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On Tuesday, 12 February, Columbia University World Leaders Forum hosted International Criminal Court (ICC) President, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, for an address titled The International Criminal Court and the Fight Against Impunity for Atrocity Crimes. University President Lee C. Bollinger gave the opening remarks, wherein he spoke of the electoral violence that wracked Kenya in December 2007. During that time, more than 1,000 people died and 600,000+ Kenyans became internally displaced.  As a result, four individuals accused of crimes against humanity–Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura, Education Minister William Ruto, and radio executive Joshua Sang–are due to stand trial this spring at the ICC. Regardless, Kenyatta is running for president in next month’s elections in Kenya.

Judge Song began his speech with a brief personal background, before delving into the titular topic. He stated that the fight against impunity for atrocity crimes is far broader than the ICC, though the ICC is at the forefront. Believing that law is the best tool for prevention, he also stressed the importance of the UN, states, and civil society working together to end impunity. The UN and the International Court of Justice were created in the aftermath of World War II; together with the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals, the seeds of international criminal justice were planted. However, it soon took a backseat to the Cold War. The field further developed as a result of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the 1990’s. The Rome Statute was negotiated in 1998 and entered into force in 2002. 

To date, the ICC has tried individuals from DRC, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Kenya, Libya, Cote d’Ivoire, and Mali. In 2017, the Court’s jurisdiction will expand to include the crime of aggression. Because peace and justice are interlinked, Judge Song spoke of the mutually reinforcing relationship between the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the ICC. Darfur and Libya were both referred to the ICC by the UNSC, but the use of UN funds was prohibited. The UNSC can limit or expand the jurisdiction of the ICC, which bears judicial responsibility, while states are responsible for enforcement. Aside from the issue of money, the UNSC needs to take a more consistent and vigilant approach. 

The ICC is a court of last resort and in order to strengthen national justice systems, Judge Song said development agencies need to be involved. The UN is also in a unique position, as it can advance the rule of law throughout the world. The ICC is not a hierarchical institution. All judges and prosecutors are independent and their own bosses. To carry out its mandate, the ICC must maintain its independence and integrity and remain non-political. 

After discussing the above, the floor was opened for a Q&A session:

The first question was in regards to Kenya, and how the ICC plans to proceed with its trials without local support and cooperation. Judge Song said the cases will begin in April as originally scheduled, and won’t be affected by the political processes, though logistics are not easy. The ICC constantly consults the host government on an array of issues.

The second question focused on the tension between international stands and sovereignty/non-member states. According to Judge Song, countries, perhaps most notably the United States, have their own reasons for their reluctance to sign onto the Court, including a fear of abuse of power by the prosecutors and a fear of unnecessary political influence by the UNSC. In terms of the US/President Obama, there is close cooperation on matter of mutual concern and intelligence sharing. Judge Song also noted that the US government dispatched military advisers to Uganda to aid in capturing Joseph Kony and other LRA members. The ICC endeavors to strengthen national capacities.

Finally, 1/3 of the 18 ICC judges must be women, but today, 11 out of 18 are, which may have some bearing on the development of jurisprudence. Obviously, there are no American judges so there is no American influence, such as the practice of witness proofing. Ad hoc tribunals have jurisdictional primacy over the ICC, which has a strong desire to develop its own jurisprudence.


Part 10 in a series by Marissa Goldfaden as she works her way through “Introduction to minority rights, regional human rights mechanisms, and minority rights advocacy,” a new online course offered to the public free of charge by Minority Rights Group International. The course’s stated objectives are to introduce concepts of minority rights and discrimination, develop awareness and understanding of international and regional mechanisms for minority rights, and improve practical skills in lobbying and advocacy.


Topic 8: Taking up individual cases

MRG defines strategic litigation as an advocacy technique used to achieve legal, political, and social change via the judiciary. The goal of strategic litigation is to set precedents that have a broad impact beyond the individual case.

