Category Archives: Libya

FEATURE: Civil Society Reflects on Challenges for RtoP Post-Libya

To better understand the challenges posed for RtoP in the aftermath of the UN-mandated, NATO-led operation in Libya, we asked a few ICRtoP Member organizations from throughout the world to reflect and provide insight on the following questions:

  • Was the UN-mandated, NATO-led operation in Libya a step forward or a setback for the norm? What implications – positive and/or negative – does the Libya operation carry for RtoP moving forward?
  • What are the responsibilities of the international community as Libya transitions into the post-Gaddafi era? Despite the ending of the NATO mandate in Libya, should the international community continue to play a role in civilian protection?
  • Through an RtoP lens, what lessons can be learned from Libya for future cases where international action – whether non-coercive or coercive – is necessary to protect civilians?

The enlightening responses we received drew on the individual expertise of these ICRtoP Members, and brought in unique regional perspectives as well. Members who contributed were:

Rachel Gerber, Program Officer at The Stanley Foundation

Gus Miclat, Executive Director of Initiatives for International Dialogues

Robert Schütte, President of Genocide Alert

Jillian Siskind, President of Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights

Sarah Teitt, Outreach Director and China Programme Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Dr. Robert Zuber of Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict

The full post, “Civil Society Reflects on RtoP Post-Libya“, includes our review of the international response to the situation and analysis on its implications for RtoP, as well as the reflections on the challenges for the norm post-Libya by the individuals above.

We have also published a piece to mark the one-year anniversary of the first protests in Libya, which discusses the difficulties of the transition into the post-Gaddafi era.

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Filed under African Union, Arab League, CivSoc, Gulf Cooperation Council, Human Rights, International Criminal Court, Libya, National Transitional Council, Post-Conflict, Regional Orgs, RtoP, Security Council, Syria, UN

Libya, One Year On: National Transitional Council Struggles with Revolutionary Change

The one-year anniversary of the first protests in Libya was marked on 17 February 2012. Spurred on by the arrest of a human rights campaigner and emboldened by protests sweeping the Arab world, citizens in the eastern Libyan town of Benghazi hit the streets in a “Day of Rage” exactly one year ago in protest of the now-deceased Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year rule.

Like Tunisia and Egypt before it, protests spread like wildfire across Libya, with Benghazi becoming the de facto stronghold of the opposition to the Gaddafi regime. As they spread, the crackdown by the Gaddafi regime became more ruthless.

The Libyan leader broadcasted his clear intent to commit further widespread human rights violations in a 22 February 2011 speech, calling on his supporters to attack the protesting “cockroaches”, and urging them to “cleanse Libya house by house” until they surrendered.

The international community responded in an unprecedented manner with a range of measures within the framework of the Responsibility to Protect, imposing sweeping diplomatic and other non-coercive measures at the national, regional, and international levels.

Civil society was quick to label Libya an RtoP situation, with a number of organizations calling for decisive action to prevent atrocities against civilians.

Individual states enacted sanctions, asset freezes, and travel bans. Regional organizations such as the League of Arab States (LAS), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the African Union appealed for restraint, with the European Union enacting sweeping sanctions.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) imposed an arms embargo, travel ban, and assets freeze, while also referring the situation to the International Criminal Court through the unanimous adoption of UNSC Resolution 1970. The UN General Assembly suspended Libya from the Human Rights Council, after the Geneva-based body requested such an action be taken.

As the situation deteriorated further, the LAS and the Gulf Cooperation Council called for more robust measures to be adopted. The regime remained unfazed, intent on committing further atrocities.

With sweeping non-coercive measures failing to bring an end to the crackdown, on 17 March 2011, exactly one month after the first protest erupted, the UNSC passed Resolution 1973, which authorized “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians. A Coalition of international states, led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), moved to quickly enforce the mandate on 19 March 2011.

The decision was another benchmark for RtoP, as it was the first time the Council had mandated the use of force to protect civilians from one or more of the four crimes under the norm’s framework.

Seven months later, after a protracted civil war with devastating consequences for civilians and combatants, Gaddafi was captured and killed on 20 October 2011 by rebel forces, with assistance from NATO airpower. The dictator’s shocking demise spurred the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International to raise suspicions that a war crime was committed.

It was a violent end to the old Libya, and a turbulent beginning to the new era.

Insecurity, Lawlessness Prevail

As Libyans celebrated an end to the Gaddafi era, Mahmoud Jibril, the former leader of Libya’s now-provisionally-ruling National Transitional Council (NTC), hailed Gaddafi’s death as an end to “all the evils” in his country.

One year on however, evil has not vanished from Libya. Instead, insecurity and lawlessness prevail, and a number of high-profile civil society organizations have documented allegations of widespread human rights violations by Libya’s revolutionaries.

According to a 16 February report by Amnesty International (AI), hundreds of armed and “out of control” militias threaten Libya’s transition in the post-Gaddafi era, which the provisional NTC has been unable to rein in.

Running street battles often break out between the militias, terrifying and threatening civilians. Revenge attacks and discrimination against known or suspected Gaddafi supporters, as documented by ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a 22 January report, are commonplace. Clashes between rival militias have erupted in the southeast, and despite NTC forces intervening, have continued. The violence is fueled by easy access to weapons stockpiles, some of which have slipped across Libya’s borders into neighbouring countries.

Impunity also reigns. These “out of control” militias, along with some NTC-affiliated military and security entities, have allegedly engaged in ill-treatment, torture, and killings of detainees. Lacking an effective judicial system, these alleged crimes have largely gone unpunished in the new Libya.

Detention in these conditions persists for thousands, mostly in centres that are controlled by militias independent of the ruling NTC. A 16 February report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) indicated that 8,500 detainees remain in custody in over 60 separate places of detention, most of which are under the control of different authorities.

Detention centres in Misrata were appalling enough to cause Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to suspend their work in the prisons on 26 January. In a press release, MSF stated that officials from Misrata-based militias that ran the detention centres frequently subjected detainees to torture and denied them medical care. Furthermore, members of MSF staff were repeatedly brought detainees in the middle of an interrogation to be given medical care so that they could be questioned further.

At a UNSC briefing on 25 January, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stated that the lack of central oversight “creates an environment conducive to torture and ill-treatment”, and urged the detention centres to be brought under the control of the Ministry of Justice. However, while the NTC has reportedly assumed custody of more detainees, the reports of AI, HRW, and MSF highlight the continued risk of torture and other human rights violations in post-Gaddafi Libya.

Despite this, there are glimmers of progress. The citizens of Misrata held Libya’s first real exercise in democracy in 42 years by going to the polls on 20 February to elect a new City Council. The NTC has also vowed for elections in June, along with drafting a new constitution, although no date has been set. These gains are threatened by the fact that Libya’s revolution cities, like Misrata, are outpacing the NTC with reforms and forming nearly autonomous city-states.

