. Arab League vote to suspend Syria puts pressure on Security Council to act
14 November 2011
The Arab League's decision to suspend Syria must spur the UN Security Council into action, Amnesty International said today.
At an emergency meeting in Cairo Saturday, 18 out of 22 member states voted in favour of suspending Syria's membership of the regional organization with effect from Wednesday if the government continued to breach the terms of the Arab League's action plan.
"This decision sends a clear signal from the Arab League that the gross human rights violations that continue to be committed against mainly peaceful protesters in Syria must stop," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director.
"Now that the Arab League has taken decisive action, it is time for the UN Security Council to finally step up to the plate and deliver an effective international response to Syria's human rights crisis."
"The question is whether those countries who have been blocking effective international action on Syria - in particular Russia and China - will recognize how isolated they have become by giving support to a Syrian regime which Amnesty International considers to have been committing crimes against humanity."
Amnesty International called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, impose an arms embargo, and freeze the assets abroad of President Bashar al-Assad and his top associates.
On 5 October Russia and China used their vetoes to block the passing of a UN Security Council resolution which condemned Syria's crackdown on protesters and left open the possibility of sanctions.
More than 100 people are reported to have been killed since Syria announced last week that it would abide by the action plan it agreed with the Arab League on 30 October. The majority of those killed appear to have been unarmed protesters and bystanders shot by the security forces and army.
Read full article.
2. Syria: Crimes Against Humanity in Homs
Human Rights Watch
11 November 2011
The systematic nature of abuses against civilians in Homs by Syrian government forces, including torture and unlawful killings, indicate that crimes against humanity have been committed, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. Human Rights Watch urged the Arab League, meeting in Cairo on November 12, 2011, tosuspend Syria’s membership in the League and to ask the United Nations Security Council to impose an arms embargo and sanctions against individuals responsible for the violations, and refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.
The 63-page report, “‘We Live as in War’: Crackdown on Protesters in the Governorate of Homs,” is based on more than 110 interviews with victims and witnesses from Homs, both the city and the surrounding governorate of the same name. The area has emerged as a center of opposition to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The report focuses on violations by Syrian security forces from mid-April to the end of August, during which time security forces killed at least 587 civilians, the highest number of casualties for any single governorate.
As in much of the rest of Syria, security forces in Homs governorate subjected thousands of people to arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and systematic torture in detention. While most were released after several weeks in detention, several hundred remain missing. Most detainees were young men in their 20s or 30s, but security forces also detained children, women, and elderly people. (…)
Local residents told Human Rights Watch that since June, army defections had increased and that many neighborhoods had about 15 to 20 defectors who would sometimes intervene to protect protesters when they heard gunfire. In addition, the security forces’ violent crackdown and increasing sectarian mistrust have led residents of some neighborhoods in the city of Homs, notably Bab Sba` and Bab `Amro, to organize in local defense committees that are often armed, mostly with firearms but in some cases with rocket propelled grenades (RPGs).
Violence by protesters or defectors deserves further investigation. However, these incidents by no means justify the disproportionate and systematic use of lethal force against demonstrators, which clearly exceeded any justifiable response to any threat presented by overwhelmingly unarmed crowds. Nor would the existence of armed elements in the opposition justify the use of torture and arbitrary, incommunicado detention.
The decision of some protesters and defectors to arm themselves and fight back shows that the strategy adopted by Syria’s authorities has provoked a dangerous escalation in the level of violence, and highlights the need for the international community to ensure an immediate cessation of lethal force lest the country slip into bloodier conflict, Human Rights Watch said. (…)
Read the full press release and read the full report “We Live as in War”: Crackdown on protestors in the governorate of Homs.
