Since its adoption by world leaders at the World Summit in 2005, the Responsibility to Protect (herein R2P) has been hailed as a major achievement in protecting populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, or ethnic cleansing that would be committed by rulers. However, some see the R2P not as an effective human right instrument for civilians’ protection as it appears to be another tool for imperialism. My position in this essay is that I believe the R2P doctrine is a considerable achievement in world politics as it signals to potential perpetrators of mass atrocities that the world would no longer stand by, but will use force when necessary to protect innocent civilians. My position is articulated as follows. First, I will present the content/principles of the R2P doctrine . Second, I will point out the legal and moral argument underpinning the R2P, particularly its military aspect. Finally I will evoke some cases where the R2P has been critical in protecting populations from mass killing and show the shortcoming of those who argue against the R2P.
First of all, the R2P clearly states that: i) the State has the primary responsibility to protect its population from heinous human rights abuses such as genocide, war crimes, crime against humanity and ethnic cleansing; ii) the international community has the responsibility to assist States in fulfilling their primary responsibility as indicated in point i) and as such, it should use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect populations from those crimes; iii) however, when a State fails to protect its own populations or is the actual perpetrator of such crimes against its populations, the international community must be prepared to take stronger measures, including the collective use of forces (military intervention) with the authorization of the UN Security Council.
Second, the key principles of the R2P, known as the “precautionary Principles” are as follows:
1) The right intention, which stresses that the primary purpose of the military intervention, must be to halt or avert human suffering.
2) Last resort: this means that the use of force (military intervention) can only be undertaken when all the non-military options for the prevention or peaceful resolution of the crisis have been explored.
3) Proportional means: this principle indicates that the scale, the duration, as well as the intensity of the military intervention to be conducted should be the minimum necessary to secure the objective of human protection.
4) Reasonable prospects: to achieve the objective of human protection, there must be a reasonable chance of success in halting or averting the suffering of civilians justifying the intervention, with the consequences of the intervention not to be worse than the consequences of non-intervention (inaction).
Third and most importantly, the R2P defines the “Just Cause Threshold” justifying the military intervention. The threshold for...