Reports emerging from Libya in the first months of 2012 are certainly troubling. The struggle to establish security in the new Libya after an eight-month civil war has been compounded by an equally difficult struggle to ensure that human rights are protected, the rule of law is built and respected, and reconciliation is pursued.

Moving forward, the country’s authorities, along with partners at the international, regional, and national levels, must work together to ensure both peace and justice as Libya rebuilds. Such a challenge may prove as a great a test for RtoP as its implementation in response to the crackdown nearly one year ago; however only then will the responsibility to protect truly be upheld in the post-Gaddafi era.


Filed under African Union, Arab League, Human Rights, International Criminal Court, Libya, National Transitional Council, Post-Conflict, Prevention, Regional Orgs, RtoP, UN

Practitioners and Academics Assess RtoP From 2001-2022 at R2P: The Next Decade

On January 18th, the Stanley Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York and MacArthur Foundation hosted a conference that brought together practitioners from all levels and academics to discuss the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) for its tenth anniversary.

A star-studded cast of panelists addressed the attendees, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Prosecutor-elect of the ICC Fatou Bensouda, Under-Secretary General (USG) for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe, USG for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous, USG, Executive Director of UN Women Michele Bachelet, and Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic. Civil society was also well-represented among the panelists, including Louise Arbour, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group, Noel Morada, Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect – both ICRtoP members – and Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

Marking the tenth anniversary of the publication of the ICISS report, the conference was a significant and timely review of the past, present and future of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). With the recent situations in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya, the conference served as an important forum to discuss, debate and better understand the ‘lessons learned’ from the manner in which the international community responded to those situations. R2P: The Next Decade was also an honest forum for reflection on the implications of the above situations for the norm moving forward, particularly with the ongoing violence in the Sudans and Syria.  The conference was live-streamed on, and was live-tweeted by a number of organizations and individuals (including ICRtoP) on the #R2P10 hashtag.

In this post, we walk you through the major themes discussed at R2P: The Next Decade, featuring important commentary from the panelists, and links to videos and tweets. For more important thoughts from those live-tweeting the conference, see our Tweeting R2P: The Next Decade post.

Debate on RtoP’s ‘Added-Value’ 

Important points were raised regarding the norm’s added-value from 2001 onwards, particularly  in mustering the political will and resources from the international community to respond to the situations where one or more of the four RtoP crimes are threatened or have been committed. RtoP scholar and University of Queensland Professor Alex Bellamy argued at the panel on R2P as a Tool – Indentifying Past and Potential Added Value that the norm has fundamentally changed the international debate from no longer focusing on ‘whether to act, but how to act.’

At the same panel, Ramesh Thakur, a former member of ICISS, responded to questions regarding the pedigree of the norm by raising the important point that ‘RtoP as a ‘northern concept’ is not correct…the protection of peoples is reflected within a diverse array of cultures and religions’.

In a debate that erupted at the same panel on the norm’s status as a ‘tool’ or a ‘principle’, Dr. Ed Luck, the Secretary-General’s Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, refuted the idea that RtoP is a tool, stating that ‘tools are used whenever it is handy’ and ‘can serve other agendas’. Instead, Dr. Luck asserted that ‘RtoP is a principle with a number of tools at its disposal’ to respond to very different situations.

At the final panel of the day – R2P in 2022Hervé Ladsous, the USG for Peacekeeping Operations, echoed the call of the Secretary-General to make 2012 the ‘year of prevention’ by stressing the importance of ensuring national governments possess the capacities to prevent the four RtoP crimes from occurring, consistent with RtoP’s 1st pillar.

In bringing practitioners and academics together, R2P: The Next Decade was an enlightening and honest forum for debate and discussion on the norm itself, leaving attendees with a more holistic picture of its formation, it’s implementation, and its added-value. The day ended in with what MacArthur Foundation Senior Vice President Barry Lowenkron called ‘sober optimism’: A recognition of the progress that has been made with RtoP, the great potential for the norm’s future, but an awareness of the challenges that RtoP supporters faced in realizing that potential. In short, echoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, everyone at the conference was left knowing that while much work is to be done, RtoP is indeed ‘here to stay’.

The ICC: A Viable Tool in the RtoP Framework

Prosecutor-elect of the ICC Fatou Bensouda offered her insight on the relationship between the Responsibility to Protect and the International Criminal Court (a topic we’ll be exploring further on this blog, so follow this site). Speaking at the final panel, R2P in 2022 , Bensouda suggested that ‘holding leaders accountable for RtoP crimes will have a deterrent effect on others who may be considering their commission’. As such, the incoming Prosecutor was firm in asserting that the ICC was a viable tool in the RtoP framework.

Important questions were raised at the panel on R2P as a Tool – Indentifying Past and Potential Added Value chaired by Louise Arbour, the President and CEO of the International Crisis Group. Arbour raised concerns about the Court’s relationship with the UN Security Council, particularly the Council’s power to refer situations to the ICC despite the fact that three veto-wielding permanent members – the United States, Russia and China – have not ratified the Rome Statute. The International Crisis Group President also worried about the efficacy of ICC referrals in the midst of hostilities in country-specific situations. Luck shared Arbour’s concerns, but responded by asserting the importance of the ICC ‘as one of the few tools we have to remind leaders of accountability for the commitment of RtoP crimes’.

The lively debate on the relationship of the RtoP and the ICC was an important theme at the conference, and attendees left with compelling points to consider how the ICC fits into RtoP framework and its role in preventing and responding to the four RtoP crimes.

The Role of Regional and Sub-Regional Organizations

The role of regional and sub-regional organizations in the RtoP framework was discussed at length at the conference, particularly regarding their ability to confer legitimacy to the international community’s efforts to respond to country-specific situations.

While touting their preventive and response potential, Francis Deng, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, noted the need to build and strengthen the capacities of regional and sub-regional organizations in order to implement RtoP, stating, ‘While there is a lot to be said for regional organizations, there are weaknesses with their capacities even if they offer legitimacy’. This was a common thread in last year’s General Assembly informal interactive dialogue on RtoP, which explored the role of regional and sub-regional organizations. For more information please see our report.

Liberata Mulamula, Former Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), stressed how RtoP had been brought ‘home’  by the sub-regional organization at R2P – Policy Approaches Since 2005 in DRC, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, and Libya, which has been a significant factor in how engaged the ICGLR has been on the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities.

At the same panel, Knut Vollebaek, the High Commissioner on National Minorities for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), indicated that while the European body does not directly use RtoP language in its work, he believed that it is ripe for institutionalizing the norm.

Civil Society’s Importance in the RtoP Framework

There was widespread agreement at R2P: The Next Decade of the critical role that can be played by civil society in upholding the RtoP. The involvement of the International Crisis Group, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, and a number of academics confirmed the importance of civil society in furthering the global discourse on the norm in all regions.

In his keynote address, the Secretary-General noted the importance of civil society in stating that the four RtoP crimes are unlikely to occur where ‘civil society is robust’. The Secretary-General also affirmed the importance of the United Nations working in collaboration with civil society even in times of crisis, highlighting the role that civil society organizations can play in mitigating violence in both Syria and South Sudan.

