From Atrocity Crimes to Human Rights: Expanding the Focus of the Responsibility to Protect

In: Global Responsibility to Protect

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) was envisaged by its authors to encompass a wide range of human rights protections. In order to gain state support for the idea of the R2P, its focus was narrowed to the protection of populations from atrocity crimes. This article challenges the ‘atrocity lens’, arguing that the restricted focus is both practically and conceptually flawed. Practically, it has failed to inspire action in situations where there were good reasons to believe that atrocities were occurring. Conceptually, it has led to a counterproductive focus in R2P implementation on conflict and on particular actors within conflict. The article therefore explores the possibilities and implications of stretching the focus of R2P back to the broader vision found within the iciss report. It concludes that there are significant potential benefits to adopting a ‘human rights lens’ if states are willing to fulfil their pillars one and two responsibilities.

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