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Stacey Henderson

This paper analyses the overt provision of assistance to opposition groups in the contemporary conflicts in Libya and Syria. Applying an R2P lens to this new and emerging State practice, the paper argues that R2P has served as the inspiration for a re-aligned conceptualisation of the limits of State responses to atrocity crimes, charting a way forward for the international community which is at once sensitive to State sovereignty but also responsive to humanitarian imperatives.

Ramesh Thakur

R2P is the international community’s organising principle for responding to mass atrocity crimes. It reflected and contributed to the shift from power towards norms as the pivot on which history turns. The old, discredited and discarded ‘humanitarian intervention’ represents the national interest and power end of the intervention spectrum. R2P is an effort to insert the global justice and normative end and has much better prospects of a convergence of legality and legitimacy in the use of force. It will be easier to prevent unilateral use of force by great powers if their interventionist instincts are moderated by the discipline of multilateral norms. R2P has a secure future because it is demand-driven. On the realism side of the ledger, many leaders rule on the basis of brute force and occasionally will commit atrocities. On the normative side, the better angels of most people in many countries will demand effective and timely action by governments and the UN to halt the atrocities and punish the perpetrators. R2P is the answer to the challenge of global justice being done and being seen to be done, both by states as the primary units of the global order but also by peoples in whom sovereignty ultimately resides. And it does so by reconciling several inherent tensions between competing interests, competing values, and competing interests and values: between the UN Security Council and the General Assembly; between human and national security; between states and the international community; between institutionalised indifference and unilateral intervention; and between the global North and South.

Melinda Rankin

Arguably, more than any other state or interstate actor, German federal authorities, including the German Federal Public Prosecutor General (Generalbundesanwalt, gba) and German Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt), have been at the forefront of issuing arrest warrants for senior members of the Syrian government suspected of atrocity crimes in the wake of the Arab Spring. This includes German federal authorities making the first arrest of a senior member of the Syrian government in February 2019 for crimes against humanity. This article argues that in relation to core international crimes, Germany’s concept of law reflects one based on a ‘standard’ and international rule of law. Moreover, German federal authorities have demonstrated a willingness to use international humanitarian and criminal law (ichl) in relation to those most responsible for core international crimes. In this way, Germany’s current investigations into alleged crimes against humanity in Syria since 2011 provides for an illuminating case for extending universal jurisdiction, as well as the ‘responsibility to prosecute’ as a legal obligation. It also indicates how a multiplicity of actors – including state and non-state actors – can extend the reach of international criminal law, when the International Criminal Court (icc) cannot act.

Simon Adams

The failure of the international community to adequately respond to patterns of discrimination against the ethnic Rohingya minority in Myanmar (Burma) eventually led to a genocide. The so-called “clearance operations” launched by Myanmar’s military in August 2017 tested the resilience of the international community’s commitment to defending human rights and upholding its Responsibility to Protect (R2P) populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Two years later the UN Security Council has still not adopted a single resolution to name the crime committed against the Rohingya, or to hold the perpetrators accountable. Nevertheless, Rohingya survivors and international civil society have continued to campaign for justice under international law, and to advocate for targeted sanctions to be imposed on those responsible for atrocities. Faced with an inert Security Council, some UN member states have adopted inventive diplomatic measures to uphold their responsibility to protect.

Alex J. Bellamy and Stephen McLoughlin

Miliary intervention remains a controversial part of human protection. Indispensable in some circumstances, military intervention confronts significant structural challenges which means that it is used only rarely and has the propensity for causing unintended negative consequences. In this essay, we examine the place of humanitarian intervention within the human protection regime. Focusing on the case of Libya, we argue that the UN Security Council has now accepted that the use force, even against a sovereign state, is a sometimes legitimate response to mass atrocities. But the Libya experience also raised three major challenges – challenges of regime change, accountability, and selectivity – that will have be addressed if military intervention is ever to become a legitimate part of international society’s anti-atrocities arsenal. First, we show how increased international activism after the Cold War helped put downwards pressure on the incidence of mass atrocities worldwide. Second, we explain why armed intervention remained a controversial and rarely employed instrument of human protection. Third, we argue that the UN Security Council’s decision to authorise armed intervention in Libya represented a significant development in the place of armed intervention as a tool of human protection. Finally, we examine the political consequences of the intervention and argue that these will need to be addressed in order to rebuild sufficient trust to allow future considerations of the use of force for humanitarian purposes.

Andrea L. Everett

The practice of humanitarian military action has changed markedly in the 21st century when compared with the 1990s. This essay explores three broad trends that have shaped this evolution. First, the UN has adopted the protection of civilians as a central element of its agenda and as a guiding principle for reforming its peace operations and its responses to atrocities such as genocide and ethnic cleansing. Second, major powers have played a central role as belligerents or patrons of belligerents in many of the worst conflicts of the last two decades. And third, the wealthy Western states with the greatest resources and military capabilities for ambitious humanitarian operations have substantially reduced their direct contributions to these missions. Together, these developments have shifted the balance of responsibility and effort for humanitarian military operations toward the UN and developing countries; constrained the ambitions of these missions; limited what they can accomplish and contributed to gaps between the expectations they create and the protection they are able to deliver; and discouraged meaningful action in response to many of the century’s most devastating conflicts.

Eglantine Staunton

Since the end of the Cold War, Iraq has faced three international interventions. While their humanitarian component was a secondary – and at times, arguable – factor, they all played a central role in normative debates on the extent to which states should protect populations from mass atrocities beyond their borders (and what that actually entails), making Iraq a central piece of the human protection puzzle. In addition to analysing how Iraq’s fate has played a key part in the development of human protection over the years, the article argues that France had a central role in both the interventions and the normative debates they generated, and investigates its role in depth. By doing so, it deepens our understanding of human protection, France’s foreign policy and Iraq’s development.