Law & Legal & Attorney Human rights

Responsibility to Protect Humanitarian Intervention

    Origins of Responsibility to Protect

    • The origins of the responsibility to protect (RtP) doctrine lie in the international response to the genocide in Rwanda. A report issued by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in 2001 argued that sovereignty is not a right of states but a responsibility. As such, the international community has an obligation to seek to prevent crimes, such as genocide, by various measures, up to and including military action.

    Responsibility to Protect and the United Nations

    • The UN Security Council affirmed the RtP doctrine in Resolution 1674. This resolution stated that individual states have a responsibility to protect their people from war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. It also held that the international community has a similar responsibility to protect, requiring them to assist individual states in protecting their people and potentially take military action, if necessary, to prevent mass atrocities.

    Responsibility to Protect in Practice

    • The ICISS holds that any military action undertaken in the name of RtP must fulfill six criteria. The first of these criteria is there must be just cause for military action. The second is that the intention must be to prevent war crimes. The third is that military action must be a last resort. The fourth is that the military action must only be undertaken with the support of a legitimate authority. The fifth is proportional means in that the scale and intensity of the military action should be the minimum necessary to attain the defined objective. The sixth is reasonable prospects so that there is a reasonable chance that the intervention will attain its objective and not make the situation worse.

    Criticism of Responsibility to Protect

    • Critics of RtP focus on the violation of state sovereignty, the perceived bias of RtP toward military action and the general ineffectiveness of war as a means to prevent war crimes. Another problem with RtP is that the UN Security Council may be biased in situations where it believes humanitarian intervention is appropriate.

    Examples of Liberal Interventions

    • The 2003 Iraq War is an example of liberal interventionism, in which part of the justification of the war was the necessity of freeing the Iraqi people from the dictator Saddam Hussein. Another example of liberal intervention includes Operation Turquoise, an operation undertaken by the government of France in 1994 to prevent the Rwandan genocide.

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