Category Archives: Libya

FEATURE: Responsibility while Protecting – the impact of a new initiative on RtoP

The “responsibility while protecting” (RwP) concept and its potential influence on the development of the Responsibility to Protect norm (RtoP, R2P) have been a source of ongoing discussion in recent months. RwP was first introduced by Brazilian President Dilma Raousseff as “responsibility in protecting” during her address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2011 and then expanded on in a concept note presented to the UN Security Council (UNSC) on 9 November 2011 by Brazilian Permanent Representative, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti. RwP seeks to address concerns regarding the implementation of military measures to prevent and halt mass atrocities, emphasizing that prevention is the “best policy” and that the use of force in particular must be regularly monitored and periodically assessed so as to minimize the impact on civilians.

On 21 February 2012, the Brazilian Permanent Mission organized an informal discussion on RwP with Member States, UN actors, and civil society organizations. Debate has since continued, most recently at the fourth UNGA informal, interactive dialogue held on 5 September, with many commentators and scholars reflecting on how RwP will impact RtoP and more importantly, the international response to future situations of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. The ICRtoP Secretariat reached out to civil society organizations with a series of questions in order to map the origins of RwP and analyze the concept’s influence on the Responsibility to Protect.  

Read the full feature post.

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A “Responsibility Not to Veto”? The S5, the Security Council, and Mass Atrocities

A bloc of small countries – the so-called Small-Five or S5, comprised of Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Singapore, and Switzerland – was forced to withdraw their draft resolution at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 16 May, which sought to amend the working methods of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Among other measures that were aimed at “enhancing the accountability, transparency, and effectiveness” of the UNSC, a notable element of the S5 resolution recommendation No. 20 that urged the Permanent Members (P5) of the UNSC – Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States – to agree to refrain from using their veto power to block collective Council action to prevent and halt genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. As the S5 stated in their 4 April speech to the UNGA, in which the bloc introduced the resolution, their work stems from the commitments made at the 2005 World Summit:

“The recommendation #20 to refrain from using the veto to block action in situations of “atrocity crimes” (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity) is in line with the 2005 World Summit resolution which states, in its paragraph 139, that the, “international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use the appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

The idea of such restraint on the Council’s veto power in situations of mass atrocities was expressed in the 2001 report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), the ground-breaking document that first articulated the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P). As the report stated:

“An issue which we cannot avoid addressing, however, is that of the veto power enjoyed by the present Permanent Five. Many of our interlocutors regarded capricious use of the veto, or threat of its use, as likely to be the principal obstacle to effective international action in cases where quick and decisive action is needed to stop or avert a significant humanitarian crisis. As has been said, it is unconscionable that one veto can override the rest of humanity on matters of grave humanitarian concern. Of particular concern is the possibility that needed action will be held hostage to unrelated concerns of one or more of the permanent members – a situation that has too frequently occurred in the past.”

As such, ICISS recommended that the UNSC agree to a “code of conduct” with regards to their veto power. Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS) , an ICRtoP member, has explored this notion of a code of conduct, or a “responsibility not to veto” (RN2V) further in a 2010 paper that seeks to advance the understanding of the initiative and the RtoP. As CGS’s paper explains:

“Momentum for the idea of a responsibility not to veto continued in the debates leading up to the World Summit in 2005. However, the final version of the outcome document did not address any measures that would limit the P5’s veto powers in relation to situations of mass atrocities.  According to accounts of the long process of drafting the outcome document this particular omission was due in large part to P5 pressure.”

Despite its omission in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, the idea for an RN2V would re-emerge with the UN Secretary-General’s (UNSG) 2009 report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, with Ban Ki-moon stating:

“Within the Security Council, the five permanent members bear particular responsibility because of the privileges of tenure and the veto power they have been granted under the Charter. I would urge them to refrain from employing or threatening to employ the veto in situations of manifest failure to meet obligations relating to the responsibility to protect, as defined in paragraph 139 of the Summit Outcome, and to reach a mutual understanding to that effect.”

Despite the endorsement by the UNSG and the efforts of the S5, as well as the work of civil society in advancing the RN2V concept, the veto has remained a complex issue in formulating collective responses to situations of mass atrocities, as evidenced recently by the situation in Syria. On two occasions over the course of the government-led crackdown, China and Russia employed their veto powers (on 4 October 2011 and 4 February 2012) to block Council action aimed at resolving the crisis, which were widely believed to have been employed as an expression of their respective national interests in the situation, and their concerns over the implementation of Resolution 1973 in Libya.

And as Colum Lynch at Foreign Policy noted on 15 May, the S5 draft resolution led to a rift within the UN, pitting the bloc of small countries and the supporters of their resolution against members of the P5, which felt the resolution would impede their prerogatives. Ultimately, the RN2V and other provisions in the S5 resolution would not be voted on, as the S5 dropped their motion as the UNGA was set to meet. As Lynch writes in his 16 May post on his Foreign Policy blog:

The U.N. secretary general’s top lawyer today effectively killed off an initiative by five small U.N. member states to press the U.N. Security Council to allow greater outside scrutiny of its actions…the initiative failed after the U.N.’s lawyer, Patricia O’Brien, recommended that the resolution require the support of two-thirds of the U.N. membership, rather than the simple majority required for most U.N. General Assembly votes.

