The Emerging Principle of the Responsibility to Protect: An Asian Perspective

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  • November 2011

    In the aftermath of the Second World War and the horrors of the Holocaust, during which war crimes were committed on an unprecedented scale, the international community came together to declare ‘never again’ and set up the United Nations. Governments agreed that they would cooperate to prevent the commission of genocide and punish the perpetrators. They agreed to enact new laws for governing the use of force and protection of civilian populations, stating that the deliberate killing, displacement or mistreatment of non-combatants in international and domestic armed conflict and in peace time was criminally prohibited. They also pledged to encourage compliance with the law. Sadly, states and societies have largely failed to live up to these noble aspirations and ethical expectations. Genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity recurred with disturbing frequency after 1945, and despite voicing horror at the crimes, the international community, more often than not, failed to prevent them or to adequately protect the victims. These crimes were not limited to any one part of the world. They affected West and East, South and North. South Asia was witness to genocide in 1971 in what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). South East Asia witnessed conscience-shocking inhumanity when the Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia in 1975 and unleashed unspeakable horrors on the people of that country. Europe saw renewed ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid 1990s. Rwanda in Africa was the arena for large-scale genocide during the same period.