Category Archives: Libya

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

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

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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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

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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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Weekly Round-Up: August 8-12

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Today, Al Jazeera reported that 17 people have been killed across the country as Bashar al-Assad’s security forces fired on protestors after Friday prayers.

In response to the violence last week in Hama, and as Syrian security forces continued taking military action against protesters across the country, international pressure on the regime ratcheted up over the course of the week.

Today, US Secretary of State urged those countries that still support the Assad regime to “get on the right side of history.” The United States and the European Union also reinforced economic sanctions against the Assad regime.

Gulf States also broke their silence over the regime’s crackdown and joined efforts to isolate Assad, as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain all recalled their diplomatic envoys from Syria.

Diplomatic envoys have also been dispatched over the course of the week: Turkey sent its Foreign Minister to Damascus to pressure the regime to cease targeting civilians and undertake its promised reforms, while the IBSA bloc – India, Brazil, and South Africa – dispatched envoys to engage the Assad regime as well.

The increased international pressure comes on the heels of a Presidential Statement by the UN Security Council in response to the ongoing situation in the country.

Libyan rebels continued their push towards Tripoli, while the United States and the European Union ratcheted up pressure on African countries to urge them to cease supporting the Gaddafi regime. NATO also responded to claims that an airstrike had killed civilians, stating that such a claim was corroborated by any factual evidence.

The UN is reporting the UNAMID peacekeepers are increasingly coming under attack in Darfur, particularly after an ambush where one Sierra Leonean peacekeeper was killed last week. The Security Council issued a resolution this week urging the end to impunity for those that attack the UN-AU force, calling on the cooperation of the Sudanese Government

Cote D’Ivoire
The UN has reported that hundreds of human rights abuses have been committed in Cote D’Ivoire in the past month, including a number of extrajudicial killings, as the recovers from the conflict that erupted after Laurent Gbagbo’s efforts to stay in power.

Do you have news stories that you think should be covered in our Weekly Round-Up? Do you have thoughts on some of the stories covered? If so, we encourage you to comment below!

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Libya, Syria, and the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP)

Concerns over the use of force in Libya have embroiled RtoP in controversy because of its inclusion in Resolution 1973. This has had real implications in coordinating an international response to the crisis in Syria, and  may have consequences for the future of RtoP moving forward. 

Why the UN Security Council acted in Libya

The Security Council (UNSC) decision to mandate ‘all necessary measures’ to protect civilians in Libya came in response to the actions of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his security forces, and his hired hands. By ruthlessly cracking down on protestors and issuing statements that were similar to those that preceded the Rwanda genocide, it became apparent that Muammar Gaddafi would do anything to crush the revolt and maintain power, even slaughter his own civilians.The initial decision under Resolution 1973 was a landmark for the norm, as it was the first time the UN Security Council had acted under the third pillar of the RtoP framework to mandate coercive measures to protect civilians at risk from imminent atrocities.

Civilian protection or regime change?

However, since the beginning of the enforcement of the no-fly zone, questions have been raised regarding NATO’s objectives in Libya, particularly with regards to regime change. As Andre Pratte states in a CIC roundtable discussion:“The NATO mission in Libya underlines the difficulties in translating R2P into action. The Security Council 1973 made very clear that the goal of the Libya mission is to protect civilians, not to affect regime change. Yet here we are bombing Libya with the explicit goal of bringing Gaddafi down.”

NATO’s run-around with regards to its objectives has had particularly negative implications for the norm, and has evoked some tough questions with regards to RtoP implementation. On top of this, the pursuit of regime change in Libya has actually played into the hands of RtoP critics, and may have negative consequences for the future of RtoP.

In perhaps the most scathing commentary to date, David Reiff states:

“R2P may not have been designed as the latest version of humanitarian intervention, but with the Libyan action, that is what it has become.”

Attention will be paid to Reiff’s critique as this post progresses, but his comments reflect the backlash towards RtoP since the Libya operation began.

Backlash towards use of force in Libya

Despite international condemnation of the Gaddafi regime, the controversial nature of the use of force to protect civilians has not eluded the UN-authorized, NATO-led operation.

Concerns over NATO’s reliance on air-power, particularly in a civilian protection mission, have been made clear.  That an errant NATO missile claimed the lives of innocent Libyans – civilians NATO is acting to protect – gave grounds to these concerns, and indeed took a toll on the credibility of the mission.

These concerns manifested themselves at the recent UN General Assembly informal interactive dialogue on RtoP, where a number of states – including Russia, China, and Brazil – made clear their concerns over the use of force in Libya, particularly with regards to NATO’s objectives and the way in which it has carried out the mission.