Lynch explains further:

Under the U.N. Charter, a General Assembly resolution requires the support of a simple majority, unless it involves particularly “important questions,” like an amendment of the U.N. Charter, in which case it would require a vote by two-thirds of the General Assembly. But in 1998, the General Assembly passed a resolution declaring that the assembly would not adopt any resolution “on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters” without a two-thirds majority.

According to Lynch, the Swiss representative to the UNGA withdrew the motion when this recommendation was made, suggesting that the S5 bloc did not have the support of two-thirds of the Assembly on its resolution.

Ahead of the consideration of the S5 resolution by the UNGA, the ICRtoP – as well our partners at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) – sent a letter to all Heads of State and Ministers of Foreign Affairs on 14 May expressing its support for recommendation No.20. The letter from the ICRtoP stated:

[…] this provision reflects the historic decision in the 2005 World Summit document which states that the international community, through the UN, has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity; and that when a  state is manifestly failing, the international community has a responsibility to take timely and decisive response, including measures authorized by the Security Council under Chapter VII…Tragically, almost every year and even at present the international community witnesses Council deliberations where use of the veto (or its misuse) is inconsistent with these provisions – a situation that this measure in the resolution attempts to address…This recommendation within the S-5 resolution would enhance the goal for preventing and ending impunity, and strengthen the responsibility of States, the international community, the UN and the Security Council to prevent and stop the commission of these crimes.

The RN2V remains an important initiative that will likely continue to be advanced at the UN and in national capitals by like-minded governments, often working in tandem with an engaged and supportive civil society, that strive to ensure that early and flexible responses to protect populations are available to the international community when faced with cases of mass atrocities. While the withdrawal of the S5 resolution may have been a setback, and current Security Council practice dictates that a “responsibility not to veto” is far from being accepted by the P5, the RN2V idea is certainly here to stay.

Further reading:

Global Action to Prevent War: Small-5 Propose GA Resolution on Improving Working Methods of the Security Council

“Small Five” Challenge “Big Five” Over Veto Powers – IPS News Agency

 

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Filed under CivSoc, First Pillar, General Assembly, Libya, Prevention, RtoP, Second Pillar, Security Council, Syria, Third Pillar, Timely and Decisive Action

The G8 – An Untapped Forum for Advancing R2P

A guest post special to ICRtoP’s blog by Naomi Kikoler, Director of Advocacy and Policy at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P), on tonight’s G8 +5 Summit and the role the body can play in implementing the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) and preventing mass atrocities. 

This evening a small but exclusive group of world leaders, the G8+5,[1] will sit down for a ‘working dinner, leaders only’ to discuss regional and political security issues. Not on the table formally, but should be as it speaks to core interest of each participating state and the organization, is the urgent need to advance the global commitment to the responsibility to protect (R2P) by prioritizing the prevention of mass atrocities.

G8 summits have increasingly, in their discussions on international peace and security, delved into matters directly relevant to R2P. As a group of likeminded states (with the exception of Russia) on human rights issues, with each summit there has been a growing willingness to raise and speak out on mass atrocity situations.

At the 2011 Deauville Summit, G8 members jointly declared that “Qadhafi and the Libyan government have failed to fulfill their responsibility to protect the Libyan population and have lost all legitimacy.” At that same summit they also discussed and expressed concerns about the risks facing civilians in Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Burma.

That these concerns were included in the final joint communique shows that the G8 can be an important forum for building consensus amongst members, notably Russia, on contentious issues related to R2P. For example, the strong language on Libya and Syria at last year’s summit came at a point when Moscow was critical of NATO’s implementation of United Nations (UN) resolution 1973 and was blocking UN Security Council action on Syria.

The G8 has also played an important role in operationalizing R2P – even prior to the 2005 commitment. As G8 scholar John Kirton notes, “the G8’s most decisive achievement was in preventing a major genocide in Kosovo, by agreeing on military action in 1999.” Faced with a paralyzed Security Council, G7 leaders authorized an air campaign carried out by NATO to halt and avert atrocities in Kosovo which Russia subsequently supported.

While the G8 has had conflict prevention on its agenda in the past, there has been no formal discussion of the need to prioritize the prevention of mass atrocities. As Libya has shown, halting atrocities once they have begun is an incredibly difficult task. It is a costly undertaking, especially in an economic downturn. It also requires considerable political resources and energy to mobilize the Security Council and other relevant actors, and to sustain domestic support for action. As the leading world economies, the G8 has an incentive to see the emergence of an international prevention agenda and to be at the fore of such efforts.

How then can the G8 fulfill its potential as an agenda setter on R2P and more specifically on prevention? For starters states should include a re-affirmation of their 2005 World Summit commitment to R2P, and the importance they place on early prevention, in the final Summit Communique. They should also outline the steps that they individually and collectively will endeavor to take to advance an international prevention agenda. These steps should include at the national level three things: (1) issue an official statement outlining the priority the government places on prioritizing atrocity prevention and R2P; (2) appoint a senior-level government official to serve as an R2P focal point to help improve intra-state and inter-state coordination on mass atrocity prevention; and (3) undertake a review of existing domestic capacities for mass atrocity prevention.