In calling for 2012 to be the ‘year of prevention’, the Secretary-General clearly sees an important role for civil society in the RtoP preventive framework, which was echoed by speakers in a number of different conference panels.

On Libya and Syria

Libya was a major topic of discussion at R2P: The Next Decade, with most speakers offering their insights on the response of the international community to the situation and its implications moving forward, especially in Syria. An article from Mark L. Goldberg at UN Dispatch sums up the discussion at the conference well:

As Gareth Evans, the former Australian foreign minister who is one of the intellectual fathers of the Responsibility to Protect put it, “Libya is a textbook case for the application of the R2P.” He’s right. The intervention happened quickly, helped avoid a potential mass atrocity in Benghazi, and had the formal backing of the Security Council.  This is pretty much how it is supposed to work.

But success in Libya may have come at the expense of intervention (even non-military intervention) in Syria. NATO’s interpretation of the Security Council mandate helped it achieve its goals with efficiency, but it poisoned any chance that the Security Council would coalesce around R2P when a future crisis arose.

“Syria is the collateral victim of Libya the same way that Rwanda was the collateral victim of Somalia,” said Jean Marie Guehenno, the longtime head of UN Peacekeeping.  In other words, just as the Black Hawk Down made western powers wary of even contemplating a humanitarian intervention in Rwanda three years later, the steamrolling of non-western interests in the execution of the Libyan intervention is coloring Russia, China other non-western powers’ approach to Syria.  

This was reflected in the comments made by Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Hardeep Singh Puri, in the aftermath of the Secretary General’s keynote to the conference, who questioned whether the international had to ‘step in through the use of coercive force’. The Ambassador would later share his thoughts on RtoP and the situation in Libya in an interview with the Stanley Foundation.

Despite the Secretary-General’s pleas to the regime of Bashar al-Assad to cease it’s crackdown against civilian protesters, expressed in this tweet, a consensus seemed to emerge at R2P: The Next Decade that the manner in which Resolution 1973 was implemented will be a deterrent to more robust action on behalf of the Security Council.

Focus on Brazil’s ‘Responsibility While Protecting’

Another theme of conversation at R2P: The Next Decade was Brazil’s ‘responsibility while protecting’ (RwP) concept, which it has officially circulated to the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly.

Brazil’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, was a speaker for the R2P in 2022 panel, and explored the concept further, stating that Libya was a ‘defining moment’ that informed RwP’s elaboration. While she recognized that ‘stronger measures were necessary’ to send a message to the Gaddafi regime to cease violence against protesters, the Brazilian mission felt that the Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 1973 authorized a ‘blank cheque with no control over what was to be done or who was to do it’ in Libya. Ambassador Viotti also expressed the fact that her country, along with others at the Council, felt ‘in the dark’ with regards to the Libya operation.

As a direct result, the Brazilian President, Dilma Roussef, elaborated the need for ‘responsibility while protecting’ at the opening of the 66th session of the General Assembly, which Ambassador Viotti expressed was to show ‘how important our concerns with Libya were’. As evident in her segment of the final panel, Brazil’s objective with its ‘responsibility while protecting’ concept, is to reassess the manner in which the use of force is employed to protect civilians. This is particularly timely as the General Assembly is set to discuss the 3rd pillar of RtoP – timely and decisive action – in 2012.

Other speakers, including the UN Secretary-General, Gareth Evans, Dr. Ramesh Thakur and Dr. Ed Luck, offered their thoughts on Brazil’s RwP concept. The Secretary-General threw his full support behind the idea, but cautioned that the consideration of RwP must not lead to inaction:

‘Historically, our chief failing as an international community has been the reluctance to act in the face of serious threats. The results, too often, have been the loss of lives and credibility that haunt us ever-after. Let us not let the pendulum swing back to the past. Let us not make the best the enemy of the good.”

While supporting the RwP idea in principle, both Dr. Ed Luck and Gareth Evans were cautious about Brazil’s desire to sequence the pillars of RtoP in responding to any particular country-specific situation. Luck asserted that RtoP’s pillars ‘are parallel’ and that the international community must be preparing for contingencies through all three at local, regional and global levels. Evans firmly echoed this by stating that the danger of the Brazilian initiative was its emphasis on the need for the pillars to be chronological, which he said ‘cannot be the case’. In the question period to the final panel, Lt. Gen (Ret’d) Senator Romeo Dallaire raised concerns that Brazil’s RwP would lead to a ‘dissecting of RtoP to death’ that might lead to inaction in country-specific cases.

Nonetheless, the attention given to Brazil’s RwP concept at R2P: The Next Decade provides a fairly certain forecast that it will motivate reflection during the General Assembly’s informal interactive dialogue on RtoP’s 3rd pillar this year, and be integral to the norm’s development moving into the next decade.

Resources & Further Reading

R2P: The Next Decade

Keynote and Panel Discussion Videos

Interview with Lt. Gen (Ret’d) Senator Romeo Dallaire on RtoP at 10

Interview with Dr. Michael Ignatieff on RtoP at 10

ICRtoP – Tweeting R2P: The Next Decade

Enough Project – 10 Years of the Responsibility to Protect: A Glimpse at Sudan

The Century Foundation Blog – Syria Post-Libya: Testing RtoP

Our congratulations and sincere thanks to the three sponsors for organizing and hosting R2P: The Next Decade.


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Filed under CivSoc, Event, Libya, Prevention, Regional Orgs, RtoP, Syria, UN

Tweeting R2P: The Next Decade

R2P: The Next Decade, a conference hosted by the Stanley Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the MacArthur Foundation on January 18th, was live-streamed and live-tweeted on the #R2P10 hashtag. Individuals and organizations came together on the micro-blogging site to follow the event, share important comments from panelists, and offer their insight on the topics discussed. This post features some important tweets from some of those who followed the discussion online with us.

The Stanley Foundation tweeted important points from the Secretary-General’s keynote address, ICC Prosecutor-elect Fatou Bensouda’s thoughts on the relationship between RtoP and the ICC and comments from the Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, on the role of women and children in the RtoP framework:

@StanleyFound: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: We can now say with confidence that this fundamental principle, #R2P, is here to stay. #R2P10

@StanleyFound: SG Ban: We embrace #R2P not because it is easy, but because it is right. #R2P10

@StanleyFound: Fatou Bensouda, ICC Prosecutor-Elect: The ICC should be seen as a tool in the #R2P toolbox. #R2P10

@StanleyFound: Wallstrom: We can’t think about operationalizing #R2P without thinking about what that means, in practice, for women and children. #R2P10

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect tweeted the concerns of the Secretary-General in carrying out UN mandates without sufficient resources, the insights of Dr. Ramesh Thakur on RtoP, and OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Ambassador Knut Vollebaek’s comments on the need for greater collaboration with regional organizations.

