When is There Sufficient Information to Decide if There is an R2p Situation or Not? From the Intervention in Timor Leste to the Crisis in Sri Lanka

R2p and Sovereignty: 10 Years after Kosovo and East Timor, Charles Stanford (Ed), (2011) Ashgate, Chapter 4

Posted: 14 Apr 2013

See all articles by Paul Harpur

Paul Harpur

University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law

Date Written: August 11, 2011

Abstract

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine re-affirms that genocide and ethnic cleansing are abhorrent acts and that the community of nations has a responsibility to intervene whenever such acts are pending or occurring. The R2P doctrine contains the process by which military humanitarian intervention can be authorised by the Security Council (Evans 2008A). This chapter will analyse the process by which the United Nations Security Council follows to determine if there is an R2P situation. In particular, this chapter will critically analyse the ability of the Security Council to access reliable information and whether the United Nations should adopt new processes to ensure the Security Council has sufficient evidence to enable it to make the important judgment about whether or not genocidal activities or ethnic cleansing are occurring in a target State.

This chapter will firstly analyse the development of the R2P doctrine and then will analyse two case studies to illustrate the problems with the current operation of the R2P doctrine. The first case study concerns the United Nations intervention in Timor-Leste following the independence vote in 1999. While this intervention occurred prior to the adoption by the United Nations World Summit of the R2P doctrine in 2005, the case study in Timor-Leste provides an example of where the Security Council had reports that violence was pending but failed to act in a timely manner. This chapter will postulate that the Security Council simply lacked the political will to act and accordingly, the world only acted when the violence reached an extreme level. This chapter will argue that the Security Council should have analysed what caused the delays in responding to the crisis in Timor-Leste and improved these processes when adopting the R2P doctrine.

This chapter argues that one problem with the Security Council monitors in 1999 in Timor-Leste was that those monitors did not directly address the difficult issue of whether or not there was a risk of genocidal activities or ethnic cleansing occurring. The issuing of a report stating genocide or ethnic cleansing was occurring would have placed increased political pressure upon the Security Council to make an earlier decision to intervene.

The second case study demonstrates the problems that arise when accurate and reliable information is unavailable. The second case study concerns the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009. During this conflict, there were serious allegations made about the way in which the Sri Lankan government prosecuted the war. In Timor-Leste, there were potential limitations with the flow of information about the situation on the ground. Unlike in Timor-Leste, in Sri Lanka there were no Security Council monitors or independent observers. As a consequence, the world had virtually no reliable information as to the nature of the conflict. Without such information, it was impossible for the Security Council to determine whether or not there was an R2P situation in Sri Lanka. As the Sri Lankan government was largely responsible for the limited flow of information, the operation of the R2P situation during the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009 sets the precedent that if a State prevents any official reporting of its conduct, that State maybe able to avoid the Security Council deciding whether or not there are instances of genocidal activities or ethnic cleansing.

This chapter suggests that the Security Council should send inspectors into conflict zones to report directly to the Security Council on the nature of the conflict and whether an R2P situation has arisen or is likely to arise. If the Security Council has accurate information, this will increase the probability that the R2P doctrine can be used to utilize military and non-military interventions to prevent genocidal activities or ethnic cleansing.

Keywords: R2P Doctrine,Timor-Lest, genocide, ethnic, Security Council

Suggested Citation

Harpur, Paul David, When is There Sufficient Information to Decide if There is an R2p Situation or Not? From the Intervention in Timor Leste to the Crisis in Sri Lanka (August 11, 2011). R2p and Sovereignty: 10 Years after Kosovo and East Timor, Charles Stanford (Ed), (2011) Ashgate, Chapter 4. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1908526

Paul David Harpur (Contact Author)

University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law ( email )

Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

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