Minority rights activists can use strategic litigation to:

  • Challenge laws or policies that violate constitutional protections or human rights, and ensure that laws are interpreted and applied properly
  • Expose injustice and provide redress for victims
  • Educate the judiciary and legal community about human rights, and expose institutionalized prejudice
  • Promote government accountability by making the international community aware of a government’s actions
  • Raise public awareness and encourage public discussion about minority rights

According to MRG, a good strategic litigation case will involve a legal issue that relates to a broader social problem, so that the precedent set by the case can be used to win other cases with different facts. A precedent is a legal decision that can be used as a standard in future similar cases. Before starting a case, all potential applicants must be carefully evaluated.

Characteristics of a good applicant

  1. They must not only have strong claims, they also must be strong individuals willing to endure the scrutiny of the opponent, the court, media, and general public.
  2. Strategic litigation cases take a long time to work their way through the domestic and international legal systems. The applicant must understand that it may be years before the case is finished.
  3. Applicants should be articulate and credible, and their stories should elicit sympathy.
  4. They must understand that the case is designed to achieve a significant impact beyond their individual claim, and be willing to take a back seat to the lawyers and organizations bringing the case.

Since courts use previously decided cases in order to determine the outcome of the current case, it is helpful to have rulings from courts in the same country, other comparative jurisdictions, or international courts that support the case. The more similar the facts of the prior cases are to those of the current case, the more helpful the cases will be.

Before filing a case, it is important to gather and assess all the evidence that supports its claims. Witnesses, defined as people who saw the alleged violation or were otherwise involved in the events in the case and can testify in court about their experiences and knowledge, should be contacted and interviewed well in advance of the court case. Expert witnesses, defined as people with specialized knowledge about a particular field, such as university professors, scientists, and doctors, who can provide their opinion about the case to the court, may also be hired. When bringing a case, it is important to find a lawyer who is committed to the cause and knowledgeable about strategic litigation and the law relating to the claims.

International mechanisms can only hear cases over which they have jurisdiction (the right, power or authority to interpret and apply the law) and which meet their admissibility requirements. Anyone who believes their rights have been violated can apply to have their case heard before an international mechanism. However, the right that the victim claims has been violated must be protected by the treaty in accordance with which the mechanism operates, and the respondent state must be a party to that treaty.

Before a case can be brought, all domestic remedies must be exhausted. This means using all the procedures available to a person in their own country to seek protection of their rights or to seek justice in respect of a past violation of their rights. These procedures include taking a case to court or making a complaint to the police. One must submit their case to the international mechanism soon after exhausting local remedies.

The international mechanism will require submitting an initial document explaining the case and why the mechanism can hear it.

a) One must show that the case meets the mechanism’s admissibility requirements by detailing the facts of the violation and noting which provisions of the relevant treaty are applicable.b) It may also be helpful to cite pertinent case law and to provide evidence of the violation and one’s attempts to exhaust domestic remedies.c) One will also need to verify that their case has not already been decided by, or is currently pending before, another international mechanism.

Five UN human rights treaty bodies have a mandate to consider individual complaints:

  1. Human Rights Committee, for alleged violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
  2. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, for alleged violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
  3. Committee Against Torture, for alleged violations of the Convention Against Torture (CAT)
  4. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, for alleged violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
  5. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, for alleged violations of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

An individual whose rights under the relevant treaty have been violated by a state that is party to the treaty can file a complaint with a UN treaty body, so long as the state has recognized the competence of the committee to hear complaints. Third parties may complain on behalf of other individuals provided they obtain written consent.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) hears cases concerning alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Any individual or organization can bring a case against a state that is party to the ECHR alleging that the state has violated his or her rights under the Convention. The individual or organization need not be a citizen of one of the states party to the Convention, but the violation must have occurred within the jurisdiction of a state that is party to the Convention.

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) hears cases concerning alleged violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Any individual or organization can bring a case against a state that is party to the African Charter alleging that the state has violated his or her rights under the Charter. Third parties can bring cases on behalf of others.


Part 4 in a series by Marissa Goldfaden as she works her way through “Introduction to minority rights, regional human rights mechanisms, and minority rights advocacy,” a new online course offered to the public free of charge by Minority Rights Group International. The course’s stated objectives are to introduce concepts of minority rights and discrimination, develop awareness and understanding of international and regional mechanisms for minority rights, and improve practical skills in lobbying and advocacy.


