Á RÁÐSTEFNU UM ALÞJÓÐASTJÓRNMÁL Í BERLÍN: VERÐUM AÐ LÝÐRÆÐISVÆÐA SAMEINUÐU ÞJÓÐIRNAR!

i c d lógó

Í vikunni sem leið var mér boðið til Berlínar að flytja fyrirlestur og taka þátt í ráðstefnu á vegum Institute for Cultural Diplomacy um hvernig koma megi í veg fyrir fjöldmorð og ofbeldi gegn almenningi.
Ég hef tvívegis haldið erindi á vegum þessara samtaka, í Ljúbljana í Slóveníu í októberlok á síðasta ári (http://ogmundur.is/annad/nr/6516/), og síðan í desember sl. í Berlín ( http://ogmundur.is/annad/nr/6636/)
Þá flutti ég inngangserindi http://ogmundur.is/annad/nr/6638/ þegar samtökin efndu til ráðstefnu hér á landi í apríl sl. í samvinnu Innaríkisráuneytisins og Eddu, Öndvegisseturs Háskóla Íslands.
Valur Ingimundarson, prófessor,  gegndi lykilhlutverki og ég hef sótt mikinn fróðleik til hans um þetta og tengd málefni. ( http://www.culturaldiplomacy.org/gphr/index.php?en_rchr-2013_speakers)
Við nokkra fyrirlesaranna sem fram komu á ráðstefnu hér á landi í apríl, voru viðtöl í fjölmiðlum, þar á meðal við fyrrverandi utantríkisráðherra Kýpur í Silfri Egils þar sem hún fór lofsamlegum orðum um framlag Íslands. 
Sjá nánar:
Fyrirlestur minn í Berlín fimmtudaginn í síðustu viku sem bar upp á 30 júní, byggir að hluta til á því sem ég áður hef sagt nema hvað nú set ég ákveðið fram þú hugsun að tími sé kominn til að stíga út úr nýlendutíma síðari hluta 19. aldar og fyrri hluta hinnar 20. þar sem Kalda stríðið setti mark sitt á öll alþjóðasamskipti - m.a. endurspeglað í hvaða ríki hafa neitunarvald í Öryggsiráði SÞ. Á 21. öld þurfum við að segja skilið við þessa arfleifð því hún heldur heimsbyggðinni í gíslingu. Það birtist okkur m.a. í Sýrlandkrísunni nú.

Erindi itt í Berlín. (Stytti það lítillega í flutningi). 

"The Need for a Collective Alliance in the Prevention of Genocide & Mass Atrocities"
At the end of October last year, the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy organized a conference in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia where I gave a lecture under the  heading "Between Geopolitics and Human Rights: On the Responsibility to Protect."  The Syrian Crisis was in focus at the time, as indeed it still is, giving our discussion immediacy and political urgency. The world stood by while tens of thousands of people were massacred and their homes and livelihood destroyed. This is only the most recent example of the failure of the so-called "international community"  to prevent acts of genocide. In recent times we have had Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

In my talk in Ljubljana, I argued that in order to understand the failures of the international community in this respect it was of importance to analyze the complexities of real politics or geopolitics, on the one hand, and our aspirations to protect those who are in danger of being victimized as a result of extreme systematic violence, on the other. 

Here an engagement with core questions was needed - questions about human rights, the international order, geopolitics, history, sovereignty, military interventions and colonial legacies and later the realities of the Cold War.

In Ljubljana and a few weeks later-in a talk I gave at an ICD conference in Berlin on a related topic-I maintained that in spite of all shortcomings, progress had been made in dealing with mass atrocities-that we are slowly trying to come to grips with an issue that for all too long was ignored

This becomes obvious when we look back in history. Following the Nuremberg trials in 1945-1946, and the adoption of the Genocide Convention five years later, the United Nations, in effect, absolved itself from any responsibility in the realm of genocide prevention and punishment.  Decades passed without any international trials of war criminals and those guilty of taking part in genocides.  During the Cold War, the absurdity of the situation became so pronounced that none of the mass killings from the 1950s until the late 1980s were denounced by the UN as genocides. Many terrible examples of mass atrocities could be mentioned, such as the mass killings by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia or the genocide in East Timor, when the world turned a blind eye to the wipe-out of an estimated one-third of the island´s population by the Indonesian army.