@GCR2P: #UNSG -key challenge is how do we do our job? how do we deliver on #UNSC mandates when members do not give us the resources we need? #R2P10

@GCR2P: Thakur at #R2P10: #R2P is a “bridging device” between unilateral humanitarian action and international indifference

@GCR2P: Knut Vollebaek at #R2P10 – discusses need for greater coordination between UN and regional organizations in responding to #R2P situations

Kirsten Hagon of Oxfam International, tweeted the fears raised by International Crisis Group President and CEO Louise Arbour of protecting civilians in war and by war.

@KirstenOxUN: Louise Arbour raises fear: central pillar of IHL is to protect civilians in war, new cause of war is to protect civilians BY war. #r2p10

Kyle Matthews, Will to Intervene Project (W2I), tweeted Dr. Noel Morada’s (Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, an ICRtoP member) statements on civil society’s role in the RtoP framework and the need to expand the number of countries with legislators working on RtoP at the domestic level.

@kylecmatthews: Civil society has a big role to play in R2P, especially in training govt officials and advocacy, says Noel Morada #R2P10

@kylecmatthews: Only 2 countries have groups of legislators working on R2P, Canada and UK. Need to expand that number. #R2P10 @W2IProject

Rebecca Hamilton, Reuters, on Dr. Francis Deng, the Secretary General’s Advisor on Genocide Prevention, and his insight on societies where the four RtoP trigger crimes occur most frequently

@bechamilton: Deng: civilian protection problems often stem from societies that have a crisis of national identity, where minorities are excluded #R2P10

Mark Goldberg, UN Dispatch, tweeted the recurring discussion surrounding the implications of the UN-mandated, NATO-led operation in Libya, established by UN Resolution 1973.

@MarkLGoldberg: One big recurring theme is that the “success” of intervention in Libya has undermined any chance of Security Council action on Syria. #R2P10

Adam Lupel, International Peace Institute, tweeted Special Adviser on RtoP Dr. Ed Luck’s assertion that RtoP is not a tool that can used to serve other agendas and used when handy, but a principle to be applied with tools at its disposal.

@ALupel: #r2p10 Ed Luck: R2P is not a tool to be used when handy. It is a principle to be applied judiciously.

Jeffrey Laurenti, The Century Foundation, tweeted about the Secretary General’s statements on the situation in Libya and Lt. Gen. (Ret’d) Senator Romeo Dallaire’s question to Brazil’s Permanent Representative at the UN regarding the ‘responsibility while protecting’ concept.

@J_Laurenti: At #R2P10 #BanKimoon says NATO mil action on #Libya was within terms of #UNSecCoun Reso 1973, acknowledges some don’t agree

@J_Laurenti: #Rwanda PK cmdr Roméo Dallaire warns @ #R2P10 that Brazil rules&restrictions on R2P would tie #UN in knots–so responses migrate elsewhere

Daniel Solomon, STAND USA, tweeted about comments made by Dr. Jennifer Welsh, Oxford Professor and co-Director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, on Kenya being the model case for RtoP.

@danatgu: Good pt from Welsh at #R2P10 on #Kenya‘s model for preventive diplomacy, non-coercive intervent’n. Seems like the real textbook case to me.

Evan Cinq-Mars, ICRtoP, tweeted about comments made from Dr. Ed Luck, Special Advisor to the Secretary-Gernal on RtoP, about how the norm offers a new strategy for the international community to implement existing international law.

@ecinqmars: Responding to @louise_arbour, Luck says #R2P is both political + legal. R2P offers strategy to implement existing international law. #R2P10

Editor’s note: The list of other tweets that reflected important topics of discussion from R2P: The Next Decade, and are meant to continue the discussion from the conference. They are in no particular order. The comments expressed in the tweets do not represent the views of the Secretariat of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, its Members or its NGO Supporters.

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Filed under CivSoc, Event, Libya, Prevention, Regional Orgs, RtoP, Syria, UN

e-IR Publishes Essay Collection on RtoP: Challenges and Opportunities In Light of the Libya Intervention

e-IR, an online international relations resource, published an online essay collection on 21 November on the challenges and opportunities for the responsibility to protect (RtoP) in light of the recent UN-mandated, NATO-led intervention in Libya. The collection of essays includes pieces by many notable RtoP experts, such as Thomas G. Weiss, Ramesh Thakur, Alex Bellamy, and Gareth Evans,  and features a wide range of perspectives on the norm in the context of the situation in Libya. The full collection (PDF version) can be accessed here.

The Responsibility to Protect: Challenges and Opportunities In Light of the Libya Intervention

“With contributions from many of the world’s most respected R2P experts and practitioners, this compendium of pieces from e-IR attempts to draw attention to the major points of contention that have been highlighted by the Libyan intervention.

The international community has a contentious history when it comes to preventing and halting mass atrocities. Throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, states largely failed to act according to their responsibilities as signatories of the 1948 Genocide Convention, ‘standing by’ time after time while civilians were targeted by their leaders, despite their declarations that such crimes must “never again” be allowed to happen.

It was only in 2001, under the shadow of shameful inaction during the Rwandan genocide and in light of the perceived success of the 1999 Kosovo intervention, that the international community was finally able to produce a comprehensive framework of policy tools designed to guide states towards preventing mass atrocities.

The Responsibility to Protect (often referred to as R2P or RtoP) aimed to halt atrocities as they occurred, and rebuild and reconstruct societies in the wake of such crimes. It represented the policy realization of the statement “never again”. Now a growing international relations, human rights and international security norm, R2P cuts to the core of what it means to be a moral player in the international arena.”

Written by Alex Stark, Assistant Editor of e-IR.

The online essay collection featured in this post was collected, edited, and published by e-IR. We’re featuring the collection as part of a publishing collaboration with e-IR on articles featured on their site that focus on RtoP. The views expressed by the authors featured in the essay collection do not necessarily represent the views of the Secretariat of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP), ICRtoP’s member organizations, or its NGO supporters.

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Accounting for the African Union (AU) Response to Libya: A Missed Opportunity?

Featuring commentary from several ICRtoP members

Going against the grain of international recognition of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), on August 26th the African Union (AU)  refused to recognize it as the legitimate governing authority of the country. Instead, the African body has instead called for an “inclusive dialogue” with all parties to the conflict, despite the fact that 20 of its members have already recognized the NTC.

This response marks a notable break among African states in the organization over how to best respond to rapidly unfolding developments in Libya.South Africa has led those who oppose the UN-mandated, NATO-led operation, adopting an openly confrontational position. President Jacob Zuma made the statement that the AU would not support the Libya rebels,  and his government also boycotted the recent Libya Contact Group meeting in Paris, refused to unfreeze assets for the NTC, and has criticizedNATO for the way in which the Libyan operation was carried out, calling for an International Criminal Court probe into alleged human rights violations.

South Africa is joined by others who continue to support Gaddafi and the AU’s response, including Zimbabwe, which promptly expelled Libya’s ambassador to the country when he stated he supported the rebel movement. Kenya has also continued to support an inclusive dialogue between members of the NTC and the Gaddafi regime, and has denied recognition of the NTC.

