Is jumping on the Kobani bandwagon a bad idea?

Like ISIS is beseiging the town of Kobani in Syria
Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 15:42

By Justice4all

The Syrian Kurdish city Kobani has been besieged by ISIS for more than four weeks. About 300,000 people have fled the city into Turkey. However, some people have stayed there, at great danger to themselves. ISIS has captured a strategic hill close by and is using it to launch rockets and heavy artillery on the city.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) has failed to put an end to the crisis in Syria, which has spread to Iraq and other neighbouring countries. Who is going to put an end to what academics call a ‘complex crisis’ that is destabilizing international peace and security? Who is going to stop ISIS from beheading Kobani's civilians? Who is going to stop ISIS from selling the women and the children of Kobani at ISIS's slave markets, like the ones they have set up in other cities they captured? As detailed in this report

The Syrian government, and its allies Iran and Russia, are not taking their responsibility to protect the people of Kobani, and perhaps the Syrian government is unable or even unwilling to protect its population. So who is going to protect civilians who are facing such imminent danger?

The concept of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ – which has been branded with a snappy acronym R2P – evolved in the 1990s. For instance, NATO intervened in the former Yugoslavia in order to protect the Muslim minority from the Serbs.  In 2005, the doctrine was adopted by the UN General Assembly. It states that each individual state has the responsibility to protect its population. If a state is not able to do so, other states should help. Another UN General Assembly resolution was also adopted in 2009 and reaffirmed this responsibility. 

Many UN organs now refer to this practice and have been putting it into all their official documents and reports

Later in 2011, NATO intervened in Libya to protect the civilians of Benghazi and other cities from the atrocities of Gaddafi’s militias and mercenaries. The Security Council also acted under Chapter VII and reaffirmed the R2P doctrine in its resolution

Let’s not forget that the UNSC is the only executive organ that can authorize the ‘use of force’ under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

However, the evolving doctrine of the ‘responsibility to protect’ depends more on moral than legal justification, and there hasn’t been enough time yet to consider this doctrine as a ‘binding legal principle of law’.

The doctrine is based on the following: when there are gross violations of universal human values, the international community should act promptly, either by helping or intervening to stop such violations. 

Since 2011, Russia and China have used their veto powers at the UNSC three times to stop Western attempts to resolve the crisis in Syria. The current air raids by the U.S. and its Arab allies on ISIS without a mandate from the UNSC or in coordination with the Syrian government have failed, so far, to weaken ISIS.

There are inherent dangers and contradictions in the evolving R2P doctrine – who uses it, when, how. All are very important factors for this new doctrine to become a useful element for states to apply in times of the greatest need. One major question is: will it really ever be possible to make this doctrine work in accordance with the UN Charter?

Other questions: are we going in the near future to see boots on the ground under the evolving doctrine of 'responsibility to protect'? And is the US just using ISIS as an excuse to intervene – as it has always wanted to – in order to, eventually, engineer regime change in Damascus? Is ISIS in fact just a stalking horse for the US and its Arab allies? Is R2P just being used as an excuse to mask intervention? 

When faced with a humanitarian tragedy such as we see unfolding daily in Kobani (and other Syrian cities), all of us want action. But, this evolving doctrine of R2P and how the great world powers use it require caution, analysis and enquiry into who is using this new idea to intervene and why – before we automatically jump on its bandwagon.  

Hassan Bleibel is a cartoonist for Cartoon Movement.

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Anonymous
Anonymous

This is a brilliant piece. I enjoyed reading it

Friday, March 20, 2015 - 13:40
Anonymous
Anonymous

All about 'political expediency' when we compare the human rights reports coming from Iran,Syria, Russia, China, North Korea etc. We conclude that there are shocking similarities. So why should they bother about Kobane? They created this crisis in Syria and blocked any attempt to resolve it in accordance with the UN Charter. All their aim is to protect a tyrant war criminal who is killing his own people.

Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 12:38
Anonymous
Anonymous

I have a very legitimate question, why Russia, China and Iran the important partner of Bashar Al Assad did not join the coalition against ISIS? Why do they not take their responsibility under international law?

Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 11:05
Anonymous
Anonymous

When one of the 5 P's uses its veto against a legal principle of law, such action -in my opinion- should be considered illegal since it is inconsistent and breaching the UN Charter. Maintaing International Peace and Security is a legal principle of law, so you cannot act against it even if you have the veto privilege. But they do! Who can stop them? This is the lex lata of the UNSC.

The 5 permanent members and the rest of the 'peace loving states' after WWII have signed and ratified the UN Charter in good faith. Thus, they are bound by it in accordance with the principle of pacta sunt servanda which is enshrined in the VCLT.

However, when human rights are at stake, and when there are a systematic and a severe gravity of mass atrocities, where is the legal justification for blocking an attempt for an ICC Referral concerning those perpetrators? France has tried to put an end to this practice, but it failed.

