Sunday, April 3, 2011

March 2011: Libya and the Responsibility to Protect

Editor's Introduction

It’s Time to Intervene” by Shadi Hamid. Slate. February 23 2011.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1973 on March 17 marks a historical event: the first military implementation of the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) since world leaders adopted at the United Nations World Summit in 2005 the collective responsibility to respond in a timely and decisive manner when governments are manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and/or crimes against humanity. Libya will be remembered as the test case for R2P, the initial step in transforming a principled idea—protecting people from mass atrocities—into concrete international action.

This Roundtable focuses on the international responses to the crisis in Libya and how the events unfolded domestically and internationally since the uprising started in the city of Benghazi in mid-February. The starting point for the debate is Shadi Hamid’s piece, written in the early stages of the Libyan conflict, in which he calls on the international community to promptly intervene to prevent further civilian casualties: “Aggressive international action is risky. But taking comfort in toothless denunciations of Qaddafi is riskier still. It is also a recipe for prolonged conflict. In the absence of alternatives, a responsibility to protect sometimes necessitates a responsibility to intervene. And, with the Libyan regime declaring, with unmistakable clarity, its intent to kill, the time for intervention is now.”

Only a couple of weeks later, and with considerable speed considering the slow pace and difficulties of reaching international consensus on these issues, the international community resorted to R2P as a formula to justify its intervention in Libya. The UN Security Council authorized member states "to take all necessary measures (notwithstanding the previous arms embargo) to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi.'' The Resolution explicitly condemns "the gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and summary executions," and says the attacks against civilians "may amount to crimes against humanity" and pose a "threat to international peace and security." Most notably, this is the first UN-sanctioned combat operation since the 1991 Gulf War.

In a recent speech (March 28), US President Barack Obama explained his position largely in humanitarian terms and used the concept of responsibility to justify his decision to support such intervention: “To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and—more profoundly—our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”

Beyond the justifications for international action, the challenge today is to translate the remarkable international consensus reached within the Security Council into effective protection for the Libyan population. This month’s Roundtable discusses the multiple challenges ahead.

Claudia Fuentes

Roundtable Editor


Is it Really Time to Intervene in Libya?

by Christina Cerna, Organization of American States

“As heartbreaking as watching the crushing of the civilian uprising in Libya on nightly television broadcasts may be, it is not genocide. Intervention was authorized to protect civilians but the West’s expressed goal of Gaddafi’s ouster goes beyond the language of the Security Council Resolution.”

Shadi Hamid, in “It’s Time to Intervene,” suggests that the international community—specifically, the United States, the United Nations, and NATO—must intervene in Libya because Muammar Gaddafi has declared that he is ready and willing to slaughter his own people if his survival depends on it. The author considered Gaddafi’s speech otherwise “bizarre” and “incoherent.”

But what about the reaction of the international community, which normally means the US and Europe; has its reaction been anything but bizarre and incoherent? The New York Times editorial page criticized the Obama administration for “throwing out so many conflicting messages on Libya that they are blunting any potential pressure on the Libyan regime and weakening American credibility. It’s dangerous to make threats if you’re not prepared to follow through.” And French President Nicolas Sarkozy on March 10, 2011 recognized the Libyan opposition as “the legitimate representative of the Libyan people” (“le représentant légitime du peuple libyen”) while Alain Juppé, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, was in Brussels participating in a meeting designed to forge a common European position on the matter. And then there are the NATO Defense Ministers who said that “further planning was needed to initiate and enforce any potential air exclusion zone in Libya and that this could only happen with a ‘clear mandate’ from the United Nations—likely to need US, Chinese and Russian support.”

The United Nations Security Council did act on February 26, 2011 at the urging of the Arab League, the African Union, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, all of which expressed concern about the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that are being committed in Libya. Security Council Resolution 1970, inter alia, recalled the Libyan authorities’ responsibility to protect its population, and acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter demanded an “immediate end to the violence.” The Resolution urged the Libyan authorities to allow immediate access for international human rights monitors; to ensure the safety of all foreign nationals and to facilitate the departure of those seeking to leave; to ensure the safe passage of humanitarian and medical supplies and workers into the country; and to lift restrictions on all forms of media. The Resolution also refers the situation in Libya to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, despite the fact that Libya is not a party to the Rome Statute and consequently has “no obligation under the Statute.” It imposes an embargo on the “direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer” of arms to the Libyan authorities and, significantly, it imposes a travel ban and assets freeze on named Libyan authorities, notably on Gaddafi, his family, and his security and intelligence heads. Also, the EU leaders have now all agreed that Gaddafi “must go,” but how far they are willing to go to ease him out of power is still a question.

