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Co-directeur(s) /trice(s)
Résumé de la thèse

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a newly developing concept in the lexicon of international relations and international law, particularly in relation to armed conflicts and mass atrocity crimes, such as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. As a concept, R2P was first introduced in 2001 by three eminent personalities of international relations and international law, namely Gareth Evans, Mohamed Sahnoun and Michael Ignatieff, who were also members of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), which popularised the usage of the term in the international arena. Ten years after the introduction of the concept, there seems to be a growing international consensus among scholars and practitioners that the doctrine of R2P is becoming a norm of international relations, if not a well-established principle of international law. In contrast, use of force is a concept with a long history of existence and usage in international relations and international law, at least dating back to the period when the UN was established.


As the UN founders were overwhelmingly preoccupied with potential conflicts between or among states, article 51 of the UN Charter envisages only the prohibition of the use of force along the borders of nation States with the exception of self-defense and use of force authorized by the Security Council in cases of threats to international peace and security. Hence, external intervention in case of internal mass atrocities is curved out in article 2(7) of the Charter. The provision explicitly pointed out that: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.” As a result of this discernment, several catastrophic events of the immediate post-cold era (1990s), such as intrastate conflicts, civil wars, and internal violence perpetrated on a massive scale did not get international attention commensurate to their intensity. As a result, the UN was simply helplessly watching the tragic loss of millions of peoples as victims of such pathetic violence in places such as Somalia in 1993, Rwanda in 1994, the Balkans, particularly Srebrenica in 1995, and later in Kosovo in 1999.


One aspect of international law which is very much related to the doctrine of R2P is the doctrine of State Responsibility. Article 48 of the draft articles on State Responsibility envisages the invocation of responsibility by States other than the injured State acting in the collective interest in case of a breach of an international obligation, it is not clear if it grants such responsibility to Sates in case of internal mass atrocity. Pursuant to the said provision the State that is entitled to invoke responsibility under article 48 is acting not in its individual capacity by reason of having suffered injury, but in its capacity as a member of a group of States to which the obligation is owed, or indeed as a member of the international community as a whole. This provision explicitly mentions the need to act collectively in case of violation of obligation of a State but it is not clear from the wording of the article whether it grants the international community an obligation to protect citizens of a particular State from atrocities by its own state.


Though recently there is a tendency to justify intervention under the disguise of humanitarian intervention to avert atrocities as mentioned in the above, it is not yet clear when exactly individual sovereignty claims take primacy over state sovereignty and how to identify the point at which the former should override the latter. Thus, to overcome such complexity the new way of talking about humanitarian intervention should be re-characterized by the responsibility to protect people at grave risk rather than the right of states to intervene. By analysing the relationship between the doctrine of R2P and other well-established principles of international, such as use of force, this research proposal investigates the extent to which R2P (as a newly developing concept of international law) contributes in the resolution of latest violent crisis and humanitarian crises, such as those of the Arab Spring – particularly Libya (2011) and Syria (2011–2012).


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