3. How the world can peacefully intervene in Syria
11 November 2011
(…) On Saturday, the Arab Leagues will meet again in an emergency session called to review Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's flagrant violation of his agreement to the League's plan to end the violence, a plan that required the Syrian government to with draw its military from cities and residential areas, release all political prisoners, and allow Arab League monitors, human rights groups, and foreign journalists into the country, none of which he has done. Instead, the Syrian government has ratcheted up its assault in places like Homs. The opposition predicted immediately and correctly that the Syrian government would never abide by the agreement. Ausama Monajed, an adviser to the president of Syrian National Council, said in an interview that Assad had agreed only because he "has realized that Russia and China will no longer protect him at the United Nations. The only thing saving the regime so far has been that Russia and China were prepared to block any resolution against Syria at the Security Council. But now it has become clear that the Arab League will use its leverage with Russia and China to persuade them to back their position and not use their veto power, and it is clear that neither Russia nor China would compromise their position with the Arab League, particularly Saudi Arabia, just to save Assad."
That's an optimistic view; many other commentators argue that Assad likely believes he has the upper hand and is just playing for time while he steadily increases the level of force and brutality necessary to crush the opposition outright. (…)
That's where U.S. diplomacy can help, by forcing both the members of the Arab League (particularly Syria's neighbors) and Syrian supporters of the regime to confront and absorb what a civil war would mean. The U.S. should encourage the Arab League to ask the UN for a resolution supporting the creation and defense of a buffer zone on the Turkish-Syrian border and the subsequent creation of safe corridors to that zone from cities where the Syrian government has concentrated its assault. Turkey would have to take the lead, along with the FSA, in implementing this resolution, but NATO could provide logistical support. At the same time, the U.S. should immediately begin organizing a medical and disaster relief response. If a government will not protect its own citizens, the doctrine of responsibility to protect allows the international community to step in, but not necessarily with soldiers. (…)
Activating an international humanitarian assistance response now will not only put the international community in a far better place to respond to a Syrian civil war faster and better than we responded in Libya, but it will also force all the parties involved to start thinking through the real implications of what is about to happen. Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq will start seeing streams of refugees and active destabilization of their own politics as ethnic and religious groups connected to different factions in a Syrian conflict take sides. Iran is supporting the Syrian government; the Saudi king has called for Assad to step down. The Iraqi government has supported Assad, albeit tepidly; the Iraqi opposition is supporting the Syrian opposition. At worst, Syria could become the site of a proxy war between Turkey and Saudi Arabia on one side with Iran and Iraq on the other. Instead of making predictions and placing bets, it's time for all countries involved to start responding and planning based on worst case scenarios.
Preparing for civil war may be the only remaining way to avert it.
Read the entire article.
Following the death of Gaddafi on 20 October and the UN Security Council’s decision to terminate the NATO operations, concerns remain about revenge attacks, treatment of vulnerable minorities, and seeking accountability for atrocities committed by perpetrators of all parties.
As Human Rights Watch called for the Security Council to cooperate with the International Criminal Court, on 3 November the Security Council was briefed by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Louis Moreno-Ocampo. Ocampo noted in his speech that the investigations were focused on collection of evidence on the two indictees Abdullah al-Senussi and Saif Al-Islam Qadhafi as well as gender crimes committed by Qadhafi security forces. During the course of the debate, several governments reiterated their support for the initial decision by the Council to refer the situation to the ICC in February. Other governments called for accountability for crimes committed by on all sides and supported the investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor into allegations of crimes committed by NATO and the NTC, including the alleged detention of civilians suspected to be mercenaries and the alleged killing of detained combatants. Meanwhile, several Members of NATO are discussing whether to perform an internal legal review of its Libya operations to assist any outside investigation into civilian casualties.
1. Libya: Protect Vulnerable Minorities & Assist Civilians Harmed
8 November 2011
With the death of Muammar Gaddafi, a long-standing dictatorship has come to an end.
The majority of Libyans are celebrating a new future; but certain groups – including suspected loyalist civilians, sub-Saharan Africans, and ethnic minorities – remain displaced and vulnerable to violent attacks. The National Transitional Council (NTC), the current de facto government of Libya, lacks command and control over all armed groups, including those responsible for revenge attacks. As such, the NTC cannot yet establish or maintain the rule of law. The plight of these vulnerable civilians foreshadows challenges to reconciliation, integration, and equal treatment of all in the new Libya. Further, civilians suffering losses during hostilities have not been properly recognized or assisted (…)
Full link available here.