In other words, after codifying its condemnation of genocide, in a convention in 1948 and that convention entering into force in 1951, the UN or international community, in practice, condoned genocide.  It was not until the 1990s, when the UN Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and its counterpart in Rwanda (ICTR) that the Genocide Convention was revived as an instrument of international justice.  And the first time that the 1948 law was enforced was with the 1998 genocide convictions of Rwandan political leaders. The first state to be found in breach of the Genocide Convention was Serbia in 2007.  While the International Court of Justice cleared Serbia of direct involvement in genocide during the Bosnian war, it ruled that Belgrade breached international law by failing to prevent the 1995 Srebrenica genocide and that it failed to try to transfer the persons accused of genocide to the tribunal to comply with the Genocide Convention.

Consistent with the ex-Yugoslavia and Rwanda precedents, special courts were subsequently established for Sierra Leone and Cambodia.  This phase of rapid expansion was characterized by a focus on questions of institution building and by a willingness to reapply the Nuremberg principles in court.   Accountability in the form of punishment was seen as being crucial to prevention, as former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, emphasized in his Action Plan to Prevent Genocide.            

But there are hurdles on the way. Although many people had high hopes for the International Criminal Court, which came in to force in 2002, some of the  Great Powers still do not recognize the jurisdiction of the court, such as the United States, China, India, and Russia, undermining its authority and claim of universality.  Its mandate has also been contested on the grounds that it has focused too much on African states. Yet, the court, with 121 states being party to it, has opened important investigations into war crimes in several African states, such as Congo, Uganda and Darfur. In some instances, the cases were referred to the Court by the concerned states themselves and in others by the UN Security Council. Irrespective of whether the Court has a deterrent value, it offers one way of meting out justice. Further steps have been taken that give reason for optimism; that human rights may gradually be coming to have an equal footing as geopolitical and political interests.

I am, in particular, referring to the idea of the Responsibility to Protect.

This 2005 UN initiative, which was rooted in the failure of the "international community"  to stop the Rwandan genocide, has become a central instrument here.   The notion that sovereignty is not a right but a responsibility is based on the principles:

1) That a state has a responsibility to protect its population from mass atrocities;
2) That the "international community"  has a responsibility to assist the state to fulfill its primary responsibility;
3) That if the state fails to protect its citizens from mass atrocities, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions or military intervention as a last resort.

The RtoP principle has been termed an emerging, norm, not yet coded in international law.  When it comes to implementation, the instruments are embedded in existing UN Security Council mechanisms, such as mediation, economic sanctions, and its war making power in the case of "the existence of any threat to peace, to breach of the peace, or act of aggression,"  as it is put in Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.  Thus, the authority to use force or engage in military intervention rests solely with the UN Security Council and the General Assembly.  And it is here where there is no consensus on how to interpret or enforce the norm provided for in RtoP.   The current deadlock in the Security Council on the Syrian crisis exposes the crux of the dilemma when humanitarian concerns clash with geopolitical interests.  That the Syrian conflict is a civil war is not disputed.  It may be argued that it has not reached genocidal levels in the sense of the 1948 "Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,"  which defines the crime as intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such."  

But there is no doubt that the Assad regime is engaged in a war against various groups of its own people.  The opposition has also been engaged in atrocities, but in view of the immense power disparities, it is not comparable to those perpetrated by government forces.  As the experience of other civil wars-in places such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras-show, a strong authoritarian government in control of the army is usually responsible for the vast majority of mass crimes committed in civil wars.  

Yet, despite the violence, the Security Council has not been able to agree on an effective response.  There have been attempts made such those of the joint UN and League of Arab States effort to explore a political solution to the crisis but with no avail. At the same time it is clear that Russia and China want to use the Syrian crisis to draw a line in the sand: to oppose international intervention on the grounds that it violates state sovereignty and to decouple the notion of the "responsibility to protect"  from "regime change."  To them, the West overstepped the UN-sponsored humanitarian mandate in Libya by using the responsibility to protect norm to topple the Gaddafi regime.  According to this reading, the principle of sovereignty is, in the last instance, more important than that of protecting populations. 

The attitudes of Russia and China have to be put within the context of their own foreign and domestic political agendas: in the case of Russia, the opposition to Islamic secession movements in the North Caucasus and Russia's political and strategic interests in Syria.  Russia's policy is also consistent with its opposition to the 1999 military intervention in Kosovo, which was justified on humanitarian grounds.  The Russians claimed to be respecting the sovereignty of a defunct Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and were also motivated by a desire to protect their historical relationship with the Serbs. To be sure, it is not consistent with its military intervention in Southern Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008, when Russia used Responsibility to Protect arguments to justify it.  Similarly, China's policy is under the influence of its own sovereignty concerns in the Syrian crisis-the need to stifle any secession or self-determination attempts in Tibet-a stance that was also present in its opposition to Western military intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s. 

