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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
24 July 2009

General Assembly
GA/10849

            Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly
Plenary
98th & 99th Meetings (AM & PM)

MORE THAN 40 DELEGATES EXPRESS STRONG SCEPTICISM, FULL SUPPORT AS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
CONTINUES DEBATE ON RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT
 

The General Assembly debate on protecting civilians from the most serious atrocities continued today as delegates wrestled with the extent to which States should step in to stop – and ultimately prevent – genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

More than 40 speakers took the floor to discuss the responsibility to protect (R2P), a concept endorsed at the 2005 World Summit and aimed at providing a legal and moral basis for assisting civilians in the event of State failure to do so in the specific context of those four crimes.  Views on the R2P concept ranged from strong scepticism to full support.

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Background

Meeting this morning to continue its debate on the responsibility to protect (R2P), the General Assembly had before it the Secretary-General’s report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect (document A/63/677).  (For further information, please see Press Releases GA/10845 of 21 July and GA/10848 of 23 July.)

Statements

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JORGE VALERO (Venezuela)...

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Turning to the Secretary-General’s report, he said it did not refer to the causes of grave crimes against populations.  The massacre of Palestinians had not been mentioned, nor had the massacre of women and children in Afghanistan. ...

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SALEM MUBARAK SHAFI AL-SHAFI ( Qatar), ...

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He said that the Assembly’s role was critical, since history showed how often and disastrously an exclusive group of people could decide norms for others, particularly in the colonial era.  Today, it must be asked how the Security Council could implement the R2P principle, given the striking instances when it had failed to enforce its mandate to maintain international peace and security, particularly in cases like Gaza, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.  It was the misuse of the principles of humanitarian intervention, human security and R2P that caused them to be discredited and questioned today.

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ANET PINO RIVERO (Cuba) pointed out that the R2P concept did not exist in any international legal norm, and her country was concerned about ambiguous terms that could violate international law and the United Nations Charter under an “indiscriminate humanitarian blanket”.  It had echoes of the “right of humanitarian intervention”, she said, emphasizing that State sovereignty could not be disregarded even on a humanitarian basis.  Moreover, claiming that sovereignty had prevented the United Nations from coming to the aid of the suffering was to distort the truth.  Instead, double standards, a lack of development aid and various dysfunctions in bodies like the Security Council were to blame.

She went on to say that the Charter, particularly Article 9, codified the framework for solving economic, social, and humanitarian problems.  It was vested with the power to do so in the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.  Certainly the decisions of the General Assembly were not binding, but they were reached in a democratic body.  In contrast, there was no legal standard justifying a humanitarian intervention upon the Security Council’s decision.  If there were, it would be in violation of the main achievement of international law, which stipulated the illegality of war and the use of force.  Clearly, the Security Council’s working methods needed revision.  Its passivity in the face of Israel’s assault on Lebanon in 2006 and on Gaza earlier this year, as well as in the response to Cyclone Nargis, were examples of what was wrong.

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For information media • not an official record

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