The G8 members should also use the opportunity to start a conversation with the +5 states, Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, about mass atrocity prevention. The G8 presents a unique forum to start crafting an international prevention agenda. Because averting and halting mass atrocities requires a collective response, the effectiveness of the G8’s efforts will depend on the support of states like the +5.

As the leaders sit down for dinner tonight to discuss Burma, Syria and ‘others,’ may they discuss not only what needs to be done to save lives today, but what they, the G8 and +5, can do together to prevent crimes from occurring in the future.

The comments expressed above are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the GCR2P or the ICRtoP. 


[1] Attending the G8 Summit this weekend are the G8 member states: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom. They will be joined by five influential powers: Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.

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Debating the Responsibility to Protect in Libya, Syria

The Responsibility to Protect has been the subject of considerable debate in recent weeks, particularly as the international community continues to pursue an end to the violent crisis in Syria, and the transition in post-Gaddafi Libya moves forward with both uncertainty and concern.

This post draws on the discussion surrounding RtoP, its application in the context of these situations, and thoughts on building international consensus on the norm. These discussions reflect the ongoing need to improve international understanding of the Responsibility to Protect, and foster comprehensive international dialogue on how to implement the norm and prevent threats of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing on a case-by-case basis. It is important to note that this post is not an opening of debate on the norm or its foundations, but an examination of important points raised on how it is operationalized.

Recent International Responses Spark Debate Over RtoP 

Alex De Waal’s controversial 9 March op-ed in the New York Times on “How to End Mass Atrocities” sparked the debate, in which he chided Gareth Evans, a former chairman of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), Samantha Powers, an official on the Obama administration’s National Security Council and author of The Problem from Hell, and “fellow idealists” for misrepresenting history and misunderstanding the measures that can most effectively halt mass atrocities.

Drawing on the recent interventions in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire and the so-called insistence on stopping mass atrocities through the use of military force by RtoP supporters and Western powers, De Waal writes:

“The idealists insist on pursuing a more ambitious agenda: nothing short of democracy and justice, imposed by military intervention. And this can undermine simply getting the killing to stop. For perpetrators, the prospect of foreign intervention and prosecution rules out the possibility for compromise. For rebels, it creates a perverse incentive to escalate ethnic violence so as to provoke an international military response…Western policy makers interested in stopping mass crimes should not overlook tools that can work. Where violence is used as an instrument for political gain, it is negotiable. Some perpetrators can be moderated through diplomacy. Others will stop killing if they defeat a rebellion or realize they cannot. The main aim should be to stop genocidal killing.”

De Waal’s piece generated a number of substantive responses, particularly a direct response from Evans defending RtoP in the New York Times (11 March), a post from Roland Paris, a University of Ottawa professor and Director of the Centre for International Policy Studies, on the website of the Canadian International Council (12 March), and an article by Lloyd Axworthy, the former Canadian foreign minister who commissioned the ICISS in 2000, on why RtoP shouldn’t be defined by the situation in Libya in Global Brief Magazine (13 March).

Evans’s rebuttal, In Defense of R2P, disputes De Waal’s arguments, with the former ICISS co-chair reminding that RtoP is not, “old “humanitarian intervention” wine in a new bottle”, and that the norm is not about, “mindless moralizing, or prioritizing democracy or the achievement of longer-term justice, at the expense of effective action to stop mass killing in its tracks.” Instead, as Evans notes, RtoP is about mobilizing the will and resources to respond to mass atrocities flexibly, depending on the circumstances of the particular case.

In R2P Is Not a License For Military Recklessness, Paris also disputes what he calls De Waal’s “misrepresentation” of RtoP:

“…while de Waal criticizes “idealists” for oversimplifying complex conflicts…he himself presents R2P in distortedly simplified terms. Indeed, based on his op-ed and previous writing, he seems to want to demolish R2P rather than to engage with elements of the doctrine that are consistent with his own “pragmatic” approaches to conflict resolution.”

Drawing on the Precautionary Principles of the Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, Paris raises an important point:

“…even in the face of mass atrocities when all other attempts to end violence have failed, military intervention is not warranted if it is likely to make the situation worse. This important, prudential warning at the heart of R2P is too often forgotten by the doctrine’s critics and proponents alike. R2P is not an automatic licence for military intervention. Any contemplated armed action must be justified, necessary, proportional – and proven to do more good than harm.”

This point is echoed by Axworthy in his piece, Don’t Allow Libya to Define R2P for Global Brief Magazine:

“The reality is that the original International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) report, released in 2001 made clear that the implementation of R2P is about the protection of civilians, should be considered primarily preventative and considers military action a very last resort.”

All three authors offer the efforts of Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General and the current Joint UN-League of Arab States envoy attempting to bring a negotiated end to violence in Syria, as an example of a non-coercive measure employed to respond to disastrous situations through the RtoP framework.  Such an effort, they argue, are also in line with De Waal’s preference for diplomatic solutions to mass atrocities.

Libya’s “Long Shadow”, Syria, and the Responsibility to Protect

Beyond De Waal’s critique, further debate regarding RtoP by academics, journalists, and think tanks has touched on the manner in which UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which mandated a no-fly zone and “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya, was enforced by NATO and its allies, and the implications of that enforcement on the international response to the situation in Syria (which is discussed in an extensive post featuring civil society voices).