2. Background Briefing: Responsibility to Protect after Libya and Cote D’Ivoire
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
7 November 2011
The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect has updated their background briefing on Libya and Cote D’Ivoire. In this background briefing, see answers to commonly posed questions and concerns including:
Full link available here.
3. R2P, R.I.P.
New York Times
7 November 2011
The decision by the U.N. Security Council and NATO to end military operations in Libya on Oct. 31 concludes what appears to be the most successful foreign humanitarian intervention since the quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq soured much of the Western public on such undertakings. At first glance, the intervention in Libya looks like a textbook case of how the new U.N. doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) was supposed to work. The doctrine’s supporters had hoped that it would codify the obligations of outside powers to intervene — through nonmilitary means whenever possible, but with lethal force if necessary — when a tyrannical regime threatens to slaughter its own people.
(…)The White House, 10 Downing Street, and, above all, the Elysée Palace, are now patting themselves on the collective back. But a far more qualified reaction may be in order. For one thing, it’s unclear whether the fall of Qaddafi will usher in a better or democratic government in Libya; so far the revolutions of the Arab Spring have not been promising on that front. For another thing, unlike earlier versions of humanitarian intervention, R2P was about protecting civilians, and emphatically not about regime change. The Security Council resolutions that authorized an R2P-based intervention to protect Benghazi did not authorize outside powers to provide air support for the subsequent rebellion against Qaddafi. And it is almost certain that without that support he would not have been overthrown.
Those skeptics like myself who are wary of this interventionist paradigm must acknowledge that rejecting it might allow dictators like Qaddafi to stay in power. But its proponents must recognize that in the midst of rebellions such as the one in Libya, people cannot be protected without regime change. They have not recognized this, however, and partly as a result the campaign in Libya has done grave, possibly even irreparable, damage to R2P’s prospects of becoming a global norm.
Those who believe that this is just as well, and that the last thing the world needs is for powerful nations to claim once again the right to bombard weaker ones — this time in the name of human rights and international humanitarian law — will be relieved. But supporters of R2P should be mourning, not celebrating. (…)
Similarly hasty self-congratulation about the Libya operation is now obscuring the fact that NATO’s interpretation of R2P in effect puts the old wine of Kosovo-style humanitarian military intervention in a new U.N.-sanctioned bottle. A straight line runs between such unreconstructed liberal interventionists as Samantha Power and Bernard-Henri Lévy, both vocal backers of the Libya campaign, and the Tony Blair who claimed at the time of the war in Kosovo, when he was Britain’s prime minister, that in the 21st century the West should commit itself to fighting wars to support its values rather than its interests. Self-interest is more like it. Blair and his counterparts in Paris and Washington had no trouble ignoring their professed values and turning a blind eye toward Qaddafi’s crimes when it suited them to do so. And then they decided their interests would be best served by backing the Libyan iteration of the Arab Spring. Regime change became the West’s policy, and the civilian-protection mandate of R2P was its cover.
Proponents of the intervention in Libya often respond to such charges with a wink and a nod — as if we could all agree that the main utility of R2P was always to serve as a moral and political warrant for any humanitarian war they deemed necessary, whatever its legality. The fall of Qaddafi was a good thing, right? Another terrible dictator is felled, replaced by a regime committed to democracy; NATO has once more proved its value; and, unlike the U.S.- and British-led invasion of Iraq, the Libyan operation was genuinely multilateral. Win-win across the board.
R2P is a doctrine born of good intentions, but one of its great drawbacks is that it turns war into a form of police work writ large, guided by fables of moral innocence and righteousness. War, even when it is waged for a just cause and with scrupulous respect for international humanitarian law, always involves a descent into barbarism (think of the way Qaddafi died). This is why even when R2P is applied well, it carries moral risks. And when it is distorted, as it was by NATO in Libya, R2P is not a needed reform to the international system, but a threat to its legitimacy.
When R2P supporters advocated the doctrine before the U.N. in the middle of the last decade, they emphasized its nonmilitary aspects and insisted that the use of force would be a rare last resort. Yet in Libya force almost immediately followed the ultimatums issued to Qaddafi; for all intents and purposes, R2P was NATO-ized. As a result, everywhere outside Western Europe and North America, R2P is losing what little ethical credibility it ever commanded.
