The responsibility to protect (R2P) is a worldwide act set up by all member states of the United Nations to prevent and intervene against crimes against humanity (Mohamed, 2012).This act was set up in 2005 at the world summit to protect popularized nations against public atrocities and violation of their human rights. This act gives the United Nations the authority to protect citizens of member states from crimes against humanity and to hold responsibility to prevent such crimes from occurring. This measure is considered as a last result when events get out of hand in a member state and the United Nations thus needs to intervene and spread peace throughout the nations. However, the United Nations has failed to implement this act of the right to protect on several occasions. Such scenarios include incidents that happened in Libya, Sudan, Syria and Kenya. The United Nations also holds the power to deploy its military forces to prevent this crimes from getting out of hand. If states are unable to protect its civilians from this crimes the responsibility is directly transmitted to the international community.
The international community holds the responsibility to encourage and assist member States in fulfilling the responsibility to uphold peace and preventing war crimes such as genocide from happening (Mohamed, 2012).The crisis in Syria however exposed the ineffective power that the United Nations have from implementing the right to protect. It also showed the limited power that the United Nations has to force government into action. The right to protect initially started out as a collective measure against the failures seen by the international community in countries such as Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo. The lack of authority to implement this in counties such as Syria has drawn great controversy to the United Nations as it has exposed the fragile nature of the United Nations to intervene in such crimes against humanity.
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In Syria, the government carried out several humanitarian atrocities and the intervention by the United Nations was not at the time to prevent further ( “Preventing Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, Ethnic Cleansing, and War Crimes” ). The crimes in Syria began when 86 people inclusive of 28 children were brutally killed in the Khan Shaykhun town in Idlib province following chemical attacks in the area. Medical evidence showed that this chemical was the nerve gas Sarin. Evidence also showed that the government of Syria had further used chlorine gas in three separate occasions between the years 2014 to 2015. The war between Syrian government forces and armed opposition groups in the country further intensified between March and April. It was reported that 84,000 people were displaced by the chaos in March alone, to add on the atrocities committed over858 people were killed following this fighting also. The result of this fighting further saw the mass killings of 465, 000 civilians this was a huge number of people notably that the international community would have prevented through their intervention but this was not the case. Reports from the United Nations office showed that by March 2017 there was an account for 6.3 million internally displaced people and 5 million refugees in Syria. This was reportedly the largest number of people displaced all over in the world. The call for humanitarian assistance in Syria has not quite been answered yet and reportedly 13.5 million civilians still await this humanitarian assistance. The atrocities committed in Syria include indiscriminate attacks, use of chemical weapons and displacement of people.
The Syrian government blocked humanitarian assistance from the United Nations ( “Preventing Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, Ethnic Cleansing, and War Crimes” ). The United Nations should have implemented the right to protect act in Syria when this chemical attacks and conflicts were first noted which would have prevented the series of atrocities from occurring. The United Nations failed to implement the responsibility to protect act as they faced the Syrian government. The United Nations further failed to enforce military action as there would have been more casualties of war in Syria the result being more killings and more displaced people. Discussions to bring about peace by the United Nations Security Council has failed this led to the intervention of individual states and regional organizations thus took it upon themselves to uphold their right to protect (Rose, 2014). The right to protect is hindered by non-intervention of the internal affairs of sovereign states and their respect for territorial integrity. After the chemical explosives crisis in Syria the united nation was hit with some major issues they needed to address; they first needed to address why they had failed to provide humanitarian access to the displaced people in Syria. The lack of humanitarian assistance in Syria forced the United Nations to encourage all the groups in Syria either being religious, ethnic and confessional communities to offer assistance to those displaced within Syria.
The second opinion was for the United Nations to have discussions about Geneva 2 which were set out to be peace talks however the Syrian government threatened to boycott this proceedings. Peace talks were seen as the best solution at the time by the United Nations as military action would have led to more casualties of war in Syria. The talks however happened and once they commenced it was reported that about 1600 people died while the Syrian government and opposition exchanged words ( “If The Dead Could Speak” ). As we see the right to protect act was not taking its effect well with limited intervention and close to action more casualties were seen during a period when this talks were taking place. The last issue that the United Nations needed to address is the issue of ending impunity and they looked to set an example with Syria (Rose, 2014). They needed someone to hold account for the chain of events that took place in Syria for over three years. Reports show that they were different sides that could own up to the crisis in Syria the government military forces and militias who tortured killed and displaced people. This were the perpetrators of this war crimes and mass destruction all over Syria, small religious groups were also held accountable for organized warfare against government soldiers.
The human rights council thus took steps to look for evidence as a follow up against this crimes in Syria it put together a confidential list of groups to be held accountable for the crisis in Syria (Mohamed, 2012). The list was to be handed over to International Criminal Court. More evidence continued to resurface against the government and in all fairness the United Nations should have been firm and handed them over to the international criminal court. With Syria serving as an example we have seen why the united nations has been viewed to be ineffective in the responsibility to protect sovereignty they have failed in all times to deliver what they stand for in this act. They failed to intervene between the three year spell when chemical bombs and this atrocities were being carried out, they also failed to protect civilians within Syria and provide them with humanitarian help in a time of dire need. Proper authority was not shown when they held peace talks in Geneva while they had evidence of atrocities committed by the Syrian government. They should have held the perpetrators of this crimes against humanity accountable as stated in the right to protect act which they themselves set up.
Rose, S. J. (2014). Moving forward with the responsibility to protect: using political inertia to protect civilians. BC Int'l & Comp. L. Rev. , 37 , 209.
Mohamed, S. (2012). Taking stock of the responsibility to protect, 48 Stan. J. Int'l L. 319 (2012). Retrieved from http://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3126&context=facpubs
“ If The Dead Could Speak,” Human Rights Watch (view 15 minute video at - Google Search . (2017). Google.com . Retrieved https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/syria
“ Preventing Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, Ethnic Cleansing, and War Crimes,” UN Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide - Google Search . (2017). Google.com . Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/adviser/un_role.shtml