NEW YORK, NEW YORK – On 11 December 2014, the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, and White & Case LLP co-organized a forum for parliamentarians from governments across the globe to react to and discuss Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s 2014 report, “Fulfilling Our Collective Responsibility: International Assistance and the Responsibility to Protect.”
The event, “Discussion with Parliamentarians on Pillar II of the Responsibility to Protect,” was held at the New York City headquarters of the global law firm White & Case and welcomed, among other noted participants, Dr. Jennifer Welsh, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on the Responsibility to Protect, and the following five legislators: Georges Dallemagne, MP, Member of the Committee of Foreign Relations, Belgium; Senator Adolfo Ferreiro, Member of the Jury of Prosecution of Magistrates, Paraguay; the Hon. Angellah Jasmine Kairuki, MP, Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Tanzania; Margarida Salomão, MP, Deputy Leader of the Workers Party in the Chamber of Deputies, Brazil; and, Jurgen Trittin, MP, Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Germany. The discussion provided an opportunity for States, and in particular, parliamentarians, to review their national development strategies as they pertain to the prevention of atrocity crimes.
Dr. Jennifer Welsh delivered introductions and opening remarks. “As parliamentarians,” she said, “you play an important role in debunking the myths about R2P.” Dr. Welsh stressed that military intervention—which falls under pillar three of the norm—is only one option among an array of coercive and non-coercive tools States can use to protect populations from atrocity crimes. Pillar two, she said, is “peer-to-peer support in the spirit of partnership to assist States to fulfill protection responsibilities.”
Dr. Welsh’s introduction was followed by brief remarks by representatives from the event’s co-organizers, then a panel discussion titled, “Pillar II of the Responsibility to Protect in Practice: Challenges to the Implementation.” This panel featured Savita Pawnday, Director of Programs at the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, Patrick Travers, a consultant to the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect, German MP Jürgen Trittin, and was chaired Volker Lehmann, Senior Policy Analyst at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Mr. Trittin agreed that discussions about R2P are all-too-often reduced to debates around the use of coercive military force. Events in Libya, where “R2P was used to justify a regime change,” has helped to delegitimize R2P in the eyes of the public. “If it turns out,” he said, “that most cases of military engagement not only failed, but also produced instable states, civil wars and rising terroristic groups, then R2P will become a synonym for war not for preventing atrocities.” As a solution, he said, “we have to strengthen pillar two—a wise and long-term investment.”
The second panel, “Legislative Action Supporting the Prevention of Atrocity Crimes,” featured Tanzania Member of Parliament Hon. Angellah Jasmine Kairuki and Senator Adolfo Ferreiro of Paraguay, with Owen Pell, Partner at White & Case, serving as chair. Ms. Kairuki highlighted importance of implementing regional protocols and forming national committees devoted to atrocity crime prevention. “In Tanzania,” she said, “the National Committee [for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and All Forms of Discrimination] is working very closely with the central as well as the local governments.” Robust ownership and commitment to the committee, she added, “explains why the Tanzania National Committee is well ahead other mechanisms in the regions in terms of discharging its mandate.” In addition to State ownership, she said “sustainable peace must be local driven with support from international community.” Mr. Ferriro of Paraguay agreed, noting that States need to invest more support in helping other States build national capacities, especially in education. According to Ferriro, the likelihood of atrocities occurring in Paraguay are “low,” but the risk factors present, especially related to exclusion and marginalization of native cultures.
The third discussion panel, “Development Assistance for the Prevention of Mass Atrocity Crimes and Parliamentary Oversight,” featured Brazil MP Margarida Salomão and Belgium MP Georges Dallemagne and was chaired by Charlotte Beck, Program Director for Foreign and Security Policy at the Heinrich Böll Stiftung – North America. Margarida Salomão opened her remarks noting that in line with pillar one framework of R2P the Brazilian Constitution and the Brazilian State aim to prevent the commission of atrocity crimes, but nevertheless, “there are risk situations which deserve to be addressed by legislators and carefully watched by the human rights community.” She highlighted three main challenges: a legacy of impunity from the military dictatorship (1964 – 85), the situation of Brazil’s indigenous population, the risks experienced by young, black males in Brazil’s security and criminal justice system. She highlighted the work of the National Committee for the Search of Truth, which recently offered 28 recommendations towards strengthening human rights policies, “some of which,” she added “are presently matter of legislative efforts by the Brazilian Congress.”
Belgium’s Georges Dallemagne highlighted his country’s foreign assistance programs within the framework of R2P’s second pillar. The section of the 2014 R2P Secretary-General report on a professional and accountable security sector (paragraph 44) is of “paramount importance,” he said. “The Belgians trained the Congo army without human rights training—the results were very bad,” he said, referring to Belgian-supported DRC battalions later implicated in war crimes. “Based on lessons learned,” he added, “the military cooperation between DRC and Belgium changed drastically.” For the past eight years, an improvement in human rights training of DRC troops have had “a huge impact on the behavior and real efficiency of the troops to protect population from atrocities.” Today, he continued, “Battalions 321, 322 and 323 are now well trained and have been involved successfully to fight and defeat the rebels of M23 while the civilians have been respected and protected.”
Concluding remarks were delivered by Dr. Jennifer Welsh and AIPR Executive Director Tibi Galis. Dr. Welsh said that critical dialogues are “useful because they allow us to talk about the wider possibilities of R2P”—especially given the critiques leveled at the norm amid ongoing atrocities in Syria. For Galis, “this discussion validated the idea of an international space for cooperation between parliamentarians.” The organizers, he added, hoped that this dialogue will serve as a critical starting point for parliamentarians to interact regularly to conduct policy analysis and recommend approaches to the prevention of genocide and other atrocity crimes at the parliamentary level.