This should surprise no one. A doctrine of intervention that both claims the moral high ground and clamors its universality but under which the interveners are always from the Global North and the intervened upon always from the Global South is not moral progress; it is geopolitical business as usual.
Last month, while officials in Paris, London, and Washington were congratulating one another for a job well done in Libya, in the U.N. Security Council, China and Russia were vetoing, and Brazil and India were abstaining from, the imposition of far milder, nonmilitary sanctions against Syria. Clearly, no R2P-based, Libya-like interventions will get sanction from the U.N. in the foreseeable future.
One would never know it from all the victory talk in the West, but instead of strengthening R2P as a new global norm, the NATO intervention in Libya may well serve as its high water mark.
Full article available here.
1. Policy Brief: The Lord’s Resistance Army and the Responsibility to Protect
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
9 November 2011
· The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has committed crimes against humanity across central Africa for more than two decades posing a grave threat to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
· Regional governments, with the assistance of the international community, have a responsibility to protect populations from this threat and to take action to prevent and halt the crimes committed by the LRA
· Recent international efforts to confront the threat posed by the LRA, including African Union and UN Security Council engagement as well as the deployment of military advisors by the United States, are a positive development.
· Engagement must be sustained until the threat is removed. This requires improved efforts to protect civilians, capture senior LRA commanders, and entice low and mid-level fighters to leave the group through disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration programs (DDRRR).
This brief seeks to clarify how the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) applies to the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and examines the measures that should be taken by regional governments, the African Union (AU), donor governments and the UN Security Council in order to protect populations under threat.
Since 2008 the LRA, a non-state armed group operating across a wide region of central Africa, has been responsible for the deaths of more than 2,300 people. In the first eight months of 2011 alone the LRA launched an estimated 240 attacks in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, killing 130 people and abducting 327 more. The LRA has terrorized communities through these attacks and their brutal tactics, which include the deliberate maiming of civilians and forcing child abductees to kill their families. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes in fear of the LRA, leaving an estimated 440,000 people displaced.
The crimes perpetrated by the LRA rise to the level of crimes against humanity, one of the four crimes United Nations (UN) member states committed themselves to protect populations from when they adopted the Responsibility to Protect in 2005. Since the LRA formed two decades ago, regional governments, with assistance from the UN and its member states, have taken steps aimed at ending the threat posed by the group. However, such steps have been insufficient and populations continue to be at risk with LRA attacks taking place on an almost daily basis. (…)
Read the full Policy Brief
1. Arab leaders shouldn’t kill their people?
11 November 2011
The Arab League is today considering the demand by the Syrian National Council, human rights organizations and a wide array of other actors that it freeze Syria's membership over its killing of civilians. Few expect that the Arab League will seriously affect the Assad regime's behavior. But the very fact that it is even considering such a move is frankly astonishing. Since when do Arab leaders agree that a regime's legitimacy can be forfeit if it kills too many of its own people?
The rapid spread of a new norm against Arab regimes killing their own people is a frankly astonishing, but largely unremarked, change in the regional game. Since the Arab League backed the UN intervention in Libya in March, the idea that regimes might be sanctioned for their domestic brutality has become a normal part of the Arab political debate and enshrined in official Arab League resolutions. Both the GCC's political transition plan for Yemen and this month's Arab League peace plan for Syria condemned regimes for their violence and called for far reaching political changes. They haven't stopped the violence. But the idea that they should is something genuinely new -- and has major implications beyond the immediate outcome in either country. (…)
What explains the embrace of this new norm, then? I doubt that the Arab leaders thought they were setting a precedent which might be used against them. I wouldn't doubt that the Saudis and Qataris were just motivated by personal animosity towards the Libyan leader, or hoping to pursue their regional ambitions at Libya's expense. It's possible that many Arab leaders simply hoped to distract Western attention from their own repression by pointing the international community towards North Africa. They may have been confident that such norms would only be wielded against those outside of the West's alliance structure -- Libya and Syria, sure, but not Saudi Arabia or Jordan. But whatever their intent, the Libyan intervention has established a new normative framework and language of political contestation in Arab politics which is driving the regional agenda. Its use now in Syria suggests that this will not be easily controlled or set aside.
