The Responsibility to Protect, or R2P – refers to the obligation of states toward their populations and toward all populations at risk of genocide,war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and other crimes against humanity.
R2P was universally sanctioned in 2005 World Summit, and then reaffirmed in 2006 by the UN. It is based on the idea that sovereignty is not a privilege, but a responsibility. Though it is the state’s responsibility to protect its citizens against any crimes, there are many instances where ‘Responsibility to Protect’ should have been called for but wasn’t.An instance where ‘Responsibility to Protect’ should have been invoked is Guinea Massacre. On 28 September 2009, protesters were demonstrating against the plans of Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, leader of the ruling junta, to run in the upcoming presidential elections, when government forces opened fire on them in a stadium in Conakry. This open fire, according to an investigation by Human Rights Watch, resulted in the death on over 150 civilians, injuries to at least 1400 people, and widespread sexual violence and rape.
Human Rights Watch also published evidence of death, rapes and other crimes committed by Guinea’s security forces that were widespread. As mentioned in Responsibility to Protect, Guinea have responsibility to protect its citizens by stopping or preventing these crimes from happening. The Guinean government failed twice, once to protect its people by allowing the military to enter the stadium and use force against the protestors, and failed twice by not halting the attacks once they began. Hence, the Guinean government did not fulfil its responsibility to protect. Captain Moussa Dadis Camara took power in a military coup in December 2008, promising to hold office temporarily, however he quickly dissolved the government and parliament, and suspended the Constitution. “While in power, Captain Camara’s party, the National Council for Democracy and Development , allowed security forces, under the guise of tax collection and national security, to commit theft and violence against the civilians”(Crisis in Guinea).
According to the Human Rights Watch, Captain Camara’s term in office was characterized by violations of human rights and of the rule of law(Crises in Guinea). The international community responded rapidly to the crisis by implementing travel bans, arms embargo, and asset freezes. Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS introduced an arms embargo on Guinea on 17 October 2009, and travel bans and asset freezes were implemented by African Union, or AU on junta members On 21 December, the UN Commission of Inquiry in Guinea released its findings in a report making clear that crimes against humanity had been committed on 28 September 2009 by government forces against unarmed civilians.
The UN Commission of Inquiry specifically noted the responsibility of the leaders of the ruling junta for the attacks, including Captain Dadis Camara, chief of the Presidential Guard, Lt. Aboubacar Chérif Diakité, and Moussa Thegboro Camara, an officer in charge of special services(Crisis in Guinea). Also, there have been some cases where Responsibility to Protect was not used at all. Such instance is of Myanmar crisis, where ethnic minority groups, mostly Rohingya, are being attacked by Burmese majority. “The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ “. This crisis increased after August 25, 2017, when a few of Rohingya militants called the Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army killed 12 members of Myanmar;s security forces. Myanmar’s military responded by killing innocent civilians, that also left many injured and homeless. While Myanmar rejects the allegations of ethnic cleansing against it, at least 500,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since August of this year.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who is a prominent leader of Myanmar, have also not yet condemned this crime against humanity for which she has received criticism. One likely reason of why R2P is not invoked is because as military is guaranteed 25 percent of the Myanmar’s Parliamentary seats, it gives them veto power over constitutional amendments( National geo). Even though San Suu Kyi is the State counselor of Myanmar, it does not hold military answerable to her as it has it had established its powers years before Suu Kyi was elected.Another example of instances where R2P is not invoked is of slave trade in Libya. In October 2017, a CNN team traveled to Libya where they recorded horrific video of men being auctioned for as little as $400.
These auctions are being taken place in nine others places in Libya. It is estimated than there are between 400,000 to 1 million migrants trapped in Libya. These migrants wanting to escape war and despair in Libya to France are served a lie by smugglers and are kept in inhuman conditions.
A possible reason to why this crime against humanity was unseen or neglected was because Libya right now has three governments between whom the political power is divided, and land is controlled in large areas by militias that not loyal to anyone. Thus, as there is no actual rule of law across, this kind of crime have been neglected and is still happening.