Blood and Borders

The Responsibility to Protect and the Problem of the Kin-State

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Inter-ethnic conflict and genocide have demonstrated the dangers of failing to protect people targeted by fellow citizens. When minority groups in one country are targeted for killings or ethnic cleansing based on their group identity, whose responsibility is it to protect them? In particular, are they owed any protective responsibility by their kin-state? How can cross-border kinship ties strengthen greater pannational identity across borders without challenging territorially defined national security? As shown by the Russia-Georgia conflict over South Ossetia, unilateral intervention by a kin-state can lead to conflict within and between states. The protection of national minorities should not be used as an excuse to violate state sovereignty and generate interstate conflict.



R2P and kinship in the context of Syria and Lebanon

From the perspective of the protection of minorities, the case of the protection of vulnerable groups in Lebanon is particularly poignant. It could be argued that the first real treaty of public international law that concerned minorities was expressed in the context of the Lebanese ethnoreligious group the Maronites. This group was “adopted” by St Louis of France and was the subject of what is referred to in the literature as the “Promise of St. Louis of France 1250”. This adoption was essentially undertaken in the context of providing the Maronites safe passage across Europe, and was renewed subsequently by Louis XVI. It is important to point out that this unilateral declaration of support for the Maronites occurred before the articulation of the concept of state sovereignty, and thereby St Louis’s promise did not incur the formal violation of the sovereignty of another state or quasi-state entity – an issue fundamental in any discussion of the responsibility to protect (R2P). Also, unlike relations between modern Syria and Lebanon, where the former’s intervention could be justified on the grounds of the protection of kin Muslim communities, St Louis’s promise was towards the Christians. Nonetheless, it could be argued that, from a historical perspective, the “Promise” was an antecedent to the R2P doctrine formulated nearly eight centuries later.


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