Two pillars of the UN Charter are articles 2(4) prohibiting the use of force and 2(7), which enshrines the principle of non-intervention. Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the UN Security Council may take measures when there is a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations or decide what measures shall be taken to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Again, at the request of the Arab League, the African Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, alarmed at the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Libya, on March 17, 2011 the UN Security Council, acting again under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, adopted Resolution 1973, which demanded an immediate cease-fire and end to the violence against civilians and which authorized UN members to “take all necessary measures … to protect civilians … under threat of attack… while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory” and to establish a ban on all flights in the Libyan airspace in order to help protect civilians.

Hamid invokes the “Responsibility to Protect (R2P),” the responsibility of the international community to intervene in situations where mass atrocities are being committed. Gareth Evans and the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), who coined “R2P,” revived the notion of humanitarian intervention in the face of repeated United Nations inaction. The international community should not sit back and watch the demand for freedom in Libya be quashed because the authorities have the money and the weapons to maintain themselves in power. But surely Libya is not the only country where massive human rights violations are occurring today. One has only to listen to the stories of the hundreds of thousands of foreign workers fleeing Libya for Tunisia and Egypt; these people would rather die than go back to Nigeria or Bangladesh or their other countries of origin.

In deciding which countries merit international intervention to protect people from atrocities, perhaps the only moral obligation to intervene can be found in a situation of genocide.

The goals of the international community continued to be incoherent as the West called for the removal of Gaddafi, while Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, after the first US-European led airstrikes stated: “[W]hat is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone. What we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians.”

As heartbreaking as watching the crushing of the civilian uprising in Libya on nightly television broadcasts may be, it is not genocide. Intervention was authorized to protect civilians but the West’s expressed goal of Gaddafi’s ouster goes beyond the language of the Security Council Resolution.

When it was noted that some people called on Jimmy Carter to bomb Iran in retaliation for the fifty-two Americans who had been taken hostage, Carter said, “We went through four years. We never fired a bullet. We never dropped a bomb. We never launched a missile.” Why? Carter responded that he “felt that our country should be, as a superpower, the champion of peace.” Before leaping into another quagmire like Iraq and Afghanistan, in its attempt to make the Middle East an oasis of democracy, the United States should think about Jimmy Carter’s words and seek ways to mediate an end to this conflict before it degenerates into an all out civil war.

The author of this Roundtable article, Ms. Christina M. Cerna, is a staff member in the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States' Secretariat for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The opinions expressed in this note are the sole responsibility of the author in the author's personal capacity and are not to be interpreted as official positions of, and are not to be attributed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States, or the Organization of American States.

Christina Cerna - B.A., New York University; M.A., Fulbright Scholar, Ludwig-Maximilian Universitat; J.D., Dean's Fellow, American University; LL.M., Columbia University. Ms. Cerna is Principal Human Rights Specialist at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C.. She has been with the OAS since January 1979 and is currently in charge of certain special cases and systematizing the IACHR’s jurisprudence. She taught international human rights law as an Adjunct for the law schools at George Washington University, Penn State University and, since 2005, at Georgetown University.


Feminism and Democracy

by Louis Edgar Esparza, University of Denver, Josef Korbel School of International Studies

“Broad coalition movements create the space for other issue groups to bring up their grievances, allowing them to frame them as issues of inequality within the movement. In Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, women are asserting their political rights as citizens in a polity as well as their rights in their positions in their households.”

After work on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks walked onto a bus that was to take her home that night. She ended up on a trip to jail instead, for refusing to give her seat to a white passenger. The event triggered resistance to bus segregation, the founding of the Montgomery Improvement Association, and the election of the then-unknown Dr. Martin Luther King as its leader. The success of the campaign is an integral battle in our historical retellings of the US African American Civil Rights Movement. Fewer recount the sexual harassment against black women by white men that occurred on these buses, the experience of which motivated those who sustained this movement: black women. While the stated goal and effect of the male-led organization was to desegregate the buses, the women-led grassroots movement had the effect of easing sexual harassment and violence against themselves and delivering the campaign’s ultimate success.

