The background is tragically familiar: a conflict breaks out within a certain country; different factions engage in violent confrontations; ethnic, religious and political allegiances become driving forces and quicker than we are willing to recognize, thousands of people are being murdered, most of them unarmed civilians, outside the scope of any military confrontation between accountable armed forces, (when they exist). Entire societies suffer setbacks of dozens of years and human costs become so horrible that the loss of life turns into yet another statistic.
The reactions are very familiar as well: repeated calls for restraint, appeals to humanitarian imperatives, warnings of sanctions, expressions of outrage, isolation of one or more of the factions involved, debates and discussions, donors conferences, support to one of the factions and, in extreme cases, intervention to support one of the sides. For an international society that has pledged « Never again » after the crimes committed during World War II, we sure have a lot to answer for over the last 70 years.
Not wanting to go into a long and painful description of atrocities committed over the last seven decades, the events of the Balkans and Rwanda in the 1990s led the international community (not an easy concept, I know) to develop a norm known as Responsibility to Protect, or R2P.
This would have been magnificent, had it not been, once again, politicized by the players who stand to lose or win something out of an internal conflict where mass atrocities are committed. And so we get to a point where UN Security Council Resolutions are vetoed, not just once but several times by members who regard mass atrocities as nothing more than a nuisance…or to another point where R2P is invoked by members of the international community only to then forsake the very people they pledged to protect. Yes, as far as mass forsaking is concerned, Western democracies sometimes do a pretty good job at looking like their Russian and Chinese colleagues. The wording may change, but the results are often the same – just ask a Rwandan.
The dire state of play in protection of human life is fully revealed when France proposes a voluntary UN Security Council veto restraint in the cases where mass atrocities took place. This can only be worthy of praise, in a world where we’ve seen apathy, indifference and interventions for all the wrong reasons. Then again, if we really need to be reminded that mass atrocities should not be politicized in the world’s biggest forum, it shows that the subjects of international law that we call « sovereign states » have learned very little since their first calls of « never again ». Make no mistake about it, it’s a laudable initiative from France, but I can easily imagine endless and pointless discussions about how many victims are needed to make a « mass atrocity » or what methods need to be applied for an act to be deemed as such. By then, we will once again fall into a spiral of stalling and pushing back, red lines being drawn and redrawn as fast as the calls for greater humanitarian concerns gain ground.
Maybe it’s high time we start working towards establishing a global Jedi Council for the sake of preserving peace and protecting human life not only from atrocities but from the political calculations of those who could help them. At least the Galactic Empire doesn’t even pretend to protect anyone at all…at this point, even a lack of hypocrisy is a refreshing development.