Refugee crisis exposes ‘Right to Protect’ doctrine

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By Dr Tafataona Mahoso

IN the first week of February 2011 MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai celebrated the effects of Western interventions in the Middle-East and North Africa which the media then popularised as the ‘Arab Spring’.
Tsvangirai was attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he told Amy Kellog of the US television channel Fox News that his party saw a great opportunity for itself arising from violent upheavals in the Middle-East and North Africa.
Upon his return to Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai even attempted to organise demonstrations at Harare Town House in the hope of triggering an upheaval similar to those taking place in North Africa and the Middle-East.
In contrast, President Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF showed that the key problem was Western intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign nations.
The President and his party organised massive rallies against illegal sanctions which forced Tsvangirai to retreat to his residence in Strathaven and watch the big crowds from indoors!
That was in 2011.
If we move now to 2015, we notice the following:
l The Western media created distorted spectacles of upheavals in the Middle-East and North Africa which they misnamed the ‘Arab Spring’ and which served to confuse not just Tsvangirai and the MDC formations, but many in Peace Studies programmes in our universities.
l For the British government and the regime change forces in Zimbabwe, the anticipated Zimbabwe version of the Arab Spring dated back to the formation of the MDC opposition in 1999 and was articulated by American Secretary of State for African Affairs, Chester Crocker during his 2001 exchange in New York with the late Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Stan Mudenge where he said sanctions were meant to make the people of Zimbabwe suffer until they rose and stoned their leaders in the streets. The uprising and stoning would then trigger a security clamp-down which would invite the Western powers to invoke the responsibility to protect ‘unarmed demonstrators’ against their own government as happened later in Libya (2011) and Syria (2013).
l The responsibility to protect doctrine was unveiled by Western-sponsored non-governmental organisations (NGOs) within the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) at the 60th Anniversary UN Summit in 2005. The new doctrine was an integral part of the Western strategy to replace the UN Charter with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and to remove the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on Protection of Civilians during armed conflict from the framework of the UN Charter to the framework of the UDHR in order to make foreign intervention and illegal regime change easier to execute.
l The overzealous NGOs within ICISS demanded the global recognition of six categories of state crimes which would justify invoking the ‘right to protect’ against a sovereign state: “genocide; war-crimes; crimes against humanity; ethnic cleansing; state collapse; and overwhelming natural or environmental catastrophe.” The summit, however, accepted the first four categories and rejected the last two.
l The sponsors of this responsibility to protect doctrine claimed that it would rest on three pillars or operational objectives: “responsibility to intervene in order to prevent the foreseen or foretold crime; responsibility to react; and responsibility to rebuild or reconstruct the government, society and economy in the aftermath of the catastrophe.”
l In Africa, the process and movement which climaxed in the adoption of Responsibility to Protect at the 60th UN Anniversary in 2005 had other indicators such as the wide sponsorship of Peace and Conflict Studies in African universities; the promotion of the so-called African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and adoption of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) and creation of the SADC Tribunal.
What makes the whole project bogus and suspect
Time and events on the ground have shown Responsibility to Protect to be an invalid and dangerous doctrine:
l Genuine protections of civilian populations can be still achieved through the use of the Protection of Civilians principle of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention. The attempted departure from that principle to Responsibility to Protect did not mean or result in better protection for civilians caught in conflict; it actually meant that the exercise of sovereignty by imperialist states in the form of imperialist aggression had become more important than the sovereignty of states targeted for illegal regime change. In other words, the doctrine extended the sovereign rights and powers of imperial states to include the right and power to launch pre-emptive military attacks on other states in the name of protecting civilians.
l The doctrine was also contradictory in the sense that imperialist aggression, re-baptised as the Right to Protect, precipitated or worsened the very same catastrophies and atrocities it was supposed to fix. Genocide, war-crimes, crimes against humanity, state failure, environmental disasters, and ethnic cleansing have actually been created or worsened by interventions in Iraq, Kosovo, Libya and Syria.
l But the most spectacular demonstration of the stupidity of Right to Protect is the refugee crisis in Europe in August-September 2015. Europeans are now failing or refusing to accept and protect just a small proportion of the civilians in whose name they invaded Iraq and Libya citing the Right to Protect. In other words, these civilians enjoyed the right to be protected only on paper. When a small proportion of them showed up on Europe’s doorstep, they triggered panic and xenophobia.
l The three operational objectives of the ‘Right to Protect’ doctrine have also been proven false. Pre-emptive military attacks have not prevented conflict. The invaded countries — from Kosovo and Serbia to Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan — have not been rebuilt.
In Libya, Iraq and Syria, foreign intervention under the ‘Right to Protect’ civilians has worsened ethnic chauvinism, sectarian strife and ethnic cleansing.
As Dr Binoy Kampmark recently concluded in Collapse in Libya: The Death Rattle of the Responsibility to Protect, the NATO attack on Libya did not just fast-track the Right to Protect doctrine to its grave.
“In a sense (the doctrine) never left the morgue it was conceived in.
“The record is miserably bleak and suggests that the Right to Protect doctrine should be scrapped, or stripped bare for what it really is: An attempt at good old invasion and intrusion in the affairs of another state.
“Inside every humanitarian is a criminal waiting to get out.”
George W. Bush, Nicholas Sarkozy, Tony Blair, and Barack Obama are among the humanitarian criminals the fruits of whose actions are being exposed through the refugee crisis.
They should not be allowed to continue dressing up in the costume of the ‘Right to Protect’ civilians a small proportion of whom are being barred daily even from Europe’s doorstep.

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