Topic 4: UN political mechanisms for protecting minorities
Section 1: The Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council (HRC) is the UN’s highest-ranking forum on human rights. Because its members are governments, it is considered a political body and regularly meets in Geneva to discuss and pass resolutions on a variety of human rights issues. It is comprised of 47 member states; other states participate as observers, meaning they can address meetings but can’t vote on resolutions. The HRC is a high-ranking, influential body whose strength lies in the fact that it can raise issues pertaining to any country in the world. However, “Debates on critical human rights issues are frequently overshadowed by political considerations and arguments.”

Section 2: The Independent Expert on Minority Issues and other Special Procedures

According to MRG, ‘Special Procedures’ is the name given to individuals (and groups of individuals) who are appointed by the Human Rights Council (HRC) to examine a particular human rights issue or the situation of human rights in a particular country. This section specifically focuses on thematic special procedures, which can address issues related to that theme in any country in the world, regardless of whether or not the relevant human rights treaties have been ratified. However, the recommendations made by special procedures are not legally binding on governments.

What do Special Procedures do?

1. Information-gathering

All special procedures undertake research related to the theme of their mandate using information from governments, inter-governmental organizations, UN agencies, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), and NGOs. They submit reports to the HRC, and many also report to the UN General Assembly. How is this relevant to minorities? “Many of the thematic special procedures have addressed issues of concern to minorities in their thematic reports. For example, in the last year the Special Rapporteur on racism addressed the link between racism and conflict, including the role of hate speech in triggering violence and the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women highlighted the need for reparations for minority women systematically subjected to violence such as forced sterilization.”

2. Country visits

Many mandates authorize the mandate-holders to visit countries to undertake in-depth investigations into the situation as it relates to the theme in that country. They submit a report and recommendations on the visit to the HRC.

3. Communications

  • Authorization
    The HRC has authorized some special procedures to intervene with governments on behalf of individuals or groups of individuals.
  • Urgent appeals
    Mandate-holders can send urgent appeals (called Communications) to governments requesting the government to take action or provide information about a particular case.
  • Reporting
    The mandate-holder reports to the HRC on the cases they take up and the responses they get.

In 2005, the HRC created the post of  Independent Expert on Minority Issues (IEMI), mandated to promote the implementation of the UN Declaration on Minorities (UNDM) and identify best practices relating to minorities. The current IEMI is Ms. Rita Izsák from Hungary. She has undertaken research on a number of pressing issues for minorities, including poverty reduction and the Millennium Development Goals, denial of citizenship, and public participation. Additionally, Izsák  has visited and reported on nine countries around the world.

Section 3: The Forum on Minority Issues

The Forum on Minority Issues was established by the HRC in 2007 and is the only UN body dedicated to minorities. It is a subsidiary body of the HRC. The Forum provides a place of discussion between members of minorities, governments, international agencies, NGOs, and the IEMI, who reports to the HRC on recommendations from the Forum on the given theme of each session. The Forum focuses on one theme selected by the IEMI each session; thus far, it has addressed minorities and the right to education in 2008, minorities and effective political participation in 2009, and inorities and effective participation in economic life in 2010.

Section 4: The Universal Periodic Review

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is an examination over a four-year period of the human rights record of all states by the member and observer states of the Human Rights Council (HRC). The review is based on a report submitted by the state under review, a document summarizing all UN documents relating to that state collected by the UPR Secretariat, and a second document summarizing all information submitted by NGOs to the secretariat. The HRC devised a schedule for the UPR to ensure all 192 states would be examined between 2008 and 2011. Per MRG,

The UPR Process


  1. A troika (group of three states) is selected to facilitate the review.
  2. States submit written questions via the troika for the state under review.
  3. A three-hour meeting of the UPR working group is held.
  4. In the meeting, the state under review makes an initial presentation. Then any other state may ask questions or make recommendations. The state under review responds to questions (known as interactive dialogue).
  5. The troika compiles a summary of the interactive dialogue and all the recommendations into one document.
  6. The UPR working group adopts this document a few days later. The state under review may indicate then whether it accepts the recommendation. The state may request time to consider certain recommendations.