Geopolitical concerns do not only explain the motives of  Russia and China in the international arena; the United States and other Western powers, like France and Britain, are also motivated by such considerations.  While the U.S. reluctantly took the lead in Bosnia and Kosovo, it has not been willing to commit itself to an intervention in Syria for various reasons. It was generally assumed that before the presidential elections in the US last November neither initiative nor even involvement at all was to be expected from the US.  Now on the other hand US Secretary of State, John Kerry´s imitative in Moscow earlier this month may signal that the US might be willing, if cautiously, to make some move.

At the same time the situation is definitely becoming more volatile. Just before John Kerry´s arrival in Moscow in the first week of May to discuss a possible peace conference on Syria-which is now planned to take place in Switzerland next month-there were news of Israeli air-strikes in Syria, strongly condemned by Russia, as "a threat to regional stability" as it was phrased in a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry. At the same time there were accusations that Syrian government forces were using chemical weapons against its opponents-something the head of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, said that "no one has reliable information about."

If we compare the realities and rhetoric on Syria of today with the rhetoric of a few months ago, it has changed for the worse. In the autumn of last year, there were discussions in the international media on the plight of the Syrian people, mass atrocities and the condition of refugees. Refugees are still in the news but more as "the refugee problem" and as such the discussion has turned on its impact and manifestations in adjacent and neighbouring countries. There is less talk about the victims, their lives and conditions and more about the geopolitical fall-out: the danger of the expansion of the conflict to other countries, how it affects Israel and, consequently, the balance of power in the region. Hence the reference to "regional stability" by the Russians.  And, of course, this is all true enough! There is an acute refugee problem in Turkey, Lebanon and elsewhere! There is also a threat to regional stability. The war is spreading to Lebanon and causing concern in the region. And Israel´s involvement can have unforeseen consequences. So these are the facts.

Where does that leave us with our concern for the principle of Responsibility to Protect?  In my before-mentioned Ljubljana talk, I argued for taking seriously the initiative of the Brazilian government of trying to find a middle ground between national interests, on the one hand, and universal humanitarian concerns on the other. I said something to the effect that we must remember that each conflict has its own characteristics and that likewise we must be open to different solutions.

Hence a few words about the Brazilian approach:  The Brazilian government-under the leadership of President Dilma Vana Rousseff-has attempted to break the impasse between those states that insist on the inviolability of sovereignty and those that see the responsibility to protect as overriding sovereignty under certain circumstances.  Brazil has made it clear that it is against any efforts to use RtoP to further "regime change"-as was the case in Libya-or neo-colonialism, while being firmly in favour of upholding the norm itself against crimes against humanity and genocide. Instead, it has proposed a framework for sovereignty as responsibility dubbed  "responsibility while protecting."  Thus, Rousseff has introduced addendums to the RtoP doctrine designed to limit its misuse, while keeping the founding principles intact.  It proposes that the authorization of force within the context of RtoP must be limited in its legal, operational and temporal elements and that the mandate must be conferred by the Security Council or General Assembly.  In addition, as it exercises its responsibility to protect, the "international community" itself must show a high level of responsibility.  Both concepts should evolve together based on an agreed set of fundamental principles, parameters and procedures. 

The proposal has been criticized on the grounds that since Brazil tends not to support intervention in the first place-it abstained on the Libyan intervention and has opposed several others-it fudges the issue of when this new responsibility should kick in or when the UN should authorize force.  It also leaves unclear what concrete difference this would make in places where intervention was being contemplated.  Such criticism may be a bit unfair since the original "responsibility to protect" document is not particularly clear on the timing of intervention.  And Brazil has not shirked from international responsibility and has been engaged in humanitarian efforts such as the UN led mission to Haiti. 

What the Brazilian approach highlights is the need to move beyond the assumption that the only countries affected are the interveners and those being intervened in.  There are often painful consequences of interventions that have aggravated existing conflicts, allowed armed conflict to emerge in places where it previously did not exist and given rise to new cycles of violence and increased the vulnerability of civilian populations often with the effect of forcing people to leave their homes and become refugees.  The Iraq War comes to mind in this context, even if it was not justified on humanitarian grounds.

In practical and ethical terms, the notion, as expressed in the Brazilian proposal, that RtoP should not be used for purposes other than protecting civilians, raises a host of questions. 