The new norm has traction at multiple levels. Arab public sphere is filled with complaints at various levels against the repressive acts of almost every sitting government, any of which could in principle be taken up by concerned outsiders. NGOs, youth activists, and activist media from independent websites and newspapers to al-Jazeera have all for many years devoted their energies to shining a harsh spotlight on human rights abuses. International organizations and NGOs such as Human Rights Watch have been empowered to demand the consistent application of the norms used. The relentless barrage of graphic videos documenting the brutality, circulated over the internet and routinely broadcast on al-Jazeera, makes the violence visceral and undeniable. Now, any one of these leaders who signed on to the revocation of legitimacy from Qaddafi, Assad or Saleh can be called to account if he unleashes military force on his own people. (…)
The simple fact that both popular and official Arab political discourse now begins from the premise that domestically violent regimes should be sanctioned or even removed from power has already significantly changed the game of Arab politics.
Obviously this has not deterred Assad or Saleh from unleashing the hounds of war. But it has fundamentally and undeniably changed the regional and international response to those decisions -- raising the political costs, shaping media coverage, giving meaning to the public's revulsion, guiding the strategy of opposition movements. It has introduced into the strategic equation the potential (though of course not certainty) of novel responses such as International Criminal Court indictments, UN-backed sanctions, the freezing of Arab League membership, or even military intervention. The possibility that calls by the Syrian National Council or by Yemeni human rights activists for Arab and international protection might just be answered changes everyone's strategic calculations.
Beyond the specifically Arab dynamics, the Libya intervention, the Obama administration's rhetoric, and the new international discourse on the Responsibility to Protect clearly also matter. UN Resolution 1973 gave a clear international mandate for the NATO intervention in Libya, even if many complain that it was then stretched to include regime change and military support operations not found in the original mandate. That mandate was rooted in the controversial but increasingly robust discourse of the Responsibility to Protect. This remains the subject of bitter debate, of course, with many critics complaining that RTP represents thinly veiled imperialism or that it actually encourages more civil conflict.
This perspective would place the demonstration effects and the strengthening of global norms against impunity as a core component of the strategic and normative logic of the Libya intervention. Beyond the immediate, and worthy, goal of saving Libyan lives, the architects of the intervention likely hoped to deepen and strengthen the global norm against impunity. That means taking the lesson of Libya and applying it broadly to other cases in the region and around the world. Thus Obama's statement that Assad, like Qaddafi before him, had lost legitimacy could not force the Syrian President from power but did reinforce this evolving norm.
This shouldn't be seen as a happy ending, of course. The fact is that these international norms continue to be flouted. The body count in Syria is growing every day. The Yemeni stalemate shows no signs of breaking. Bahrain is mostly out of the news. The Arab League, the UN, and all other international actors are struggling to find any effective course of action. But nor should this be seen as a simple failure. It matters that both Arab publics and Arab leaders now work from the shared rhetorical principle that regimes which kill too many of their own people should forfeit their legitimacy. That unheralded normative evolution should be recognized and applauded. It should be strengthened by taking serious steps to enforce it, and by applying it in an even-handed fashion. (…)
Read the entire article.
2. The Responsibility to Protect 10 Years On: Reflections on Its Past, Present and Future
Centre for International Policy Studies
4 November 2011, 1:30 PM
The Centre for International Policy Studies and the Ottawa Graduate School of Public and International Affairs organized an event on 4 November 2011 at the University of Ottawa. Participants included former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy and Parliamentary Secretary to Canada’s Minister of Defence Chris Alexander. This event was moderated by Lyse Doucet, presenter and foreign correspondent for BBC World Service Radio and BBC World TV.
The idea of a “responsibility to protect” was first introduced in November 2001 by the Canadian-sponsored International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. Endorsed in 2005 by UN member states, the notion that the UN Security Council should authorise action to prevent mass atrocities in states that are unable or unwilling to do so, continues to generate controversy. To its supporters, it as an essential tool of last resort, and underpins a moral appeal that we cannot be passive onlookers in the face of genocide and crimes against humanity. To its detractors, it risks being misused by great powers to legitimate otherwise dubious or even unlawful interventions.