The faces displayed in the media of the Libyan pro-democracy movement are largely those of male rebels. Wielding rifles and clad in blue jeans, their loud gunfire, bloodied faces, and impassioned appeals draw nearly all of the public attention given to their movement. Still, in the sea of faces at many of the protests are many women, fighting on their own behalf. However, gendered divisions of labor in movements are real and are patrolled. Observers of revolutions and social movements often spend much of their focus on property destruction, violence, strikes, or other performances mostly carried out by men. Meanwhile, the inglorious everyday labor of sustaining such mobilizations—knocking on doors, public education, distributing resources—so often, rightly or wrongly, has depended on women.

Broad coalition movements create the space for other issue groups to bring up their grievances, allowing them to frame them as issues of inequality within the movement. In Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, women are asserting their political rights as citizens in a polity as well as their rights in their positions in their households. Many men stood down as thousands of women attended rallies and political events throughout the region, facing violent repression, injury, and death. However, as soon as Ben Ali departed Tunis and Hosni Mubarak fled Cairo, both capitals saw spikes in sexual assaults against women. This as if to say, “Thanks, now don’t take this too far.”

But women have created their own opportunities, seizing the pro-democracy frame to illustrate the gendered patterns contained therein. These approaches often lead to real and evidenced improvements in the quality of life for women. Social movements can lift many boats by opposing external authorities, but even these imperfectly address their internal inequalities.

This is at least in part due to forces external to these movements. Chip Perrow argues that the rise of corporations in the United States occurred because corporate hierarchies resembled existing power structures in the US government—a highly rationalized hierarchy with compartmentalized powers and clear lines of authority. Because of the organizational resemblance, the government could better understand the corporate form. The corporation, while challenging certain forms of government authority by privatizing goods, did not challenge authority itself. The government invested in the corporate form, even though it was less efficient at production than contemporary cooperative models. Those models were decidedly out-maneuvered with the bestowal of personhood to corporations in 1886.

Unfortunately, social movements that maintain hierarchies, such as patriarchy, are less threatening to governments because they challenge fewer forms of cultural and government authority. This should strengthen the resolve of movements to purge these from their structures rather than tempt them into adopting hierarchies to appear more palatable. This is the burden that feminist movements have carried at least through the last couple of centuries, and one that must be made central to all movements claiming to be pro-democratic.

Louis Edgar Esparza is Lecturer in Human Rights at the University of Denver, Josef Korbel School of International Studies. His work appears in Societies Without Borders, Qualitative Sociology and Sociological Forum. Dr. Esparza is writing a book on grassroots human rights movements in Colombia, where he completed ethnographic fieldwork in 2008. His research has attracted grants and awards from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Latin American Studies Association and Oxfam America.


I Will Survive

by Robert Funk, Institute for Public Affairs of the University of Chile

“But if there is one thing that has been striking about the events in Libya in recent weeks—and indeed looking back over decades—it is the sheer ability of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to survive. He is, perhaps with Fidel Castro, the world’s greatest survivor.”

“But I spent so many nights
thinking how you did me wrong
I grew strong
I learned how to carry on”

-Gloria Gaynor

Academics do not often quote 70s disco tunes. At least not in print.

But if there is one thing that has been striking about the events in Libya in recent weeks—and indeed looking back over decades—it is the sheer ability of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to survive. He is, perhaps with Fidel Castro, the world’s greatest survivor. He has indeed learned how to carry on.

There are several reasons for this, both domestic and foreign. Domestically, Gaddafi has set up a remarkable system, far less institutionalized than the one in Egypt. This not only implies that power is far more centralized and personalized than it was in Egypt, it also means that any future transition would be much more difficult. There are simply no institutions in Libya that could carry on with the task of governing, and no constitution to provide a roadmap for transition. Just a little Green Book, a kind maoist-islamic democracy self-help book Gaddafi published in 1975 and which includes phrases like, “The mere existence of parliaments underlies the absence of the people, for democracy can only exist with the presence of the people and not in the presence of representatives of the people.” Power, therefore, rests solely with “The Guide”, one of the colonel’s official titles.