The counterargument can be made that it served the interests of the status quo by stabilizing and, indirectly at least, propping up governments that are responsible for mass atrocities.  The experience of sending in UN peacekeepers to protect civilian populations into civil conflicts-where governments and paramilitary forces are strong-has, in some cases, proved disastrous.  The Srebrenica genocide, which took place before the eyes of international peacekeepers, is a case in point. 

It can also be argued that the concept of sovereignty cannot be separated from another concept: that of legitimacy.  Why should the sacrosanctity of sovereignty be accepted uncritically, if government power has been usurped illegally or by violent and undemocratic means.  Why should the "international community" condone the right of a government to terrorize its own population if it reflects the interests of a small minority or ethnic group bent on ruling and controlling the majority population through coercion.  The Assad government, for example, has no universal popular mandate or legitimacy. Why should the UN make it a precondition for any intervention that his regime be kept in power? One can make the case that by doing so, the "international community" is sheltering a war criminal.  It has been suggested that the international stalemate can be broken by removing Assad from power, while maintaining the state machinery dominated by the Alawis.  Such a Great Power compromise would take into account the Western demand of dethroning the head of the regime and preserve Russian influence in the country.  But it would also give legitimacy to an elite responsible for grave crimes and defeat the purpose of the RtoP principle. The perpetrators would not only be able to stay in power but get away with committing mass crimes. 

Brazil wants to adopt a middle position: while not aligning itself to the more interventionist states like the United States, France, Canada and Britain, it does not support Russia's and China's hard non-interventionist stance.  The rejection of any international intervention on sovereignty grounds is not consistent with the UN emphasis on RtoP and is frankly untenable after the Rwandan genocide. But what the Brazilians have done is to try to focus more on the rules of engagement and on the terms of the implementation of RtoP operations.  In that sense, the initiative is useful, even if the ethical question on intervention cannot, in the end, be divorced from the political will and capabilities of Great Powers. 

If Western governments want to get broad support from UN member states for the adoption and implementation of normative principles, such as the RtoP, to prevent genocide, they have to listen to such arguments.  I have voiced some optimism that we may be heading in the right direction regarding the principle of Responsibility to Protect.  But at the same time I have drawn attention to the brutal facts of the plight of the Syrian people at this very moment in time, being the victims of cold hearted power politics with the world standing idly by. This is, indeed, contradictory.

But then we must distinguish between the short term and the long term. A change will not occur on its own. It requires movers and doers to change the world. And that is our concern here to ask how  we can create "a Collective Alliance for the Prevention of Genocide & Mass Atrocities."  The Syrian crisis teaches us once again that we are still living in the shadows of colonial times and the Cold War period-the period of inactivity and apathy towards mass atrocities. The five permanent members of the Security Council wielding the veto power are not only the main players of the Cold War, the United States, Russia and belatedly China but also the main powers from the colonial period, Great Britain and France. Thus the Security Council mirrors the world of the 19th and 20th centuries. This should be a world long passed. For the 21st century this power constellation is an anachronism.

When I visited the United Nations for several weeks towards the close of the last century, I was struck by the theatricality and predictability of the political proceedings, which were dictated by the norms of the Cold War. There was my part of the world, the Western NATO powers, the Communist East Bloc, and the Non-Aligned Bloc. It might be said that these political groupings mirrored the realities of the world: that it was logical that they organized along those lines. The collective approach of the poorer part of the world within the World Trade Organization, for example, gave the non-industrial world, for a period at least, an unexpected advantage by force of numbers (which in turn indeed lead to the increase in bilateral agreements initiated by industrial nations!).

But in order to break out of the deadlock of the UN Security Council-and the hegemony of the the Great Powers-the United Nations needs to change and to undergo real democratization. Realistically, to be sure, we are not going to abolish the Security Council in one fell swoop! But by voting on decisions taken by the Security Council, the nations of the world would be empowered-or shall we rather say forced-to take a stance. It would not suffice anymore to sit passively as spectators following the great players on the world stage.

Of course, the real empowerment of the General Assembly would not bring immediate solutions. But it would act as a counterweight to a Security Council, which has shown itself being incapable of exercising its responsibility in mass atrocity situations. We must never be content with a world standing idle by while innocent people are being tortured and massacred. This characterized the first fifty years of the UN and must under no circumstances become, again, in the 21st century, the fate of this most important organization of  the world. Our urgent task is forge a new type of alliance politics-a different collective approach that would stay out of regional power blocs and stress democratization as a source of legitimization and as a way of undermining traditional great power politics in the fight against genocide and crimes against humanity.

Fréttabréf