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The Human Rights Council’s role in supporting the practical implementation of the Responsibility to Protect
Responsibility to Protect: Panel Event
Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
19 June 2012

The permanent missions to the United Nations in Geneva of Hungary, Nigeria, Thailand, Uruguay, and the United States organized a side event in Human Rights Council on the Responsibility to Protect in the margins of the 20th session, featuring an expert panel and an interactive dialogue. The panelists included Edward Luck, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, José Luis Cancela, General Martin Luther Agwai CFR, and Csaba Törő.

The High Commissioner recalled that at the World Summit of 2005, the Heads of States and Government solemnly recognised that every State, and the international community as a whole, had the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. (…)
The High Commissioner stressed that having to react to past or on-going atrocities implied that there had already been a failure to protect. The most effective way to implement the Responsibility to Protect lay in the prevention of relevant violations and crimes before they occurred. It was at this stage that the Council could be most effective. (…)

Professor Evans noted that there were crucial differences between R2P and the ‘right of humanitarian intervention’, and it was a fundamental mistake to maintain, as some still did, that R2P was no more than ‘old humanitarian intervention wine in a new bottle’. (…)

Professor Evans considered that Brazil had made a major contribution to that debate with its advocacy of a new concept of ‘Responsibility While Protecting’ (RWP). The idea was not abandon the concept of R2P, but to recognize that, if consensus was to be reached again on difficult cases, there needed to be a fundamental change in the way the Security Council debated and then subsequently implemented such mandates: in particular, by allowing serious continuing debate on their scope and limits (…)

General Martin Agwai noted that it had been ten years since the African Union included Article 4(h) in the Constitutive Act of the African Union, enshrining the right of the Union to intervene in a Member State in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Responsibility to Protect had generated a lot of controversy. Some saw it as a norm, not a law. Some saw it as a concept, not a policy. In any event, the current global situation made R2P important and implementable. There had been situations raising issues about early warnings, economic sanctions, mediation, and other avenues for dealing with mass atrocities. (…)

Dr Törő noted that the absence of more exact formulation of the ‘responsibilities to prevent’: namely, advice and assistance, warning and pressure, in the 2005 World Summit outcome left its definition to be developed in subsequent practice. Dr Törő considered that the interpretation and coherent treatment of situations to remind States of their responsibility to protect as an eminent and unequivocal human rights emergency enabled the international community to define the contours and content of national responsibilities with more clarity in terms of international human rights obligations.

See summary of the event.


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