Final stage (including NGO involvement)

At the HRC session following the UPR working group, the outcome document of each state under review is discussed by the HRC plenary.

Here, the state must indicate whether it accepts or rejects the recommendations it previously deferred. If it rejects any recommendations, it should explain why. This is also an opportunity for the state to inform the HRC what measures it has taken and to make public commitments for future measures.

At this stage, NGOs have their only opportunity to make statements during the UPR process. The final outcome document is then adopted by the HRC.

Next Review

After all states have been reviewed, the process will start again. The next review should focus on whether the state under review has implemented the recommendations it agreed to at the previous review.


Part 2 in a series by Marissa Goldfaden as she works her way through “Introduction to minority rights, regional human rights mechanisms, and minority rights advocacy,a new online course offered to the public free of charge by Minority Rights Group International. The course’s stated objectives are to introduce concepts of minority rights and discrimination, develop awareness and understanding of international and regional mechanisms for minority rights, and improve practical skills in lobbying and advocacy.


Topic 2 in the course is titled Introduction to the UN human rights system. The first section lays out the purpose and structure of the United Nations human rights system. Given the course objectives, this section delves right into the most pertinent part of the UN Charter—Article 55, which reads:

With a view to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, the United Nations shall promote:

a. higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development;

b. solutions of international economic, social, health, and related problems; and international cultural and educational co-operation; and

c. universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.

Next, we learn that the main bodies of the UN are the General Assembly, the Secretariat, and the Security Council. Given the complex structure of the UN, this helpful diagram is included:

Here we see a differentiation between charter bodies and treaty bodies. The former are those which have been created using the authority of the UN Charter. “They are political bodies, meaning that either members of the body represent their governments or individuals are appointed to their role by governments. Charter-based bodies can address issues in any country, but it is important to keep in mind that their political nature also has an impact on their effectiveness.” In contrast, treaty-based bodies get their authority from UN human rights treaties (legal agreements between states). “Treaty bodies are considered more effective than Charter bodies, as they come from legal instruments. However, they can only address issues in states that have accepted the treaty.”

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also play a pivotal role in the UN human rights system by providing support and lobbying the UN and its member states. Roles of NGOs include:

  • Contributing to policymaking and legislative debates at the international, regional and national levels
  • Highlighting issues concerning violations and abuses when governments and international organizations tend to be ineffective or even silent
  • Bringing such issues to the attention of monitoring bodies operating under the auspices of international and regional organizations
  • Providing information available to the various monitoring bodies and procedures
  • Submitting cases on behalf of individuals where bodies or mechanisms permit
  • Identifying needs for technical assistance projects and contributing to their implementations
  • Putting political and public pressure on governments to live up to their obligations under the human rights instruments
  • Lobbying for more effective implementation of existing standards and mechanisms and for the creation of new ones

After considering some of the constraints NGOs experience within the UN, we move on to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (UNDM). Per MRG, “A declaration is a statement of the aims or ideals of states. Declarations apply to all states; however, they are not legally binding. . . . UNDM is not the only UN instrument protecting minority rights, but it is the first and only one addressing the rights of minorities in a separate document. The UNDM constitutes the main UN reference for minority rights.”

Article 1 protects the right to existence and identity and to expression of identity through culture, religious practice, and use of language. Article 2 protects the right to participation—both in public life and in decisions affecting the minority. The UNDM grants members of minorities the right to exercise their rights freely and in community with others in Article 3.

Under the UNDM Article 4, states must not discriminate against minorities and they should create the conditions necessary so minorities may develop their culture. States must take measures so that minorities can learn their mother tongue and encourage knowledge about minority cultures within the country. Minorities may not be excluded from economic development.

The UNDM also provides in Article 5 that when national and international programs are being designed, the interests of minorities should be taken into account. Article 8 reiterates that special measures taken to implement the UNDM by redressing historic marginalization of minorities are not discriminatory. Another provision of note is Article 9, which states, “UN Agencies should contribute to the realization of the rights in the UNDM.” MRG explains, “This is an important provision, because it means that all UN agencies, such as UNDP, UNICEF, ILO, etc., should be paying attention to minority rights within their areas of work.”



