The Security Council's Responsibility to Protect

International Organisations Law Review, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2011

40 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2011 Last revised: 11 Oct 2011

See all articles by Anne Peters

Anne Peters

Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

The objective of this paper is to spell out the legal consequences of the concept “responsibility to protect” (R2P), postulated as a binding legal principle of international law, for the Security Council and its members. The paper is a thought experiment, because the binding legal force of R2P is not settled. My argument is that, once R2P is accepted as a full-fledged legal principle, the Security Council (and its members) would be under a legal obligation to authorize or to take sufficiently robust action in R2P situations. The paper then discusses the problems engendered by the acceptance of such a material obligation and suggests a procedural obligation to justify inaction instead.

This issue is salient, because the real problem is not that the United Nations would intervene too often, but that the Security Council has abstained from authorizing military activities even in situations where the qualitative threshold for triggering what later became to be called R2P had been reached. It is a historical fact that the Security Council has failed to prevent and to stop genocide in Rwanda and Srebrenica. The two inquiry reports on those events in both cases blamed the Security Council and explicitly found the body to be “responsible”. In 1994 and 1995, that responsibility was not a legal one. Security Council hesitation and inaction then did not constitute a breach of a legal obligation. Under the reign of the new principle of R2P, it might.

Keywords: Responsibility to Protect, R2P, Security Council, genocide

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Peters, Anne, The Security Council's Responsibility to Protect (2011). International Organisations Law Review, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1772702

Anne Peters (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law ( email )

Im Neuenheimer Feld 535
69120 Heidelberg, 69120
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.mpil.de

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