Monday, 28 February 2011

Human Rights: Libya and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

The New York Times today published analysis of an important decision regarding events in Libya taken by the UN Security Council on Saturday night:
In response to Muammar el-Qaddafi’s continued assaults on civilians in Libya, the United Nations Security Council adopted a unanimous and historic resolution in an unusual Saturday night session.

It imposed an arms embargo on Libya, targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against Qaddafi, his family members and senior regime officials, and referred the situation to the International Criminal Court for investigation and potential prosecution of those involved in what was referred to as possible crimes against humanity.

In its statement condemning the violence, the Security Council included a critical reference to Libya’s “responsibility to protect” (RtoP) its own citizens from mass atrocities.

At the U.N. World Summit in 2005, more than 150 heads of state and government unanimously adopted a declaration on the responsibility to protect authorizing international collective action “to protect [a state’s] population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” if that state is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens, or worse, as in the case of Libya, if that state is the author of such criminality.

Since then, the doctrine has been only applied once — in the case of Kenya’s post-election violence in 2007-2008. And this is the first time it has been explicitly invoked by the Security Council regarding the situation in a specific country.
Do take the time to read the whole opinion piece. This decision constitutes an important  formal step towards Responsibility to Protect (R2P, or RtoP) by the international community and therefore represents an extremely valuable current example of the protection (potential, or otherwise) of human rights in North Africa for our Unit 4 responses.

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