A 19 March report by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) entitled Short War, Long Shadow, discussed the impact of the crisis in Libya on RtoP, highlighting what amounted to an opportunity missed for the norm.

According to the report, despite the crisis in Libya’s being a clear RtoP situation, and the broad support from the international community to respond with “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians, “errors and omissions” by the intervening powers have resulted in a failure to advance international consensus for RtoP.

RUSI cites such issues as NATO’s command and control of the operation, the possible expansion of the scope of the mission from humanitarian (civilian protection) to political terms (regime change) by NATO and its allies, and the decision by Western powers to allow weapons and training to the Libyan rebels despite an arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council. As the report states, these issues, “have left a sour taste in the mouths of powers like Russia, China, and India,” and a concern that the legacy of Libya will be that, “China and Russia will presume that the model in future operations is rather regime change under the cloak of R2P, and will be more forthcoming with vetoes.

Echoing this, Ruan Zongze, Vice President of the China Institute of International Studies, wrote on 15 March in the China Daily that the Libya case has proven that RtoP is, “nothing more than the pursuit of hegemony in the name of humanity”. Zongze added further that:

“As Libya demonstrated, the responsibility to protect can be abused to change a country’s government, which goes against the purposes of the UN Charter, the principle of national sovereignty and the principle of noninterference in internal affairs.”

Therefore, as the RUSI report stated:

“Libya was touted as a classic test-case of humanitarian intervention, now incorporated as a new United Nations concept and usually referred to as the ‘Responsibility to Protect’, or R2P. And yet, it should have been obvious then – and certainly became obvious thereafter – that Libya remained the exception rather than the rule in the development of such an international responsibility.”

According to RUSI, the “long shadow” of the Libyan experience has loomed large over Syria, emboldening Russia and China to block any future intervention in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown, which, RUSI states, would be “justified under RtoP.”

Aidan Hehir, the Director of the Security and International Relations Programme at the University of Westminster, echoed the above findings in his 14 March post for e-IR, Syria and the Responsibility to Protect: Rhetoric Meets Reality. The author concluded that the “celebratory rhetoric” of RtoP supporters – such as EvansAxworthyRamesh Thakur, and Thomas Weiss – in light of the Libya operation has been met by the harsh reality of the Syria case, where, until very recently, a collective international response had been stymied by Russia and China.

In this sense, Hehir states that even if such a response to the situation in Syria is pursued, “it will not, however, constitute a vindication for RtoP.” This, as the author asserts, is because the Syrian case, “demonstrates, in all too graphic detail, the limits of RtoP,” which amount to the national interests of the UN Security Council’s Permanent 5 (P5) members coming to the fore and blocking collective international action. For Hehir, this touches more broadly on the inconsistent use of the veto power by the P5, and the need for “creative thinking” about UN reform and the absence of a UN rapid reaction capability.

Rodger Shanahan of the Lowy Institute for International Policy added to the discussion on Libya, Syria, and the use of force to protect civilians through the RtoP framework with his 22 March piece, Libya Was Easy.  The author drew on the differences between the Libya and Syria case, stating that:

“Even the Libyan experiment showed how difficult military campaigns…are to prosecute.  The Libyan military had a very limited capability, the terrain was extremely favourable to an aerial campaign and the international community was united in its resolve.  And it still took seven months to successfully prosecute the intervention.  In Syria none of the conditions present for the Libyan intervention exist.”

As Shanahan notes, this touches on the general difficulties in using force to protect civilians. Not only are there no guarantees that the use of force can achieve stated goals, but deployment could also have unintended consequences. As an example, the author raises the Syrian case:

Internal conflicts, particularly those of a sectarian or ethnic nature, are nearly always the most vicious and intractable of wars. The use of force against the regime in power in these circumstances, if not employed adroitly, can have unintended second and third order effects that may result in a worse situation than that originally faced.  Just as the guiding principle of ‘do no harm’ applies to the provision of humanitarian assistance, so too does it apply equally to decisions to invoke R2P as a justification for military intervention.  And in Syria, it is difficult to see how the military dimension of R2P would not breach that principle.”

This is explored further by Zack Beauchamp in his 16 March piece at Foreign Policy Magazine online, Syria’s crisis and the future of R2P, in which he contemplates the “options on the table” in Syria and the potential consequences for the norm. Beauchamp wrote:

Understanding the limits of military force in the Syrian case is critical to R2P’s viability as an international norm. A failed intervention — which would almost certainly involve the death of international troops — would taint the idea among emerging powers like Brazil and India who are crucial to making it a widely accepted part of state practice in the 21st century. Such states, while open to R2P as a doctrine, are wary of its use to justify humanitarian intervention. A haphazard invocation of R2P in Syria could destroy the doctrine’s international legitimacy just as it was being built, preventing R2P from becoming a shared framework for understanding the legal and moral role of sovereignty.”

Moving forward, Beauchamp sees a middle ground between non-intervention and the pursuit of military options in Syria, which he suggests are grounded in RtoP’s third pillar – timely and decisive response – and reflected by the UN’s current effort to consolidate a ceasefire agreement by President Assad by potentially deploying unarmed monitors and/or peacekeepers.