But ill-sentiments have not been limited to official government channels. Concerns with the implementation of resolution 1973 were recently aired in an open letter signed by over 200 “ordinary citizens” of Africa, including former government officials, academics, and artists, and among them former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki. A look at the introduction and conclusion encapsulates the letter’s message:

We, the undersigned, are ordinary citizens of Africa who are immensely pained and angered that fellow Africans are and have been subjected to the fury of war by foreign powers which have clearly repudiated the noble and very relevant vision enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. […] Those who have brought a deadly rain of bombs to Libya today should not delude themselves to believe that the apparent silence of the millions of Africans means that Africa approves of the campaign of death, destruction and domination which that rain represents.

What can explain all of this? What factors were at play in the AU’s response to Libya? Why has South Africa taken such an openly confrontational stance towards the mission? Has the African continent’s regional body and perhaps its most powerful member found themselves on the wrong side of history and missed an opportunity in Libya?

Looking for answers to these questions, we turned to some of our ICRtoP members on the African continent. Their responses were insightful, ranging from the lasting ties to Muammar Gaddafi to concerns over the nature and conduct of the Libyan operation.

In this post, we explore what they had to say, in addition to other recent commentary from journalistic and academic sources, including Reuters, Time Magazine, and the South African Institute for International Affairs, to get a better picture of the AU’s and South Africa’s response to Libya.

Gaddafi’s generosity, his pan-African vision, and history

As Dismas Nkunda, Co-Director of the International Refugee Initiative (IRRI) in Kampala, Uganda, and Steering Committee member of the ICRtoP, states, “Put simply, it’s about one person: Colonel Gaddafi.” And more simply still, the remaining support for Gaddafi is due to the fact that the ex-leader spread his country’s wealth across the continent:

The government of Libya had invested heavily in many African countries mainly in telecommunication, oil exploration, hotels, agriculture and infrastructure development in many countries; which means that there was no longer need to borrow from the World Bank or International Monetary Fund or indeed begging for loans from the big economic powers with the appendages that come with that.

Tito Byenkya, CEO of the East Africa Law Society in Arusha and also Steering Committee member of the ICRtoP, Tanzania, states that:

Gadaffi was one of the leading financiers of the AU, and a lot of the AU leaders would undoubtedly feel sympathy for him; and one would wonder why their clamour for democratic and pluralistic governance never saw the light of day whilst Gadaffi was still in absolute power in Libya.

But, as Nkunda notes, lingering support for Gaddafi may also extend beyond his invested riches to an affinity with his pan-African vision of solidarity and unity:

His vision for the United States of Africa, was indeed seen by many as the last attempt to rekindle the lost hope of Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah in the quest for a united Africa. It is believed therefore that the west “feared” what a united Africa, with its own currency, vast natural resources, large population and having one common voice could mean for the rest of the world…What if United States of Africa demanded at their own terms?  At the behest of Gaddafi, Africa was about to have Africa Monetary Fund and Africa Central Bank. And his country had the resources to invest heavily in making these financial head way come to fruition.

For South Africa, it’s also history that binds them to the Gaddafi regime. As Nkunda states, the historical connection between many in South Africa and Gaddafi provides a strong, continued link between the ruling-African National Congress (ANC) and the ex-leader of Libya:

When Nelson Mandela came out of prison, he went against all diplomatic and political pressures and visited Libya to thank Gaddafi for standing up against the apartheid regime and supported Africa National Congress.

But can the lucrative relationship with Gaddafi and a historical connection to his support explain the position adopted by a regional organization and enforced by one of its most powerful members? As we’ll see, other factors were at play.

Shunning AU initiatives, stepping over the boundaries of resolution 1973

South Africa’s critical turn against both NATO and the UN, and the subsequent AU decision to refuse recognition of the NTC, became entrenched when the AU road map for peace – a five-point plan led by South Africa, which called for an inclusive political dialogue between the NTC and the Gaddafi regime – was shunned by the Libyan rebels and the international community. Characterized  as “outdated”, the NTC rejected the AU road map on the basis that it did not reflect the demands of the Libyan people that Gaddafi and his sons completely relinquish power. Alan Boswell, the East Africa correspondent for Time Magazine, writes of the effects on the dismissal of the AU’s efforts:

South African President Jacob Zuma then spearheaded an AU effort to get the two sides in Libya to negotiate, but the international community largely ignored the efforts, and the NTC rejected his mediation as biased. “The rebels, encouraged by NATO, snubbed the African Union,” says Isakka Souare, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa. And now, the AU and Zuma are snubbing them back.

And, as Matthew Tostevin of Reuters notes:

For the African Union – and South Africa in particular – there was the embarrassment of seeing peace efforts (no matter how well intended) dismissed internationally while the rebels fought towards Tripoli under the NATO air cover which made their war possible.

In aftermath of this dismissal, Byenkya of the East Africa Law Society says that the conduct of the NATO operation can further explain why both the AU and South Africa have taken the stance that they have:

The African Union, just as the Arab league, was in support of the UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973…Unfortunately, it appears that the UN Security Council, on which South Africa sits, did not expressly detail the mode of operation of Resolution 1973, leaving it to the members and other continental bodies to determine how to implement it.  NATO then figures that protection of civilians also includes bombing of Gadaffi’s military depots and communication infrastructure; while France resorts to arming the insurgents who have decided to fight all the way to Tripoli…A number of countries that initially supported the resolution, including South Africa, took issue with this mode of implementation of the Resolution, insisting that it was outside the parameters of the Resolution, and effectively constituted facilitating a regime change in Libya..

And according to Nkunda, the manner in which resolution 1973 was implemented may have consequences for the perceptions of RtoP held in capitals on the African continent, and, by association, its various regional bodies and the African Union:

Africa has had the strongest proponents of R2P. As evidenced in the article 4h (of the AU Constitutive Act), it was a mile stone step that if not tinged with world politics and personalities was bound to make R2P become very relevant. But now it will take more convincing since the opponents of the norm will question the wisdom of giving the west a free hand of choosing where, when and how to intervene in any UN member state with or without the consent of the others.

It becomes clear then that the manner in which the international community reacted to the AU’s peace plan, largely championed by South Africa, and concerns held over the way in which resolution 1973 was implemented and pursued by the UN and NATO have factored into the way in which members of the regional body, in particular South Africa, have calculated their response the situation in Libya.

Concerns over regime security?

While the concerns expressed above are powerful in explaining the AU’s and South Africa’s response to the Libya, Nkunda raises an interesting point in his response to our questions, turning his analysis to the response of some other countries on the continent. He states:

There are those who believe that should Gaddafi go, then they are next in line, particularly those who have been longer in power than their constitutional welcome. They muse, “If the strong man Gaddafi can go; what will happen to us, we could be the next”. That is why countries such as Uganda, Congo, Zimbabwe are ready to dismiss the NATO led forces into Libya for they are not sure whence the same force could strike next.