Today, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect released the fourth issue of their bimonthly bulletin, R2P Monitor. This issue features Syria, Sudan, and DR Congo, all in “Current Crisis,” and Libya, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Burma/Myanmar, South Sudan, Somalia and Central Africa, with situations of “Serious Concern.” Current crises are those where mass atrocity crimes are occurring and urgent action is needed; serious concern indicates that there is a significant risk of occurrence, or recurrence, of mass atrocity crimes within the foreseeable future if effective action is not taken.

In analyzing the violence in Syria, the Centre touches upon mounting sectarian divisions (which we wrote about here back in February), as well as divisions within the United Nations Security Council. While they call on the Syrian government to “immediately cease attacks on civilians and adhere to [Kofi Annan’s] six-point plan,” collective action must also be taken by the Security Council, General Assembly, and the whole of the international community.

Similar necessary action is laid out for Sudan, where the government “should allow immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to all areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Abyei and Darfur should be thoroughly investigated by a credible and independent body authorized by the UN.” The Security Council is also urged to take steps beyond an investigation in order to better secure a long-term conflict resolution.

In the case of Congo, the brunt of the responsibility for addressing the threat of terrorist factions and militias falls on the government and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). Other parties charged with acting in this instance are international donors and countries with whom DRC shares borders.

As one would anticipate given the name and nature of the Centre and its publication, the key recommendations appear to be structured parallel to the pillars of R2P:

1. The State carries the primary responsibility for the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
2. The international community has a responsibility to assist States in fulfilling this responsibility.
3. The international community should use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State fails to protect its populations or is in fact the perpetrator of crimes, the international community must be prepared to take stronger measures, including the collective use of force through the UN Security Council.

This is the second in a series of blog posts by Auschwitz Institute interns who from October 2011 through March 2012 monitored countries for risk of genocide using the Analysis Framework of the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. This week we present the post by Shamiran Mako, a graduate student in political science and international relations at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland. Shamiran monitored Bahrain for risk of genocide.

As an academic working mostly on comparative politics and international relations, the joint internship with the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation and the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide (OSAPG) furthered my understanding of the structure and implications of international policymaking on genocide and other crimes against humanity. Using the OSAPG’s eight-point framework of analysis as the legal and normative framework for measuring the risk of genocide in conflict states also furthered my understanding of international law and the structures and processes that shape the international community’s response to genocide. As a genocide-monitoring intern, my task was to compile research on the developing crisis in Bahrain following the Arab Spring.

A common misperception pins genocide as an abrupt and spontaneous rupture in a state’s internal governing structures and institutions. However, as an unfolding process, genocide often beings with the violation of basic human rights, ultimately resulting in the suppression and extermination of targeted groups based on a misplaced threat perception by the ruling elites. This threat perception, often entwined in an ideological justification, escalates to the mobilization of the state’s resources and institutions for the destruction of the perceived threat group. Two things I learned during the course of my internship with the Auschwitz Institute and the OSAPG are the role of history and ideology as fundamental mobilizing factors that legitimize and shape the state’s response to perceived threat groups.

As a genocide-monitoring intern, I was responsible for mapping out a background assessment of the country’s historical inter-group relations, discrimination of specific groups in society, and prior record of human rights violations against targeted groups. In the case of Bahrain, the Arab Spring, marked by widespread revolutions and uprisings that have come to define the politics of the region since early 2011, demonstrated an opportunity for Bahrainis to voice their discontent with the ruling Al Khalifa family’s domination of state structures and institutions since the 19th century. Culminating in state-sponsored human rights violations, mass suppression, and the targeted killing of unarmed protesters, Bahrain posed a complex and challenging case that required an analysis of all relevant contextual variables.

While gaining independence from British colonial rule in 1971, Bahrain is comprised of an estimated 70 percent majority Shi’is and has been ruled by the Sunni-minority Al Khalifa family since the 18th century. Sectarianism and competing religious ideologies have also been determining variables of state-citizen relations, where the Al Khalifa family, with strong regional ties to other Gulf States, have ruled with impunity. Historically, the Shi’i community has been marginalized from state structures and institutions and live on the lower margins of the socio-economic strata. The 2011 revolts and revolutions in the Arab world provided an opportunity structure for Bahrainis to protest against failed promises of political and economic reforms.