But beyond the case of Syria, and touching on the significant debate over Libya, Syria, and RtoP that has occurred both in the halls of the UN and across the Internet, there remains a crucial need to address the concerns that have emerged in the as a result of the Libya operation.

In this sense, this summer’s (yet unscheduled) UN General Assembly informal interactive dialogue on RtoP, which will focus on measures within the third pillar of timely and decisive response, is an important opportunity to address the concerns of Member States over the RtoP’s implementation in Libya. It will also serve as a timely forum to clarify the full range of humanitarian, political, economic and military measures available to the international community to respond to a country-specific situation under the norm’s third pillar, and stimulate further international discussion on best practices and lessons learned.

Read On

Five Ways to Advance a Responsibility to Protect agenda in Syria, by Bennet Ramberg (The Daily Star, 19 March)

The Failure of an Idea, by Kim R. Holmes (The Washington Times, 21 March)

Saving the Syrians, by Gareth Evans (Project Syndicate, 23 March)

When Intervention Fails, by Joshua Foust (PBS Need to Know, 26 March)

Stopping Assad, Saving Syria, New York Times Room for Debate, featuring Radwan Ziadeh, Ammar Abdulhamid, Simon Adams, Mona Yacoubian, Michael Weiss, and Patricia Degennaro (26 March)

Flight is Not Always An Option: A Response to De Waal, Meierhenrich, and Conley-Zilkic, by Phil Orchard (Fletcher Forum, 27 March)

If it brings freedom, a bloody Syrian civil war may be preferable to slavery, by Charles Crawford (The Telegraph, 27 March)

The Least Bad Option, by James Traub (30 March, Foreign Policy Magazine online)

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al-Senussi Arrest: Conflicting Extradition Requests, Concerns About Libya’s Justice System

 Abdullah al-Senussi, a former Libyan Colonel and Chief of Military Intelligence under the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, and wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), was arrested in Mauritania on 18 March by Mauritanian and French officials.

Abdullah al-Senussi was arrested by in Mauritania on 18 March 2012. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on two counts of crimes against humanity for his role in the Libyan government's crackdown against protesters last February. (Photo: Paul Hackett/Reuters)

The arrest has led to conflicting calls for al-Senussi’s extradition from the ICC, France, and Libya. The Court has called for Mauritania’s cooperation, based on UN Security Council Resolution 1970 (in which the situation in Libya was referred to the ICC), in surrendering al-Senussi to the Hague for investigation into his role in the commission of crimes against humanity in the country last year,.

press statement from the Office of the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, indicated that the government was pressing for al-Senussi’s extradition to France to serve the life sentence that was handed down to him in abstentia for his role in the bombing of flight UTA 772, which claimed the lives of 170 people on 18 September 1989.

Meanwhile, Libya’s provisionally-ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) has urged Mauritania to extradite al-Senussi to face justice in Libya, and dispatched its Deputy Prime Minister, Mustafa Abu Shagour, and a delegation of senior officials on 20 March to press for a decision. Libyan officials have expressed that their Courts are ready to hold a trial for al-Senussi.

According to an Al Jazeera report on 21 March, Shagour acknowledged that he had reached an agreement with Mauritanian officials that would see al-Senussi transferred to Libya, despite continued pressure from Paris. Mauritania has not yet confirmed this decision.

These developments come as as civil society expresses the urgent need to transfer al-Senussi to the ICC, rather than to face justice in Libya. ICRtoP member organization Human Rights Watch, and others including Amnesty International, members of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) called for such action without delay.

Regarding Mauritania’s responsibilities, the CICC reminded on 19 March that Security Council Resolution 1970 encouraged states to cooperate with the Court’s investigation into Libya, including the arrest and surrender of suspects:

“Although Mauritania is not a State party to the Rome Statute – ICC’s founding treaty – United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1970 – which referred the situation in Libya to the ICC – while recognizing that “States not party to the Rome Statute had no obligation under the Statute”, urged “all States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully with the Court and the Prosecutor.”

The CICC’s release goes on to state:

“While the Libyan authorities retain pri­mary jurisdiction over crimes committed in their territory, they are legally bound to facilitate the transfer of the suspects to the ICC, unless Pre-Trial Chamber I (PTC) decides that the case is no longer admissible before the Court because the Libyan authorities are investigating or prosecuting the same individuals for the same crimes at national level.”

But, as Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor, Donatella Rovera, stated in a press release on 19 March 2012, concerns remain over Libya’s ability to ensure a fair trial for al-Senussi:

“The news of al-Senussi’s arrest is an important moment for the victims of his alleged crimes in Libya. But Libya’s court system does not function and its justice system remains weak and unable to conduct effective investigations into alleged crimes against humanity, none of which are crimes under Libyan law. The ICC remains the best-placed mechanism for accountability in Libya.”

This has been echoed by Human Rights Watch and FIDH, who have also raised concerns over Libya’s troubled transition into the post-Gaddafi era, which includes the fact that thousands remain in detention under the control of militias, with widespread allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Both organizations have thus impressed upon the need for al-Senussi to be sent to the ICC instead of being tried in Libya.