And this fear, that popular revolt (and a potential for UN-mandated intervention to support them in the face of a heavy-handed response) may somehow spread to Sub-Saharan Africa, is certainly guiding some leaders who want to ensure their citizens do not imitate the Egyptians, Tunisians, and Libyans. Recent actions by the government of Uganda, which went as far as blocking a rally that supported the NTC, claiming that protests could trigger violence, are telling.

What role for the AU in Libya moving forward?

The African Union has categorically rejected any criticism that it has failed to help bring an end to Libya’s civil war. It has expressed a willingness to work with the NTC moving forward, and, despite South Africa’s boycott of the Paris Contact Group meeting, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, participated.

Given this, what role should the regional body play moving forward in Libya?

Regarding the African Union, Byenkya states that it must come around on its position towards the NTC and secure a position in post-conflict Libya:

The AU should work with the NTC to meet the constitutional and legal reform targets that it has set, but also ensure that all those persons complicit in rights violations on either side of the political divide in Libya are brought to book.

But he also wrote that the AU has bigger challenges confronting it, as evidenced by the manner in which it has responded to Libya:

The AU, as a continental intergovernmental organizational, has all the organs and mechanisms to effectively deal with conflict across the region…However, the response time of these institutions to governance and resource based conflicts across Africa seems at best belated, and wrought with political and other considerations…The AU should also examine whether its current institutional framework is attuned to the emerging global mechanisms on timely prevention of or accountability for human rights violations; and if it is in the negative, make the necessary amendments so it is to be perceived as being relevant.

Elizabeth Sidiropolous of the South African Institute of International Affairs makes a similar recommendation, and urges the African Union to act quickly in order to ensure continued and constructive involvement in post-Gaddafi Libya:

It should also recognise the TNC. Not doing so quickly will make it more irrelevant in the post-Gaddafi Libya and unable to play a meaningful role in pushing for, as its August 26 communiqué said, “an inclusive transitional government, the establishment of a constitutional and legislative framework for the democratic transformation of Libya… and the national reconciliation process”… If the AU does not take these actions now, its objections to its marginalisation will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now, we want to know what you think. Have the African Union and South Africa fallen on the wrong side of history and missed an opportunity in Libya? Or is the manner in which the regional body responded to the situation measured, given their concerns? Comment below and get the conversation started!

A special thanks to Dismas Nkunda and Tito Byenkya for their insights and assistance in bringing this post together.

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Weekly Round-Up: September 6-9

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During a press conference in Australia on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the world to act to protect Syrian protesters from the brutal crackdown by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The Secretary General stated:

In situations where a government cannot – or will not – protect its people, we have a common obligation to act. In cases such as genocide or crimes against humanity, we are called upon to exercise a responsibility to protect.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe stated on Wednesday that the Syrian regime has committed ‘grave crimes against humanity’, and that it could face further sanctions if it does not immediately change its course.

On the same day, military forces backed by tanks attacked the urban centre of Homs, reportedly killing at least 20 civilians. The Arab League was to send an envoy to express its concerns over the Assad regime’s crackdown on Wednesday, but the diplomatic move was delayed at the request of the Syrian authorities until this coming Saturday.

Meanwhile, Iran – typically a stalwart ally of Syria and Bashar al-Assad – joined the ranks of those calling for an end to the violent crackdown against civilian protesters in the country, with a statement given by President Ahmadinejad on Thursday. Russia’s senate is expected to send a fact-finding mission to Syria to assess the situation in the country, further increasing the diplomatic pressure applied to the regime. China, however, has continued to insist that resolving the internal crisis in Syria will not come about by applying pressure, but rather through consultations and dialogue.

In the face of continued attacks, an umbrella group of Syrian activists has appealed to the international community for assistance in the form of providing human rights monitors to deter further violence against civilians.

Heavy fighting erupted this week in yet another area of Sudan, the Blue Nile states, which shares a border with the newly formed Republic of South Sudan. Agence France Press reported that the Government of Sudan inflicted heavy casualties against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

The UN Special Advisors to the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, Francis Deng and Edward Luck, issued a press release on Thursday expressing their grave concern over continued attacks against civilian populations in South Kordofan. The release reads:

According to independent sources, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have continued aerial  bombardments in Southern Kordofan, particularly in the Nuba mountains region, resulting in further killing and displacement of the civilian population…We remind the Government of Sudan of its responsibility to protect its populations – irrespective of their ethnic, religious or political affiliation – from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

The press release from the two UN advisors was followed by an open statement from the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, which stated that the UN Security Council was failing to protect civilians in South Kordofan. According to the GCR2P, silence on behalf of the Council has made it clear to Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese President, that he will not face consequences for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the region.

Meanwhile, the governments of Sudan and the South Sudan reached an agreement brokered by the African Union (AU) this week to pull their troops out of the disputed Abyei region.

Libyan rebels have moved closer to taking control of the remaining cities and towns that still support ex-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, including Bani Walid and Sirte.

Amid reports that a large Libyan convoy had crossed the border into Niger, Gaddafi has denied that he has left the country. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague urged African nations not to shelter Gaddafi, while a presidential aide in Niger today stated that if Gaddafi or his son Saif al-Islam were to enter the country, it would respect its commitments to the ICC. Today, Interpol issued a “red notice” for Gaddafi, Saif Gaddafi, and Abdullah Senussi, Gaddafi’s former director of military intelligence, as requested by the ICC.
In a letter to the Security Council on the situation in Libya, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), which would, “consist of substantive and mission support personnel with a broad range of political,  electoral, constitutional, human rights, transitional justice, public security, rule of law, coordination, gender and other technical skills in the priority areas requested by the Libyan transitional authorities.”

The Security Council met today to discuss Ban’s proposal, and was briefed by Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor for Post-Conflict Planning in Libya. Martin hopes that a resolution will be adopted quickly by the UN Security Council so it can begin delivering in some of the priority areas of assistance requested by the National Transitional Council (NTC).

RtoP Round-Up
R2P, Libya and International Politics as the Struggle for Competing Normative Architectures
by Ramesh Thakur, former ICISS member and current professor at the Australia National University

Legacies and Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities in the Asia-Pacific: A Workshop Report by the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APCR2P)

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Weekly Round-Up: August 29-September 6

Your top stories from the world of #RtoP, #MAPrev, and #CivPro. Find us on Twitter and Facebook

Human Rights Watch reported that the Khamis Brigade, the military force run by Gaddafi’s son, summarily executed up to 45 detainees in the final days of the regime’s control of Tripoli. The organization also issued a press releasethat urged the NTC and rebel forces to stop the arrest and abuse of African migrant workers and black Libyans assumed to be mercenaries.Earlier last week, the NTC rejected the idea of having an international peacekeeping force deployed on Libyan soil to help maintain security, instead asking the international community to continue to free up frozen assets, and assist in other measures, including elections, transitional justice and national reconciliation.

