The Responsibility to Protect

Topics: United Nations, Rwandan Genocide, Genocide Pages: 9 (3312 words) Published: September 7, 2010
The Responsibility to Protect

Since the dawn of time there have been occurrences of massive violations of human rights. The 20th century in specific brought with it not only inter-state wars but also internal conflicts. However, in the last hundred years there has also been a substantial growth in international cooperation and solidarity. Through the creation of international organizations, such as the United Nations, and the growing number of non-governmental organizations, the 20th century has seen a paradox between humanity’s will to combat war and injustice and its apparent failure to put this into action. The Responsibility to Protect is a new international concept, the gist of which is that states have a responsibility to protect not only their people, but also those whose states have failed them. The aim of this paper is to give a more defined and comprehensive view of this concept. In order to do so, it is imperative to look at how the international community has responded to massive violations of human rights in the past, and for this end a brief description of the Rwanda genocide will be given. It will then go on to outline the history of Responsibility to Protect, focusing on its reception at the United Nations. Finally, a concise view on the crisis in Darfur will be given in relation to the Responsibility to Protect concept.

The Rwandan Genocide: a failure to intervene
Although much can be said about the genocide that took place in Rwanda, for the purpose of this paper I will focus on the role of the international community, more specifically the United Nations. The genocide took place in 1994 and it has become known as one of the bloodiest, most rapid massacres that have ever taken place. This particular case of genocide also stands out because of the utter failure of the international community to intervene. Before the beginning of the genocide there was already a peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, namely the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). They were there to oversee a recent power deal brokered between the Hutus and Tutsis, which was intended to ease tensions in the country and make sure that both groups were equally represented in government. However, despite the United Nations presence in the country, the genocide was not deterred. The international community had a chance to stop it before it ever began, as the Security council had been warned that large-scale ethnic cleansing was about to take place in the country, and this has now become common knowledge. As stated in the article by Adelman and Suhrke, “The governments of Western countries and the highest levels of the UN - possessed clear information about an upcoming genocide and could thus have stopped it if they wanted to”. Yet, in spite of all the warnings, nothing was done to stop what was now the inevitable. Once the killings began in earnest, the peacekeeping forces on the ground were unable to do anything. This is because their mandate prohibits them to shoot unless they are shot at, and like an army, they must follow orders, which at this point were not to intervene. The head of UNAMIR, General Romeo Dallaire, outlines in his autobiography “Shake Hands With the Devil”, how on numerous occasions he contacted the UN headquarters asking for them to expand his mandate; his cries for help were ignored. One of the examples he gives is that before the genocide began he was told that some Hutus were storing a large amount of machetes. When he asked permission from his superiors to raid and confiscate the cache of weapons, he was categorically told that he was not to do anything about it. UNAMIR suffered a massive blow when ten Belgian peacekeepers in charge of guarding the Prime Minister, who was a Tutsi herself, were butchered by Interahamwe militia. This in turn led to Belgium, who had volunteered the majority of troops to UNAMIR, recalling their troops, as it was no longer safe for them to stay. In the...

Bibliography: Teson, Fernando R. Humanitarian Intervention: An Inquiry into Law and Morality. New York: Transnational, Inc., 1988. 127+.
Thomas, Weiss G., and Cindy Collins. Humanitarian Challenges and Intervention. Oxford: Westview P, A Division of HarperCollins publishers, Inc, 1996. 89+.
Pace, William R., and Nicole Deller. "Preventing Future Genocides: An International Responsibility to Protect." World Order. Vol. 36. 2005. 15-32.
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