Protesters demonstrate against the ongoing militia violence and pervasive lawlessness in Tripoli, Libya. (UN Photo/Iason Foounten)

However, No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ), an Italian non-governmental organization that runs a transitional justice program in Libya, has called specifically for al-Senussi to be tried in Libya. In a 17 March press release, the organization stated:

We take this opportunity to recall the wishes of the victims, and of the people of Libya, that both Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Mr Senussi be tried in Libya, to face justice in the same place in which they allegedly waged their brutal attacks. According to the principle of complementarity, the ICC has jurisdiction only if the Libyan authorities are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute the crimes of which they have been accused. Libya is certainly willing, as they have proved by requesting Mauritania to transfer Mr Senussi to face charges before the Libyan courts.”

NPWJ followed this call by encouraging the international community to provide assistance to Libya as it seeks to be able to try both Abdullah al-Senussi and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who, also wanted by the ICC, was arrested by militias from Zintan on 19 November 2011, and remains in custody in Libya. If, however, Libyan authorities were found unable to try al-Senussi, NPWJ said it would join other civil society organizations in calling for Mauritania to transfer the former Gaddafi-era official to the ICC.

The debate over where to extradite al-Senussi has thus reinforced the necessity of a holistic approach to international assistance in Libya’s post-conflict transition.

As Libya’s new authorities push for al-Senussi to be tried in their courts, concerns over the state of the judiciary and reported conditions in detention centers are a striking reminder of the potential risks of al-Senussi’s extradition to the country. Overall, the present situation raises serious questions about the ability of the post-Gaddafi system to deliver a fair trial that bestows justice to the victims of government-perpetrated crimes during the revolt.

At the May-June 2010 Kampala Review Conference of the ICC, the Court’s Assembly of States Parties (ASP) adopted a resolution which premised that states willing but unable to fulfill their Statute responsibilities in investigating and prosecuting individuals accused of Rome Statute crimes should be provided with the necessary tools needed to do so. If Mauritania does proceed with al-Senussi’s extradition to Libya, international assistance by the Court, members of the ASP, and civil society will be crucial to ensuring that the trial meets international standards.

The state of the judicial system and its capacity to hold fair, domestic trials reflect the broader challenge confronted by the new Libya as it struggles to consolidate security, build the rule of law, and promote respect for human rights – all integral in upholding its primary responsibility to protect its populations. Consistent with the second pillar of the RtoP, the international community must be prepared to provide assistance and capacity-building to the new Libyan authorities as the transition continues.

Click here for our post on the relationship between RtoP and the ICC.

Click here for our look at the anniversary of the Libyan protests and the challenges faced by the NTC in the post-Gaddafi transition.

Click here for our feature on the Responsibility to Protect in the aftermath of Libya, with voices from our civil society member organizations.

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The RtoP and the ICC: Complementary in Prevention, Assistance and Response

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has delivered its first ever verdict with a finding of guilty in the case of the Prosecutor vs. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo on 14 March 2012.

In light of this, and with the ICC playing differing but integral roles in responding to mass atrocities in recent situations like Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, we’d like to expand on the relationship between the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and the ICC. In this effort, we asked several ICRtoP member organizations, including the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists, Citizens for Justice and Accountability, the International Refugee Rights Initiative, and the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy to provide their reflections on the relationship.

The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) are two interconnected initiatives that seek to ensure that the world responds to mass atrocities and hold perpetrators of these egregious crimes accountable. At their core, however, the RtoP and the ICC are complementary in seeking to prevent these crimes from occurring altogether.

Both the RtoP and ICC articulate the primary responsibilities of states. The Rome Statute of the ICC provides that it is the primary responsibility of national authorities to investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for the commission of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

George Kegoro, Executive Director of the Kenya Section – International Commission of Jurists, explains this further: “The ICC is a ‘court of last resort’ – that is, its mandate is to prosecute only when domestic avenues have been exhausted, and where a State is unable or unwilling to prosecute those individuals responsible for the gravest of crimes.”

Similarly, RtoP bestows the primary responsibility to protect civilians from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing – the four ‘RtoP crimes’ – to the state. As William Pace, the Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP), a founding Steering Committee Member of the ICRtoP and the Coalition for the ICC, notes, this synergy dates back to the march towards the creation of the ICC, as “RtoP emerged massively from the Rome Statute process – the same crimes, complementarity, national and international responsibility.”

However, as has been witnessed in countless situations, some states fail to uphold their obligations. In instances where states are willing but unable to protect populations, the second pillar of RtoP – international assistance and capacity-building – asserts that the United Nations (UN), its Member States, regional organizations, and civil society have a role to play in ensuring that those states receive the assistance necessary to assume their RtoP.

Similarly, the Assembly of States Parties of the ICC adopted a resolution at the May-June 2010 Kampala Review Conference which premised that the Court and its members, the States Parties to the Rome Statute, should provide the tools needed to assist states who were willing but unable to fulfill their Statute responsibilities. One such example of this was provided by Sulaiman Jabati, Executive Secretary of the Freetown, Sierra Leone-based Citizens for Justice and Accountability  (COJA), who said that the ICC should “expand its outreach activities in countries that have early warning signs for potential conflict.” In this sense, RtoP and the ICC are both complementary in calling for the provision for international assistance to ensure states uphold their primary responsibilities.

