Lalith Athulathmudali Memorial Oration |  “It is a Trojan Horse for refurbished imperialism and colonialism to plunder on a massive scale” A senior Indian diplomat last week denounced the doctrine of ‘Responsibility to Protect’, saying it was a “Trojan Horse for refurbished imperialism and colonialism.” Former High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka and UN Advisor [...]


Nirupam Sen denounces emerging doctrine of ‘Responsibility to Protect’


Lalith Athulathmudali Memorial Oration |  “It is a Trojan Horse for refurbished imperialism and colonialism to plunder on a massive scale”

A senior Indian diplomat last week denounced the doctrine of ‘Responsibility to Protect’, saying it was a “Trojan Horse for refurbished imperialism and colonialism.”

Former High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka and UN Advisor Nirupam Sen delivered the Lalith Athulathmudali Memorial Oration on the ‘Emerging Doctrine of Responsibility to Protect’ on Tuesday.

Nirupam Sen delivering the oration

Pointing to the example of Rwanda, he said, “Even if you take the most extreme example, Articles 1 and 8 of the Genocide Convention state that, if any genocide is suspected or even expected, the relevant organs of the United Nations, including the Security Council, have the authority to prevent the genocide, to punish, to deal with it.”
“And yet, when it happened in Rwanda, between the Hutus and the Tutsis, the UN Security Council left only 270 peacekeepers there,” he pointed out. “Eight thousand Rwandans died every day for 100 days, and it did nothing.”

The reason, Mr. Sen said, was simple: “There was no oil, no raw materials to be ravaged. There was no need. So, therefore, the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ was not needed at all. But ‘Responsibility to Protect’ comes in simply because, it was necessary to carry out plunder on such a scale. It was necessary to once again have some Trojan Horse for a refurbished imperialism, for colonialism.”

By curious coincidence, it was Canada which set up a commission called ‘The International Commission for Intervention and State Sovereignty’, which uses these words ‘Responsibility to Protect’. Mr. Sen said it was because Canada wanted to “transform a pleasurable intervention into a painful responsibility, cloaked under the garb of a collective Samaratinism”.
“They say that, look, Hitler was there, Hitler should have been stopped or, in other words, that we should have prevented war,” he continued. “But we forget the lesson is that, Hitler used ‘Responsibility to Protect’ to march into Czechoslovakia and Poland. He claimed he wanted to protect the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia and the Danzig Germans in Poland.”

“So we see that the doctrine of preventive war is essentially a Nazi doctrine,” Mr. Sen said. “It has nothing to do with the UN Charter, especially since the UN Charter was certainly set up to prevent war. They talk of things like ‘a just cause’, ‘proportionality’, ‘the right intention’, ‘reasonable prospect of success’. But with an international community that cannot even agree on a definition of terrorism, how can it agree on something like this?”

“And what is ‘a just cause’?” he asked. “This is a reversion to the pre-charter days, to the days of Thomas Aquinas, Machiavelli, who said war is just when it is necessary. But who is to decide when it is just? When it is necessary?”

It was said in this Canadian report that the Security Council will not use the veto, because one of the problems with this doctrine also, is that, the permanent members can never have this doctrine applied to them. Nor can their friends have this doctrine applied to them, because the veto will save them. “So how do you exercise the ‘Responsibility to Protect’?” Mr. Sen questioned.

The other question that arises is that, the justification used (for ‘Responsibility to Protect’) is exactly the same justification that was used by the colonial powers. “Don’t forget that King Leopold of Belgium said he wanted to conquer the Congo, Rwanda and so on, to save them from the Arab slave drivers, and we all know how he saved them!” Mr. Sen said.

Pointing out that the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ has still not been legally adopted, Mr. Sen asked, “The question is, who is to use this doctrine? Is it the Secretary-General, a man who was elected through a conspiracy by a few members? And the Security Council has consistently opposed something we have tried very hard to do, to have the Charter obligation fulfilled and to have the Secretary-General elected by the General Assembly. But this was resisted.”

“Then again, when the second Libya resolution was passed in March 2011, the present Secretary-General declared that it was not relevant to find out whether this ‘Responsibility to Protect’ was applicable or not,” Mr. Sen recalled. “One should only implement the norm. Can you imagine something so shameful being said by any previous Secretary-General?”

“So who is to implement this,” he said. “If it’s not the Secretary-General, is it going to be the Security Council? The Security Council at least had the honour not to allow the Iraq intervention. But then, the Iraq intervention was in a country that was certainly under tyranny, under a dictatorship, under quite an unlikeable tyranny. But it had the best schools, the best hospitals, the best public health system, the best education system. It was the envy of the Arab world. It was a secular, modern society. And what have we got in place of that?”

“Fundamentalism, ethnic conflict, sectarian conflict, insecurity, mass emigration, mass displacement and we also had the tortures, don’t forget, of Abu Ghraib,” Mr. Sen stressed. “It is absurd to wage war for human rights. First, of course, they did try to wage a war for Weapons of Mass Destruction, but that was soon found to be non-existent. It was a fraud. So they fell back on this, that it was a war for Human Rights.”

“But the point is, to ask for a war for human rights is to ask for bloodshed, displacement and torture,” Mr. Sen said. “That is inevitable in war. So this itself is a contradiction in terms.”

“The greatest example of ‘Responsibility Protect’,” he said, “was the anti-colonial struggle which restored the human rights of populations throughout the developing world. It, in fact, made the Europeans less racist, more humane, gave better governance, thereby, indirectly even to the European populations, and therefore, exercised ‘Responsibility to Protect’ even on the European populations. That was the real exercise of ‘Responsibility to Protect’, and it was done through sovereignty, through a State, because it is only within a State that you can have access to social, political and economic rights.”

Mr. Sen said that, “In the UN, justice is never done. If anything is done today, it is done after the heavens fall, which is why they are so busy catching skylarks,” he emphasised. “But, in any case, I don’t think we will have the nights departing and the rising of the morn. There is still going to be a twilight period for a long time, with all its burdens and sorrows.”
“The UN needs reform,” Mr. Sen said. “Could Rwanda have happened, if there had been African Permanent Members in the Security Council?” he questioned. “So, the answer is not ‘Responsibility to Protect’. The answer is new permanent members.”

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