Since (one assumes that) The Guide knows he is mortal, he has charged his sons with a few of the responsibilities of governing, such as heading the security services, running public companies, and putting a smiley, London School of Economics-trained face on foreign affairs. Often this kind of arrangement leads to in-fighting, especially in the face of domestic turmoil. The Gaddafi clan seems to have been able to avoid this.

Third, like Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi has been adept at exploiting his country’s tribal divisions. One of the results is that there appears to be no organized opposition, as any political opposition to the regime would descend into tribal bickering. The apparent military retreat of the rebels in recent days seems to confirm this lack of coordination. Still, the rebel forces are not merely a bunch of disorganized desert tribes: one of their leaders is Gaddafi’s just-resigned interior minister, Abdel Fattah Younis, who surely has some access to supplies, knows where the stockpiles and warehouses are, and has some firsthand knowledge of the regime’s contingency plans for this sort of situation.

The international reasons for Gaddafi’s survival are even more astonishing, as he has transmogrified from romantic 1960’s socialist revolutionary, to funder of anti-West terrorism in the 1980s, to repentant ally in the struggle against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism in the post 9-11 era. Today, he has returned to the role he plays best: crazy-like-a-fox autocrat.

The final reason that Gaddafi has managed to hold on, where some of his neighbors have not, pertains to Libya’s place in the international system. Whereas American aid to Egypt gave the US a good deal of leverage regarding whatever decisions President Mubarak took to deal with the protesters in Tahrir Square, in Libya the US has no such power. The main options available to the US, then, have been to support the rebels more directly, or to make declarations in favor of democracy.

Here President Obama has been reticent, to say the least. He does not wish to see the United States accused of yet another military intervention in a Muslim country. He has been unable to identify a reliable partner to support. He is unclear on what a post-Gaddafi Libya would look like, and how much US tutelage it would need. He is uneager to ask the already battered American taxpayer to foot the bill for this sort of adventure. And finally, besides America’s commitment to democracy and an increasing gas bill, there is no clear US interest—to paraphrase Churchill—to risk so much, for so little.

For these reasons, the president has so far declined to offer direct military aid, air cover, or a no-fly zone. As each day passes, it appears that forces loyal to Gaddafi are regaining control.

In the short term, if Muammar Gaddafi manages to hang on, he will be strengthened. In the battles to come, he will have eliminated some or all of his current opponents, and will have identified, through their defections, internal threats like Younis. As it appears, however, that the spirit of the Jasmine Revolution is not yet extinguished, different kinds of experiments in Arab (and, indeed, Persian) democracy may yet emerge. If this occurs, not only will Gaddafi have burnt the bridges he tried for so long to rebuild with the West, he will find himself isolated from the new governments in the neighborhood as well.

Robert Funk is Deputy Director and Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Institute for Public Affairs of the University of Chile. Dr Funk’s research areas include democratization, left and populist movements in Latin America, and political elites. Recent publications include “Parties, Personalities and the President: The Institutional Challenges of the Bachelet Government”, in The Bachelet Government: Conflict and Consensus in Post-Pinochet Chile, edited by Silvia Borzutzky and Gregory Weeks. From 2006 to 2008, Dr Funk served as president of the Chilean Political Science Association.


We Do Indeed Reap What We Sow

by Walter Lotze, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

“The international community is responsible for entrenching the Gaddafi regime both internationally and domestically, allowing it to exercise disproportionate levels of power, and providing it with the weaponry to back this power up within its own borders.”

When violence first broke out in Tunisia in January 2011, few observers would have predicted that waves of unrest would engulf North Africa and the Arab world. When demonstrations swiftly spread to Algeria, Sudan, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and Jordan, observers hastened to place bets on which regime would be the next to fall. That Hosni Mubarak would be felled next came perhaps as no surprise; Egypt had for years been on a knife’s edge, liberalizing and modernizing society while closing all space for political and social participation. Most analysts then turned their attention to Sudan, Yemen, and Bahrain, predicting that surely one of these three would be the next to falter. Yet almost no one expected that Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya would be the next domino in line. Having ruled the country for forty-one years and destroyed all semblance of a free media, of opposition politics, or of civil society, Libya was assumed to be ruthlessly stable.