Using the Genocide Convention’s definition of genocide as the main international legal framework, as well as academic and non-governmental sources to analyze the situation in Bahrain since the Arab Spring, I was able to develop a broader understanding of the inter-communal dynamics that have come to dominate Bahraini politics during this critical juncture. What originally began as peaceful mass protests against government policies instituted under Al Khalifa rule permeated by the monarchy’s reluctance to implement and uphold constitutional reforms that would ensure equal distribution of parliamentary seats, equal political participation and socio-economic development for the country’s majority Shi’i community, spiralled into political violence and the suppression of political dissidents, unarmed protesters, and human rights activists. Moreover, the use of foreign military personnel from other Gulf States, namely Saudi Arabia, to quell the revolution deepened the suppression of Bahrainis, which only served to further delegitimize Al Khalifa rule. The current unification proposal by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which would see the geopolitical and military unification of the two countries, has been met with criticism from the majority Shi’i community in Bahrain, other Gulf Cooperation Council countries (namely Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates), as well as Iran.

In sum, as a student of political science and international relations, the internship was an opportunity to understand firsthand the internal policy workings of the United Nations with regard to countries at risk of genocide and other crimes against humanity. In the case of Bahrain, its historical background, coupled with an understanding of the ideological implications that have plagued the country’s political trajectory, demonstrate the complex web of state-citizen interactions. The internship with the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation in conjunction with the Office of the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide bolstered my knowledge of the multiplicity of variables that can impact a country’s recourse toward the suppression of its citizens, particularly the role of history and ideology in the case of Bahrain.

On January 18, 2012, the Stanley Foundation held a conference entitled, R2P: The Next Decade. The morning panels discussed R2P in practice; more specifically, panelists spoke about policy approaches since 2005 in the countries of Guinea, South Sudan/Darfur, Somalia, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, and Libya.

Ambassador Bruno Stagno Ugarte, Executive Director of Security Council Report, considers Darfur and South Sudan to be the worst cases, due to the “moral abnegation” of international players within and outside of the Security Council. While the case of Darfur was referred to the International Criminal Court, there was no follow-up and member states’ non-cooperation has not been condemned. Guinea is seen as the best case, due to the fact that it had the lowest threshold of violence and said violence was episodic, not systematic. Syria is an open case, as it was an “unintended victim of the success and excess” of the Libyan intervention, and an “expected victim” of geography. Last, Somalia is “debatable” as it transcends R2P and is a failed state by definition. He asserts that effective prevention action is crucial at the earliest stages of a conflict and that what’s most important is translating principle into practice.

The next speaker was Adekeye Adebajo, Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He stated that 70% of UN Peacekeepers are deployed in Africa and protection is the responsibility of individual states. UN Peacekeepers and organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) are tasked with creating, consolidating, and keeping peace. As such, he wants to see: multilateralism in future interventions under the UN flag; a strengthened Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mediation unit; Security Council support for ECOWAS and a regional approach; effective legal, political, and military sanctions against warlords and UN panels to name and shame world leaders fueling conflict; and the R2P principle incorporated into the doctrines of African bodies. He also believes that the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, Russia, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom) need to focus on collective, rather than selective, security.

Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Arnold Saltzman Professor of Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, says that what ties the cases of the aforementioned countries together is the presence or absence of political strategy. Moving forward, there is a central need for viable political strategies. Though he considers Guinea to have been a predictable crisis, there was no willingness to do anything on the part of the international community. He is hesitant to use the term ‘genocide’ to describe Sudan, since he says that words have baggage, and ‘genocide’ has “enormous baggage.” He also contends that force is just a political tool but that the expectation on what it can achieve needs to be raised. He concluded by saying that Somalia and Syria illustrate the dangers of multiple agendas.

Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, says that the focus has shifted and R2P is becoming victim-centered. Preventive activities and human rights promotion are imperative, as is monitoring and reporting in potential conflict areas, which proved to be successful in Cote d’Ivoire. He drew comparisons between Guinea and Syria, in the nature of violations, droves of peaceful demonstrators, and the establishment of commissions of inquiry. However, they differ because Guinea was a clear situation of full Security Council support with strong backing by ECOWAS while Syria was a fragile consensus, which limits the capacity of regional mechanism to act decisively. Moreover, the major difference is the attitudes of the governments themselves.

