Atrocity prevention in Syria and Libya - a comparative analysis

Studenteropgave: Speciale (inkl. HD afgangsprojekt)

  • Jamal Mbamba Johansen
4. semester, Global Refugee Studies, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
In the wake of the horrific events during the Second World War, the international community promised to ‘never again’ stand by and witness such gross violations of human right as the Holocaust brought with it. It is however the case that such events seem to appear much too frequently and the promise has been reiterated time and time again. In the 1970’s the killing fields of Cambodia called for the promise to be remade and so did the ethnic cleansing of young Muslim men in Srebrenica and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. History shows that we must work actively for the protection of human rights if we are not to be compelled to repeat ‘never again’ forever. The most recent examples of such cases are those of Libya and Syria where government forces in response to popular protest have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and other horrible atrocities against their own populations these cases will be the focus of this study.
The ‘rightful’ response to atrocity crimes have historically been extremely contested and has in large been the reason why we have had to repeat that noble promise so many time. The doctrine of humanitarian intervention is of extreme relevance, but it is also very much a source extreme disagreement. Proponents of international order adhere to the traditional principle of ‘Westphalian sovereignty’ – that of non-intervention into the domestic affairs of states – whereas those advocating in favour of intervention on humanitarian grounds base their arguments on the concept of international justice, specifically in the form of universal human rights. With the development of the principle of Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) in the beginning of the last decade and its unanimous adoption at the 2005 UN World Summit appeared to have provided a framework for humanitarian intervention on which, if not all, then at least most of the world’s states could agree. RtoP outlines the basic principle that states have the primary responsibility for protecting its citizens, but that in the case the state is unable, or unwilling, to do so, that responsibility falls upon the international community. RtoP was invoked in UN Security Council resolutions aimed at putting and end to the evolving conflict in Libya in 2011. For the first time in history, the UN Security council authorised the use of coercive measures against a ‘legitimate’ authority of a state on the basis of the Responsibility to Protect. As the Syrian crisis unfolded it became clear, that such action was doomed, due to the negative votes cast by China and Russia in the Security Council.
In this thesis I intend to investigate why the responses to these two crises were so different. My conclusion will be based on an examination of the development of the doctrine humanitarian intervention and the ‘emerging norm’ of RtoP. I will perform a comparative analysis of the events that characterised the two conflicts and make an assessment of the extent to which the principle of RtoP could rightfully be invoked. Subsequently, I will look at the votes cast by Security Council Members, and their reasoning behind this.
As will be shown, RtoP was applicable in both the Libyan and Syrian context; however, it was only invoked in the case of Libya. This turns my analysis to the voting behaviour of the Members of the Security Council regarding which it will be seen that the ‘P2-Members’, China and Russia, seemed to have made a drastic change in their position on this subject – based primarily on the experience of the intervention which took place in Libya in 2011.
Udgivelsesdatojan. 2017
ID: 249223325