Thus, when on 16 February violence erupted in Tripoli and Benghazi, most observers assumed that the Libyan security forces would react quickly and brutally deal with the demonstrators, as the regime in Algeria was doing. However, what had taken Gaddafi forty-one years of despotic rule to create unravelled within a matter of days. Demonstrations calling for democratic change evolved into bloody street battles, sometimes with the support of and sometimes against the state security apparatus, and confusion turned to chaos. The regime started to crumble as the rats jumped ship, claiming incredulously that it had been Gaddafi alone who had ruled the country with an iron fist for over four decades. The military structures too appeared to be rapidly collapsing.

While the international media and political analysts struggled to make sense of the developing situation, foreign governments fared even worse. The African Union’s Peace and Security Council declined to meet on the crisis, prompting the United Nations Security Council to take the lead, decrying the violence and the mounting evidence of the commission of abuses against the civilian population. Reluctantly, the African Union followed suit, but went only as far as to call on the protesters to demonstrate in a peaceful manner. The League of Arab States called on Gaddafi to leave, probably the first time in history that the organization has been united on any matter, yet failed to offer its support to the demonstrators, for fear of inciting further unrest elsewhere.

Initially, it seemed as though Gaddafi was destined to end his days on the rooftop of his palace in Tripoli, and the European Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America heralded the victory of the demonstrators and the end of the Gaddafi regime. Within days the situation had been reversed, however, with Gaddafi seeming not only to hold on to power, but indeed to be driving back the anti-Gaddafi movement. The international community then performed a remarkable feat: the “pro-democracy demonstrators” were re-branded as “rebels,” and the “democratization movement” as a “civil conflict.” Shortly before Gaddafi’s forces could exact their brutal revenge on the population of Benghazi, a motley coalition of the willing was hastily assembled, and with the passage of Resolution 1973, commenced an aerial bombardment on Gaddafi’s forces. While the international community was distracted by Libya, Saudi Arabia assisted the regime in Bahrain to brutally crush the opposition movement there, and security forces in Yemen and Syria started to gun down protestors there. Yet while we publicly deplore the violence all around, we should not be too quick to forget that we ourselves created this mess.

American support for the Saudi royal family has enabled one of the most repressive regimes to remain in power for decades, while in Bahrain, the home of the American Fifth Fleet, American and Saudi support has kept the ruling monarchy lingering decrepitly on. In Yemen, Western support has been key to ensuring that President Saleh clings to power, in the name of anti-terrorism measures. During Gaddafi’s initial rise to power, foreign governments were very happy to supply the regime in Tripoli with support, as long as the oil kept flowing. Following the Lockerbie bombing in 1988, the West imposed sanctions against Gaddafi and vilified Libya internationally, yet the oil kept on flowing. When two decades of sanctions had attained very little other than to exact hardship on the Libyan people, and during the height of the international war on terror, Libya was brought in from the cold by George W. Bush and Tony Blair. The dismantling of the Libyan weapons development programs and cooperation in the intelligence sector were rewarded with weapons sales and access to international financial transactions, allowing Gaddafi’s regime to strengthen its position both domestically and internationally. Gaddafi became a regular visitor to Italy, where he was entertained by Silvio Berlusconni and hundreds of hand-picked models at lavish feasts. Libya was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council, enabling it to deflect criticism from human rights organizations and detractors. And Libya was given a prominent role in the League of Arab States and in the African Union. Indeed, Libya contributes a significant proportion of the annual operating budget of the African Union Commission, and exercises heavy influence over the Peace and Security Directorate of the organization.

The international community is responsible for entrenching the Gaddafi regime both internationally and domestically, allowing it to exercise disproportionate levels of power, and providing it with the weaponry to back this up within its own borders. When the uprising first commenced, foreign governments cheered on the protestors, hoping that they would be able to topple Gaddafi. When it became obvious that this was not possible without external support, they commenced bombing him out. Yet those who now vilify Gaddafi would do well to bear in mind that it was the West that created him and allowed him to remain in power for so long. Sadly, this is a story not quite unfamiliar. Even sadder is the fact that it is the Libyan people who must pay the ultimate price, and must be cut down by weapons paid for by European car owners.

Walter Lotze (South African) is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) in Oslo, Norway. Prior to joining NUPI, Walter worked in the Peace Support Operations Division of the African Union Commission, prior to which he headed the Peacebuilding Division at the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), a non-governmental organization working in conflict situations across the African continent. Walter recently completed his PhD in International Relations with the University of St Andrews in Scotland.