RtoP and the ICC are also complementary in instances where states are found both unable and unwilling to meet their responsibilities. The Rome Statute provides that when a state does not meet its primary obligations to prosecute individuals responsible for the commission of Statute crimes, it will ensure situations are investigated, warrants are issued, and those in its custody are prosecuted.

Similarly, when a state is found unable and unwilling to uphold its responsibility to protect civilians, the norm provides that the responsibility to protect those civilians yields to the UN and its Member States in cooperation with regional organizations.

Libya and Côte d’Ivoire: The ICC in the RtoP Toolkit

As the recent cases of Libya and Côte d’Ivoire have demonstrated, the Court is firmly engrained under RtoP’s third pillar – timely and decisive response – as a tool used to respond to situations where mass atrocities are threatened or have occurred, as well as to prevent further atrocities from being committed through deterrence.

In response to the situation in Libya, where the regime of the now-deceased Colonel Muammar Gaddafi committed widespread atrocities against civilian protesters beginning from 17 February onwards, the RtoP framework guided early and unprecedented action to avert further crimes against civilians. An ICC referral was one of the broad range of measures taken to halt the threat of crimes in this context.

On 26 February, the UN Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution 1970, in which it referred the Libyan case to the ICC and imposed other non-coercive measures to respond to the crackdown. Pace calls the Resolution 1970, “one of the finest ever of the UNSC, and the process leading to the 15-0 decision [result of the vote] among the best examples of how the international community should maintain international peace and security.”

The investigation that ensued resulted in the indictments of Muammar Gaddafi, his son, Saif Gaddafi, and former intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi, which were announced by the Court while the conflict raged on. But, as Dismas Nkunda, Co-Director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), suggests, the indictments being made while Libya was in the midst of a conflict were problematic. “The arrest warrants before the fall of Gaddafi regime played into the discourse being propagated by the African Union,” states Nkunda, “that the ICC was more interested in trying African leaders,” than finding peace in the country.

Furthermore, Nkunda said the process raised serious concerns on the African continent about the independence of the ICC from the influence of the UNSC, particularly as, “the Libyan case was seen to be biased against one side of the conflict.” Disquiet over the impartiality of the Court has thus led to concerns over the selective application of the RtoP, Nkunda said, which may prove problematic for both the norm and the institution moving forward.

Despite these concerns, the Court remains actively involved in Libya. After Saif’s arrest in November 2011, the ICC has been engaged with Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) on the issue of his trial. It had been reported that the Court would allow Libya to try Gaddafi’s son, but as of 25 January 2012, no decision had yet to be made by the ICC.

As of November 2011, the Court remained involved in Libya as it continues to build its case against Saif Gaddafi and Senussi and investigates allegations that all parties to the conflict, including anti-Gaddafi forces, committed war crimes and/or crimes against humanity. The 2 March 2012 report of the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry into Libya, and its handing over of a list to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Navil Pillay, of suspected perpetrators, could mean continued involvement for the Court moving forward as well.

The Court also played an important role in the response to the post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire between 28 November 2010 and 11 April 2011, during which widespread human rights violations and crimes against humanity were alleged to have been committed.

As the situation in the country intensified in March and April 2011, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC warned on 6 April that an investigation could be triggered as a result of reports of widespread and systematic killings. On 4 October 2011, in the aftermath of hostilities, the ICC exercised its jurisdiction in the country and authorized an investigation into allegations of such violations committed by all parties to the conflict.

Months after his arrest on 11 April 2011, on 30 November 2011 former President Laurent Gbagbo was transferred to the Court – the first head of state to be in the custody of the ICC – and will stand trial for his in alleged involvement in crimes against humanity over the course of the civil conflict. It was also announced on 22 February 2012 that the Court would expand the scope of its investigation into the country to the 2002-2010 period.

According to Kegoro, while the initial involvement of the Court in Côte d’Ivoire (and Libya as well) was both appropriate and justifiable – in that it had an immediate effect of publicly championing an end to impunity and the promotion of the rule of law – the true impact of the ICC is at a, “fledgling state”.

Assessing how the ICC intervention has affected the prevention of further atrocities and regional stability and the peace will require on-going monitoring and evaluation, both during ICC trial processes and after the decisions,” Kegoro said. While he noted that prosecution of perpetrators of the most serious crimes can have a deterrent impact, “the societal implications of ICC interventions and decisions is something that will only be shaped and understood over time.”

Kegoro concluded by adding that, “The long-term impact of the ICC, especially on African nations, is something that needs to be carefully assessed,” particularly in the wake of the Court’s involvement and the implementation of RtoP in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire.

Peace vs. Justice?

As the ICC was involved in Libya during the conflict, but formally announced its investigation into the situation in Côte d’Ivoire only after hostilities had ceased, debate has arisen over the timeliness of the employment of the ICC as a tool to respond to mass atrocities under the RtoP framework. The debate also touches on a more general discussion of whether justice for victims of atrocity crimes can be pursued while attempting to secure a peaceful resolution to a conflict or vice versa. This is more commonly known as the peace vs. justice debate.

Both Jabati and Pace were unequivocal in stating that there can be no peace in any situation without justice for crimes committed. This idea spurred Jabati’s COJA, along with a number of other civil society organization’s present at the Kampala Review Conference, to push for the ability of the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor to prioritize conflict prevention in Africa through extensive outreach programs, highlighting the importance placed on justice in the pursuit of peace in cost-conflict settings, and in the prevention of violence altogether.