Real implications for present cases…

This has had very real implications with regards to Syria. As a recent article by Gus Taylor notes that the inaction on behalf of the Security Council can be linked to the Libya backlash:

“Russia and China would veto a resolution calling on the Syrian government to restrain itself. “This is very much a blow-back from the Libyan episode,” explained Gowan. “Russia and China — and also India — feel that the West pushed them into a corner over Libya…They fear that they accepted a precedent for Western interventionism that they now want to erase, and Syria has been the test case for that.”

Recent events on the ground have perhaps caused this line against Council action on Syria to soften, as the a Presidential Statement was issued on 3 August, which condemned the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities. While a first step, Presidential Statement’s from the Council lack the legally binding nature of Resolutions. There was also no mention of RtoP in the Presidential Statement, no doubt reflecting concerns over its inclusion in Resolution 1973.

Thus, while Libya may not “kill” RtoP, as David Bosco argues in his blog on Foreign Policy, it certainly carries weighty implications for the norm moving forward.

Real implications for future cases?

A look at the way the vote fell on Resolution 1973 highlights potential implications for the implementation for R2P in future cases. Passing with 10 votes, Resolution 1973 was absent the entirety of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) bloc. As Tim Dunne and Jess Gifkins note:

“Abstentions by China, Russia, Germany, India and Brazil raise a bigger question for forcible civilian protection; what future do such actions have in a world that is not being led by the United States and its western allies? … Does this response by the BRIC powers foreshadow an era of non-intervention will be upon us when we transition to a post-American world?”

David Bosco says ‘no’ to a supposed ‘era of non-intervention’. But, the precedent set by the Libya resolution may impact the support of the growing global powers to R2P implementation in future cases. This could easily pose a daunting obstacle on the road to consistent and effective RtoP implementation to protect civilians elsewhere, especially where the use of force is required to protect vulnerable populations.

Difference between normative aspirations, implementation can’t be blamed on R2P

In a time where the norm has come under fire, we must do well to remember what RtoP is and what it allows for. Nowhere in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document does it suggest that regime change is a viable justification for Security Council-mandated intervention, nor does it bestow a primacy or preference to military responses.

In fact, RtoP does quite the opposite, and in this regard David Reiff is wrong to merely equate RtoP as a “new form of humanitarian intervention”.

We must remember that RtoP has a “narrow but deep” guideline for acting in any given situation, and regime change is most certainly not one of them. By mandating ‘all necessary measures’ to protect Libyan civilians from atrocity, the Security Council acted in the spirit of the Responsibility to Protect. By rapidly responding to protect civilians in the wake of the UNSC resolution, NATO and its Gulf allies also acted in the spirit of RtoP.

Thus, the Libya case has revealed that there must be a distinction made between the normative aspirations of RtoP and the way in which it is implemented by any state or group of states acting within the mandate of a Security Council resolution.

The logic of laying blame on RtoP is misplaced, and has had real implications on the ground for Syrians. On top of this, it sets the international community back in the important work it has done with regards to RtoP and the protection of civilians from mass atrocity.

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The Weekly Round-Up: July 18-22

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

Despite security crackdowns, thousands continued to protest throughout Syria, seeking to unify themselves against the Assad regime. Retuers reports that 11 protestors haven been killed by Syrian security forces.

Today, UN Special Advisers Francis Deng (Genocide Prevention) and Edward Luck (RtoP) issued a press release on the situation in Syria. The release stated that the scale and gravity of the crimes “indicate a serious possibility that crimes against humanity may have been committed and continue to be committed”. The Special Advisors stressed the need for an “independent, thorough, and objective investigation”, and called on the government to allow unhindered humanitarian access, to cooperate with the HRC fact-finding mission, and to ensure that “security forces and civilian personnel under their command comply fully and consistently with international human rights obligations.”

@ The UN
A forthcoming report from UNMIS detailing atrocities in Southern Kordofan has caused a stir at the organization over the course of the week, particularly given chilling paragraphs detailing inaction by UN peacekeepers.

Amid reports of a campaign of aerial bombardment targeting civilians and the discovery of mass graves, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) issued an open statement to the Security Council on the situation in Southern Kordofan, urging member states to uphold their RtoP and take decisive action to prevent further atrocity.

Khartoum has denied the validity of the leaked contents of the UNMIS report. Sudan also denied the announcement made by Darfur rebel groups that they had launched a successful attack against the SAF in the western Sudanese province.

US officials held face-to-face talks with the Gaddafi regime in Tunisia, insisting that the leader relinquish power. Amidst continuing talks with the regime, French foreign minister Alain Juppe stated that Gaddafi could remain in Libya if he were to step down from power and remove himself from the political process. Meanwhile, Muammar Gaddafi declared today that he refuses to hold discussions with the rebel TNC.

On Wednesday, Serbian forces arrested Goran Hadzic, the last major war crimes suspect from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

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