International Responses to Mass Atrocities in Africa: Responsibility to Protect, Prosecute, and Palliate

International Responses to Mass Atrocities in Africa: Responsibility to Protect, Prosecute, and Palliate

International Responses to Mass Atrocities in Africa: Responsibility to Protect, Prosecute, and Palliate

International Responses to Mass Atrocities in Africa: Responsibility to Protect, Prosecute, and Palliate

Synopsis

Since the end of World War II and the founding of the United Nations, genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes--mass atrocities--have been explicitly illegal. When such crimes are committed, the international community has an obligation to respond: the human rights of the victims outweigh the sovereignty claims of states that engage in or allow such human rights violations. This obligation has come to be known as the responsibility to protect. Yet, parallel to this responsibility, two other related responsibilities have developed: to prosecute those responsible for the crimes, and to provide humanitarian relief to the victims--what the author calls the responsibility to palliate. Even though this rhetoric of protecting those in need is well used by the international community, its application in practice has been erratic at best.

In International Responses to Mass Atrocities in Africa, Kurt Mills develops a typology of responses to mass atrocities, investigates the limitations of these responses, and calls for such responses to be implemented in a more timely and thoughtful manner. Mills considers four cases of international responses to mass atrocities--in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Darfur--putting the cases into historical context and analyzing them according to the typology, showing how the responses interact. Although all are intended to address human suffering, they are very different types of actions and accomplish different things, over different timescales, on different orders of magnitude, and by very different types of actors. But the critical question is whether they accomplish their objectives in a mutually supportive way--and what the trade-offs in using one or more of these responses may be. By expanding the understanding of international responsibilities, Mills provides critical analysis of the possibilities for the international community to respond to humanitarian crises.

Excerpt

The core concern of this book is how have, can, and should mass atrocities be addressed? It is thus historical, analytical, and normative. It is historical because it examines how the international community responded to four cases of mass atrocities, although three of these situations are, in one way or another, still ongoing. It is analytical in that it provides a typology of the different types of responses and how these responses interact. It is normative because it begins with the underlying assumption that the international community should “do something” about mass atrocity situations, and that the “somethings”—military intervention to stop atrocities, holding individuals criminally responsible for atrocities, and providing basic assistance to help people survive the broader effects of mass atrocities—are all important developments and may all be appropriate, although perhaps appropriate in different ways and circumstances.

The first response—the use of military force to protect civilians and stop atrocities—is a core part of what has come to be known as the responsibility to protect (R2P). It follows from previous debates over humanitarian intervention, but is a reflection of a radical shift in the perceived balance between sovereignty and human rights. The second response I call the responsibility to prosecute, since it stems from an expanding recognition that those who commit atrocities should be punished. The third response I call the responsibility to palliate, because although there are significant humanitarian urges to help people in the middle of conflict, this particular response usually can do little more than treat the symptoms of a much more complicated situation. Taken together, these three sets of norms and practices are identified as R2P —responsibility to protect, prosecute, and palliate. These responses, even though they are all rooted in an urge to stop human suffering, are very different types of actions. They accomplish very different things, over different . . .

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