After their move into the Tripoli, the Libyan rebels massed their forces to prepare for assaults against Sirte, Gaddafi’s tribal stronghold, and Bani Walid, another town still loyal to the ex-leader. The rebels entered into negotiations for the peaceful surrender of Bani Walid, but those talks have apparently failed, with the standoff continuing. Muammar Gaddafi has vowed to continue the fight against the rebels.

On Thursday, the Libya Contact Group, consisting of nearly 60 delegations from countries and world organizations, met in Paris to discuss a roadmap for Libya as it transitions into the post-Gaddafi era.

In a breaking story on Friday, it was reported that China offered the Gaddafi regime stockpiles of arms in July, in violation of UN sanctions. China has since confirmed the meeting with representatives of the Gaddafi regime.

The Syrian regime continued its crackdown against protesters as the holy month of Ramadan came to an end. In response to the continued violence, the EU banned all oil imports from the country. France emphasized that it was pushing for a UN resolution on Syria that included sanctions against the Assad regime, while Spanish PM Zapatero said that the international community should support the Syrian opposition as it did in Libya.

Amnesty International issued a report this past week highlighting a “surge of death” in Syrian detention centres, where dozens have reportedly been tortured and killed since the uprising began. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was granted access to a Syrian detention facility after a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Government of Sudan has began a major military offensive in the disputed Blue Nile states, close to its border with the Republic of South Sudan. Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, has urged an end to fighting.

In a joint-report issued on Tuesday, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch stated possible war crimes may have been committed in Southern Kordofan as a result of indiscriminate bombing by the Government of Sudan. The U.S. State Department called for a cessation of the bombing. In an earlier blog post, we discussed other reports coming out of Sudan that discuss possible crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the Sudanese government.

RtoP Round-Up
In a blog post last week, we covered some of the analysis on RtoP and Libya that has gone around in the wake of the rebel’s success. Here are some other interesting pieces that were also written this past week:

Council on Foreign Relations Interview with Dr. Ed Luck, UN Special Advisor on RtoP: Will Syria Follow Libya?
Humanitarian Inquisition by David Bosco (Foreign Policy)
How Gaddafi’s Fall Vindicated Obama and RtoP by Stewart Patrick (Foreign Affairs)
The Truth About Libyan Conflict and Consequences for the (African) Continent by Charles Abugre (allAfrica)

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Filed under CivSoc, Libya, RtoP, Sudan, Syria, UN, Weekly Round-Up

Scholars and Experts Analyze RtoP in the Wake of Rebel Gains in Libya

The recent success of the Libyan rebels is bringing the end of Gaddafi’s reign in Libya within sight. The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) was referenced extensively as a framework for reaction, and as discussions continue on the UN-mandated operation to protect civilians, attention is now turning to the upcoming challenges in transitioning to the post-Gaddafi era in Libya.


The narrative surrounding RtoP and the Libya case is both complex and nuanced. Those that tout Libya as an RtoP test-case, or even a success story, see a strong need for assistance from the international community in the transition period. Others remain uncertain as to Libya’s long-term legacy for RtoP, and see challenges for the norm moving forward, particularly regarding instances where military action may be required. Some look at the case of Syria and highlight RtoP’s politicization and inconsistent application, suggesting that Libya may have tarnished the norm itself. It’s a consuming discussion, and one that should be explored further.

Analysts Highlight Potential Positives

Lloyd Axworthy, former Canadian Foreign Minister, sees the UN-mandated, NATO-led operation in Libya to protect civilians as a positive step in transforming RtoP from theory to practice, particularly in light of the recent rebel gains that have brought Gaddafi’s 42-year reign in Libya closer to its end:

Moammar Gadhafi and his regime have been overturned by a combination of powerful, popular democratic forces within Libya and a willingness by certain members of the international community to respond to the UN call for intervention to protect the brave civilians on the ground…This heralds a further significant step in bolstering the emerging norm of how international justice trumps sovereignty…We are seriously engaged in a resetting of the international order toward a more humane, just world. It calls for immediate and appropriate action as called for in R2P.

In her new blog for The Atlantic, Notes from the Foreign Policy Frontier, Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Director of Policy Planning for the State Department and current professor at Princeton, argues that the Libya precedent may actually evoke a shift in discourse away from “intervention”, and instead at what should happen when the state fails in its basic responsibility to prevent mass atrocities. Slaughter writes:

[…] I’d like to explore…whether it makes sense to keep talking about intervention at all. […] if an international coalition uses force on the authorization of the Security Council, because the Council has determined that a government has overwhelmingly failed in its responsibility to protect its own people, and because the vast majority of those people with access to free means of expression are asking for force to be used, doesn’t it make more sense to say that the citizens of many nations, as represented by their governments, are responding to a call for help from the citizens of a nation unable to compel their government to perform its most basic function?

Writing in a recent academic roundtable in Ethics and International Affairs, Thomas Weiss, former ICISS member and current Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at CUNY, also presents the Libyan situation in a positive light in moving towards a world without mass atrocities:

The international action against Libya was not about bombing for democracy, sending messages to Iran, implementing regime change, keeping oil prices low, or pursuing narrow interests. These may result from such action, but the dominant motivation for using military force was to protect civilians…Libya suggests that we can say no more Holocausts, Cambodias, and Rwandas—and occasionally mean it.

From the above, we can see that the quick move on Tripoli by rebel forces has bolstered those who supported the need to react to protect populations in Libya, highlighting the potential for RtoP as a framework for reaction with a variety of tools to prevent and halt genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and war crimes. However, as seen throughout the crisis in Libya, the discussion certainly doesn’t end there.

Challenges Remain, Uncertainties Linger After Libya

Hard Work Ahead in Libya

Axworthy himself writes that the hard work for the international community is just beginning in Libya:

While these developments in Libya can be seen as decisive alterations to the international framework of law and accountability, it’s no time to be complacent. Indeed the application of R2P has just begun. Essential to the principle is the third crucial element of assisting in efforts to rebuild Libya on democratic, stable foundations – a difficult exercise.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others, have raised concerns over the need to ensure that revenge killings do not occur, and that vulnerable populations remain protected. The International Crisis Group has also mapped the steps necessary for moving into a peaceful post-Gaddafi era in Libya, which include establishing security, law and order, transitional justice and reconciliation, and beginning the political transition.

Challenges Regarding the Use of Force

Contributing to the same roundtable as Weiss above, Alex Bellamy, a professor at the University of Queensland,  also notes that RtoP’s important role in shaping the world’s response to actual and threatened atrocities in Libya may reflect, “a change in the Council’s attitude toward the use of force for human protection purposes”. But, Bellamy sees the decision to use coercive force more as the exception than the rule, raising concerns over its implementation in Libya:

Clearly necessary given the context, there is no hiding the fact that the form of intervention in Libya was highly imperfect, that it delivered indirect and patchy protection at best, and that it placed the region’s long-term stability in the hands of fractious rebels about whom little is known. Such late-in-the-day decisions about military intervention to prevent mass atrocities will always be taken in a context of deep uncertainty about their effects and will be driven by the specific political context.