In the wake of the UN Security Council authorised use of force by NATO in Libya, are we to judge R2P a success? Is the doctrine being applied in ways that those who originated and pushed the concept expected? What of the cases where atrocities continue and no action is possible? Looking ahead, will the use of R2P in Libya strengthen – or weaken – the resolve of the international community to act?
1. ISS Seminar, Pretoria: The Norm of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) after Libya
Institute for Security Studies
ISS Conference Room Block C, Brooklyn Court
361 Veale Street
New Muckleneuk, South Africa
10:00 AM-12:30 PM, 17 November 2011
Dr Jakkie Cilliers, Executive Director at the Institute for Security Studies, will chair the event, and Dr. Ramesh Thakur, Professor of International Relations at Australian National University will be the key speaker.
Since the Treaty of Westphalia, sovereignty has been backed by the norm of nonintervention. By contrast, the responsibility to protect (R2P) strikes a balance between unauthorised unilateral interventions and institutionalised indifference. With a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya in early 2011, the United Nations authorised the use of force to protect an apprehended imminent slaughter of civilians but prohibited taking sides in the internal civil war, intervening with ground troops, or effecting forcible regime change. The record of NATO actions in Libya mark a triumph for R2P but also raise questions about how to prevent the abuse of UN authority to use international force for purposes beyond human protection.
Register for this event
2. International Conference: Strengthening Global Peace and Security for Development
Hosted by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC)
SEGIB Secretaría General Iberoamericana
Paseo de Recoletos, 8
28001 Madrid, Spain
15-16 November 2011
Excerpt from concept note and summary of the event:
Current challenges to peace, security and development worldwide require a global collective and collaborative approach involving not only state actors but all stakeholders in society. It is in this context that the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) are joining efforts to launch the first global conference ¨Strengthening Global Peace and Security for Development: The Role of Regional International Organizations and Civil Society,¨ to be held in Madrid, Spain, on November 15th and 16th.
This event will bring together representatives of Regional Intergovernmental Organizations (RIGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), private sector representatives and think-tanks worldwide to exchange experiences and best practices and reflect on how strategic partnerships and innovative cooperation mechanisms among different stakeholders can be strengthened to achieve greater peace, stability and prosperity around the world.
The exchange during the meeting is defined as a contribution to the global peacebuilding architecture. It is expected that this event contributes to the establishment of a community of practice and knowledge sharing on peace and security issues among key stakeholders, creating a forum for further exchanges aimed at enhancing the necessary connections of a regional level of intervention with global as well as local levels of engagement.
This event will be streamed live via webcast.
The agenda will include the following issues:
-Information gathering and early warning
-RIGOs and CSOs: Complementing capacities for joint analysis
-Preventive Action: Best Practices (From early warning to early response)
-Peace by all means: RIGOs, CSOs and Multi-track diplomacy
-Mobilizing political support: joint advocacy for peace
-Development of structured RIGOs-CSOs partnerships
-Enhancing cooperation amongst regional organizations (cases could include EU-African Union cooperation for peace and security)
-RIGOs, CSOs and R2P
-Corporate Social Responsibility and Peacebuilding
(…) The relevance and opportunity of this event is of even greater importance considering two recent consultation processes held by the UN. The first one called by the UN General Assembly on the crucial role to be played by RIGOs in the implementation of the emerging international norm on the Responsibility to Protect, R2P. In the report by the UN Secretary General on Early Warning, Assessment and the Responsibility to Protect, issued on July 14th, 2010, it is highlighted that 'the political dialogue on how best to implement the responsibility to protect is off to a good start, although a number of critical implementation issues will require a continuing conversation among the Member States, the United Nations system and civil society organizations.' In this regard, in July 2011 the UN organized an informal interactive dialogue on R2P which addressed the role of regional and sub-regional organizations in implementing the responsibility to protect. (…)
Follow the live webcast, find out more information or contact Darynell Rodriguez Torres, Programme Manager Policy and Advocacy, GPPAC.