Pace argues against the premise that pursuing peace and accountability for international crimes at the same time doesn’t work, and says that there has been, “no peace strategy that has worked worse” than giving major combatant leaders amnesty and transferring them to a third country with personal and financial security. Instead, the WFM-IGP Executive Director stated that while each individual situation must be evaluated independently, the recent-year examples of Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, the DRC, and Colombia, “make the case that in many conflict situations introducing international criminal justice actually helps achieve and fortify peace.”

But, drawing on the specific example of Kenya, where the ICC opened an investigation on 31 March 2010 and is currently in the process of trying four individuals it has found responsible for the 2007-2008 post-election violence, Kegoro says that the country’s experience points to the fact that the “most practicable time for ICC intervention is in post-conflict situations.

However, according to Kegoro, this was a result of the fact that Kenya had only exhibited its unwillingness to prosecute perpetrators of violence well after it had subsided; thus the ICC had little role to play during the crisis. Therefore, he states that, “there may be a set of circumstances in the future where direct ICC intervention during an armed conflict is appropriate, or even required.”

Also drawing on recent examples, Nkunda sees both positives and negatives of the Court’s involvement during armed hostilities. With the Lubanga case, Nkunda notes that the Court’s engagement during the conflict in the DRC did have a positive impact on limiting crimes, specifically in raising awareness that the practice of conscripting child soldiers was contrary to international law and that such behaviour to could lead to the docket in the Hague.

In terms of negative implications, the IRRI Co-Director points to Sudan as a glaring example, where, “the unintended but expected consequences of the Court’s decision was the expulsion of humanitarian organizations [16 aid agencies operating in Darfur were expelled in early March 2009], which heavily impacted the lives of the very people – the victims – whom the Court was trying to protect.” Furthermore, in singling out individuals as direct perpetrators of the violence, as the ICC did with the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and others in the context of the crisis in Darfur, Nkunda notes that the actions of the Court may have served to insulate one group to become, “more deadly, since they have nothing to lose.”

Our members’ insight, drawn from their experience working in the fields of international law and conflict prevention in unique national and regional contexts, shows that much depends on the complexities of the situation at hand, but that justice should certainly not come at the expense of peace.

Deterrence and the Need for Prevention

Jabati, Kegoro, Nkunda and Pace all touted the deterrent effect of the ICC on would-be violators of Rome Statute provisions, both in conflict and post-conflict settings. At times, however, the ICC itself may not be enough to halt ongoing mass atrocities in specific cases. In both Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, a wider array of measures became necessary to protect populations, including the use of force.

The present Syrian crisis, which has claimed as many as 8,000 lives since March 2011, continues unabated as the civilians remain victim to gross human rights violations at the hands of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.  Regional and international actors must uphold their Responsibility to Protect the population of Syria by employing additional measures to effectively end the continued “collective punishment”.

In addition to a range of measures to respond to the crisis, the ICC has emerged as a potential tool to respond to the crisis through the RtoP framework. Calls have been made on a number of occasions by UNHCHR Pillay, as well as by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, and civil society organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, for the Security Council to refer Syria to the ICC. To date, however, there have been no such moves to ensure justice for the victims of the crackdown through the ICC, and the killing has largely continued unabated.

Only when tangible steps are taken to prevent genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing from occurring altogether will this cycle of atrocity and reaction be broken.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put forth two such preventive measures in his January 2009 report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, by urging Member States to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and to implement national legislation against atrocity crimes.

As the report reads, “The Rome Statute seeks to develop mechanisms and processes for identifying, investigating and prosecuting those most directly responsible for crimes and violations relating to the responsibility to protectI would encourage additional States to become parties to the Statute and thus to strengthen one of the key instruments relating to the responsibility to protect.”

But the Secretary-General noted that becoming a Party to the Rome Statute, along with other relevant instruments of international law, is just the first step in the full of the responsibility to protect. Consistent with the emphasis on the primary responsibilities of states by both the RtoP and the ICC, the Secretary-General’s report states that, “these core international standards need to be faithfully embodied in international legislation,” so that impunity for any of the four RtoP crimes is not accepted nationally or globally.

Taking these steps may ensure that states meet their primary responsibilities of protecting civilians by criminalizing the four RtoP crimes under both their domestic laws and their international obligations, and may work to realize their prevention altogether.

Please see the links below for the full statements by our members:

Statement by Sulaiman Jabati, Executive Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Accountability (Freetown, Sierra Leone)

Statement made by George Kegoro, Executive Director of the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (Nairobi, Kenya)

Response by William Pace, Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, Convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), and Co-Founder and Steering Committee Member of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (New York, USA)

Statement by Dismas Nkunda, Co-Director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative (Kampala, Uganda and New York, USA)

Special thanks to George Kegoro, Sulaiman Jabati, Dismas Nkunda, and William Pace. A shorter version of this post was expanded upon for this blog, and will be appearing in the upcoming print edition of World Federalist Movement News.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in these individual responses prepared by our civil society member organizations do not necessarily reflect the views of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect.

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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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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.

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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 Fora.tv, 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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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