Bellamy urges that the future implementation of RtoP be focused on prevention, so as to reduce the number of cases that require the urgent and coercive decision-making that may prove divisive, as in Libya.

Jennifer Welsh, a professor at Oxford University, also remains uncertain as to what Libya’s legacy will mean for the “fortune and trajectory” of RtoP. While Welsh agrees with Weiss in that the main challenge for the norm is now how to act to prevent mass atrocity, not whether to act, she states:

[…] it would be rash to conclude that the Libyan case ends the debate over RtoP’s status, meaning, and strength in contemporary international society….the very fact that Resolution 1973 mentions only “the responsibility of the Libyan authorities to protect the Libya population” and not the responsibility of the international community suggests the latter notion was still contested by some members of the Security Council as an appropriate rational for military action.

Furthermore, Welsh argues that by “elaborating the sharp end” of an RtoP response – the use of force – the Libya operation may have made the norm more susceptible to controversy from key Council members.

Concerns Over Application in Libya, Deadlock Over Syria

Writing in the LA Times, UN Director for Human Rights Watch Philippe Bolopion, echoes Welsh’s concerns and says that the Libya case has in fact strengthened the case for those who question RtoP and highlight its inconsistent application. He writes:

Countries that waged war in Libya under the banner of the responsibility to protect have a duty to explain themselves and accept a sober and critical look at their actions. They should not be seen as brandishing responsibility-to-protect when it’s politically expedient and ignoring it when it’s not. They should address the complaints of countries that genuinely supported action to protect civilians but felt alienated by the way military operations were conducted. It’s the only way to ensure that Libya’s legacy brings us closer to a world that does not tolerate mass atrocities ever again.

Bolopion also writes that Libya has played a contributing factor in the deadlock in the Security Council over Syria:

There are many reasons for this disturbing failure to act [in Syria]: the opposition of veto-wielding Russia and China, the silence of the Arab League, the presence in the Security Council of Lebanon… But a crucial factor against action has been that key votes in the council — India, South Africa and Brazil — are missing. Behind closed doors, their diplomats have explained that they are reluctant to go down the Libya road again…The Syrian people are paying the price for what some countries see as NATO’s overreaching in Libya.

Rodger Shanahan of the Lowy Institute for International Policy tows a similar line as Bolopion, noting the similarities between the threatened atrocities in Benghazi, Libya and the actual atrocities in Hama, Syria, and argues that the differences in the international response mean RtoP is “largely unworkable”:

The problem with Responsibility to Protect as a concept is that, while the lives of all human beings are worth saving, the willingness of states to intervene and the ability of military force to save them differs significantly depending on the circumstances…It is obvious that R2P cannot be universally applied because of the dictates of realpolitik. The problem with the real-world invocation of R2P is that those quickest to justify military action based on the principle never explain why they don’t call for it in apparently similar circumstances. As a consequence, people are likely to lose faith (and even interest) in the concept.

Moving Forward : Analyze best practices and lessons learned

It’s clear from the above that despite the success of the rebels in Libya, challenges remain, uncertainties linger, and key questions need answering, particularly regarding the international response to the situation in Syria to date (stay tuned to our blog for more on Syria). But, regarding RtoP in Libya, Welsh concludes her piece mentioned above by stating:

If the Libya case can contribute to further research and policy debate…then it truly will have advanced the international community’s understanding and implementation of the responsibility to protect.

Looking at the broader picture, Rachel Gerber of the Stanley Foundation notes that the international community learns by doing:

As RtoP is applied, mistakes will be made, as must adjustments…Global leaders must take care that this inevitable process of trial and error does not automatically become trial by fire for the broader commitments made in adopting the Responsibility to Protect. A recent debate on the Responsibility to Protect within the UN General Assembly suggests that governments understand this problem, and remain committed to preserving R2P, even when its application in cases like Libya raises more questions than it provides answers.

These last two quotes provide this post with a fitting conclusion: The need to learn lessons and make adjustments. It is important that we reflect not only the successes in each case, but the challenges for the international community as well. This will likely not be an easy process. But, as we are seeing in other places where atrocities are occurring, such as Syria or Sudan, lives will depend on it.

We want to turn this discussion over to you now. What do you think of some of the commentary above? Has Libya been an RtoP success story? Or do concerns regarding the Libya operation and RtoP remain? If so, what are they? Comment below and get the RtoP conversation started.


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Weekly Round-Up: August 22-26

Your top stories from the world of #RtoP, #MAPrev, and #CivPro. Find us on Twitter and Facebook.

In a week of extraordinary developments, the Libyan rebels moved quickly on Tripoli and gained control of most of the city, with pockets of resistance continuing from Gaddafi loyalists. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International urged both sides to protect civilians as fighting consumed the cpaital. Muammar Gaddafi (and much of his family) remains at large and defiant towards the rebel gains, and fighting continuedin Sirte today.Despite the continued fighting, the National Transitional Council (NTC) began its move from Benghazi to Tripoli to begin the transition process and assume governance responsibilities. The UN Security Council approved a US-led proposal to unfreeze $1.5 Billion (US) this week, beginning the process of re-building the country in the post-Gaddafi era. The Arab League also officially backed the rebels as Libya’s new authority.

Despite this, the African Union issued a communiqué that did not formally recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority, but called for an “inclusive transitional government”.

Between Monday and Tuesday of this week, the UN Human Rights Council held a Special Session on Syria to investigate the ongoing human rights violations as a result of the OHCHR report issued last week that suggested the government’s crackdown may amount to crimes against humanity. A resolution was subsequently adopted at the Session condemning the systematic violations committed by the Syrian authorities and demanding for the government to immediately halt these violations and protect the Syrian population.

The HRC also decided to dispatch a commission of inquiry to investigate human rights violations in Syria, and has said the death toll has now surpassed 2,200.

Despite increased diplomatic condemnation, the Assad regime continued its crackdown. Protesters remained defiant today, flooding the streets today despite being fired on by Syrian security forces. The opposition is Syria has reportedly formed a National Council, and, for the first time in the months-long uprising against the Assad regime, opposition activists have called for assistance from the United Nations in their struggle.

The UN Security Council was expected to discuss additional sanctions on the Assad regime, however it seems that Russia and China, among others currently sitting on the Council, do not favour this approach to confront the Assad regime.

The Satellite Sentinel Project released a report on Thursday that confirmed its initial findings of mass graves in Kadugli, Southern Kordofan. While initially controversial, the Editor’s Note of the report states, “What should no longer be debated, however, is that these alleged crimes,
including mass killing and subsequent mass burial of the dead, have happened and continue to occur.”

South Sudan
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) decided to deploy peacekeepers to the troubled Jonglei state to help deter recurring violence.

Compiled by Evan Cinq-Mars, ICRtoP’s Blogger & Social Media Coordinator.

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