Abdel-Elah Al-Khatib, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Libya and Jordan noted that in Egypt and Tunisia, the role of the military facilitated the ouster of President Hosni El Sayed Mubarak and President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, respectively. Unfortunately, such was not the case in Libya. Knut Vollebaek, High Commissioner on National Minorities, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), posed the following questions:

-What is the best way to respond to a crisis?

-Who bears the international responsibility to protect?

-What are the limits of prevention?

In considering the answers, he discussed the case of Kyrgyzstan, where intercommunal violence broke out in 2010 after President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was overthrown. Hundreds of people, especially Uzbeks and other minorities, died, thousands were injured, and hundreds of thousands were displaced. Additionally, arson, rape, and other atrocities were committed. Vollebaek encourages prevention through diplomacy, as well as a “formal early warning indicating that the situation has gone beyond a level” that the High Commissioner can contain, one where there is a “prima facie risk of potential conflict,” which has thus far happened twice—in Kyrgyzstan, and in Macedonia in 1999. Among the OSCE member states, early warning should be followed by early action. But the most fundamental aspect of prevention is an “emphasis on building capacity of states to fulfill their basic responsibilities.” He went on to say that prevention in practice is long-term and unrewarding, thus it finds resistance among domestic actors and the international community who are more interested in immediate dividends.

At the panel, R2P as a Tool — Identifying Past and Potential Added ValueAlex Bellamy, Professor of International Security at the Centre for Governance and Public Policy in Australia, pointed out the value of consensus, referring to the global consensus that underpins R2P. He describes R2P as being “disarmingly simple and straightforward in its demand and very clear about its meaning and scope.” Bellamy said R2P further finds value in changing habits and mindsets, mainstreaming the atrocity prevention lens by setting standards, and providing a common vision and shared goal.

Edward C. Luck, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect, contributed that R2P protects populations by preventing, genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, as well as their incitement.  Additionally, a narrow but deep approach is correct and the three pillars of R2P are parallel—there must be political preparation or response capacities in place (local, regional or global); all three pillars must be worked on simultaneously, not one after the other. Luck also emphasized, “It is false division to talk about prevention on one hand and response on the other, they tend to merge when you come around to the actuality of making policy. They are interdependent and interactive, neither will have much credibility without the other.”

Keynote speaker United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon echoed the sentiments of the aforementioned speakers. After his introductory thanks and remarks, he quickly pointed out, “[…] delivering on the Responsibility to Protect requires partnership and common purpose. We get the best results when global and regional institutions push in the same direction. In 2011, we stood firm for democracy in Côte d’Ivoire. Yet, we could not have succeeded without the leadership and partnership of the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS.” On the flip side, however, “We learned lessons about our own limitations, as well. Consider the recent violence in South Sudan. We saw it coming weeks before. Yet we were not able to stop it – unfortunately. Nor was the government, which like others has primary responsibility for protecting its citizens. The reason was painfully simple: we were denied the use of necessary resources.”

Secretary-General Ki-moon declared 2012 the Year of Prevention: “Prevention does not mean looking the other way in times of crisis, vainly hoping that things will get better…Nor can it be just a brief pause while Chapter VII “enforcement measures” are being prepared. Prevention means proactive, decisive and early action to stop violence before it begins…the key to preventing genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity lies within each society. These crimes occur far less often in places where civil society is robust, where tolerance is practiced, and where diversity is celebrated. Political figures cannot incite mass violence for their own ends where the rights of minorities and the rule of law are respected.”

He concluded by speaking about Syria, and his repeated condemnation of President Assad’s violence. The problem lies in the fact that the Security Council is divided on this particular case and efforts by regional actors such as the Arab League have proved fruitless thus far. Though he could not say what would happen next, he did remind the audience, “Such is the nature of the Responsibility to Protect. It can be a minefield of nuance, political calculation and competing national interests. The result too often is hesitation or inaction. This we cannot afford.”


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