Norms of Protection

Responsibility to Protect, Protection of Civilians and their Interaction

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A series of humanitarian tragedies in the 1990s (Somalia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Kosovo) demonstrated the failure of the international community to protect civilians in the context of complex emergencies. These brought to life two norms of protection – Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and Protection of Civilians (POC) – both deeply rooted in the empathy that human beings have for the suffering of innocent people. Both norms raise concerns of misinterpretation and misuse. They are developing – sometimes in parallel, sometimes diverging and sometimes converging – with varying degrees of institutionalization and acceptance. This book engages in a profound comparative analysis of the norms and aims to serve policy-makers at various levels; practitioners with protective roles; academics and researchers; civil society and R2P and POC advocates.



The responsibility to protect civilians from political violence: Locating necessity between the rule and its exception

This chapter inquires into the expansion of the rule of law in international law as it relates to the use of force. The promise of international law to promote and protect human welfare is limited by the means at the disposal of the international community where, normatively speaking, peace is the rule and armed conflict the exception. The consequential but regrettable necessity of a forcible response to real or threatened mass atrocities underscores this fundamental undesirability of violence versus its inevitability. The compromise forged is that force, although inevitable, should be used sparingly and only where necessary: specifically in emergencies and especially to protect civilians from mass atrocities. There are two, on the face of it contradictory, approaches clear in the debate on the role of force or violence in international law. The first relates to the fundamental undesirability of violence generally. The second relates to the inevitability of violence and consequential regrettable necessity of a forcible response in defence. The role of law in this debate is to navigate between these two coasts of undesirability and inevitability on the ship of necessity. This meandering approach is crystallized in the rules relating to the use of force, which try to restrict force only to extreme circumstances. The compromise reached is that force, although inevitable, should only be used sparingly.


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