The legal point her, how can a permanent member state at the UNSC work against the principles of the UN Charter. Who is the guardian of the UN Charter? The ICJ? Does the ICJ have the courage to give an advisory opinion (if) one day the UNGA confront her with such legal question? I do not want to be pessimistic, but the ICJ might consider such legal question addressed by the UNGA as ultra vires to avoid such confrontation!

Concerning the EU, try to consult article 52 and 103 of the UN Charter, the EU, the NATO and the Arab League are considered regional organizations. According to the UN Charter, they cannot act proprio motu without a clear mandate from the UNSC. The UNSC is currently paralyzed due to the adamant Russian and Chinese position. No wonder that some of the EU member states are not bombing ISIS on the Syrian soil. They are bombing ISIS on the Iraqi soil since the Iraqi government has requested an urgent assistance to fight ISIS and they work in coordination with the Iraqi government. Thus, Russia and China can never make a counter legal argument in this regard.

The legal dilemma here; has the Syrian government lost an 'over all control' on the areas where ISIS has now 'over all control' and do the US and its Arab allies need a permission from the Syrian regime to bomb ISIS on the Syrian soil? Why the Syrian regime does not use its barrel bombs against ISIS instead of using against the civilian populations in Aleppo, Dara, Idlib etc... Kobane is a Syrian city, so why the Syrian regime does not take its legal responsibility to protect its people in Kobani, and why the Chinese and the Russians do not help to rescue those besieged civilians of Kobani?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 19:35
Anonymous
Anonymous

I see your points, however, my main issue is just blaming of China and Russia for the lack of intervention. The European Union can have a vote to make its military capabilities available to the Nato and UN for a possible intervention. Furthermore, they could even go as far as have a vote on an exception to the current guidelines for the usage of their Battlegroups in order to intervene in Syria (which at the minute will be made available to a threat within a 6000km radius of Brussels when requested by the UNSC and approved by an EU vote).

Calling it an illegal veto is, in my opinion, something which doesn't make sense. The veto power has been put in place by the UNSC themselves, and for a country to exercise their right, according to the guidelines of the UNSC, to veto, should not be labelled as 'illegal'. I agree with your point that it is undermining the UN charter, but it is a situation that the International society has put themselves in by having the veto to start with.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 16:18
Anonymous
Anonymous

First of all, protecting defenseless civilians wherever they are is (Firstly) a legal responsibility under national, international and customary international law, and (Secondly) it is a moral responsibility. My argument is that 'legal responsibility' comes before 'moral responsibility' in the realm of reality. Look at UDHR and other relevant legally binding HR conventions. Thus, Comparing the situation in Syria now with Iraq in 2003 is like comparing a pear to an apple.

The US used previous UNSC resolutions taken under Chapter VII to justify its intervention in Iraq in 2003. Now the situation in Syria is completely different. chemical weapons have been used against civilians, more than 150,000 civilians have been killed and millions of Syrians have fled their country.

War crimes, crimes against humanity, and gross violations to Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocols are taking place on daily basis in Syria. When France tried to bring all top warriors to the ICC, the Russians and the Chinese have blocked the aforesaid ICC Refferal. What do we call this illegal veto blockade? I call it: 1) creating a safe haven for war criminals. 2) A sever underminng of the UN Charter. 3) A flagrant contempt to all universal values.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 15:45
Anonymous
Anonymous

Is it really about a question of R2P developing? China and Russia's stance on blocking interventions in Syria could arguably be more about national interest than those of their 'allies'. I would argue that R2P will never be invoked in Syria and it's up to individual nation states to take on this moral responsibility that you speak of. But then again, the United States took on the 'moral responsibility' in Iraq...and we all see how that is playing out now. I'm just saying, what would make Syria any different?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 13:45
Anonymous
Anonymous

The history has proven that the brutal dictatorial regimes and their "Allies" do not want R2P to develop. They just want to remain in power, steal the national wealth of their own people and kill their own people -whenever- they try to demand a margin of freedom, equality or democracy! Being a permanent member state at the Security Council is not only a "political prestige" it is a LEGAL and MORAL responsibility. Human Rights and Human Dignity must be above all concerns

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 12:15
Anonymous
Anonymous

But we have seen how R2P has been unsuccessful throughout history as well - what's stopping this situation from being different?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 08:57
Anonymous
Anonymous

Very good,it feels that finally someone is acting in the struggle for Syria. Normally the whole world is just"only concerned" instead of being involved. Those poor people have to suffer the rest of their lives with this horror and terror. And the rest of the world have to live with the idea that they saw it and did not do anything at all. I do not understand why Russia and China are creating this all,by veto every solution to wipe out the "is". Let's hope this R2P is reality in Syria as soon as possible and that it is not too late.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 17:51
Anonymous