Within three years…

Peace & Security15 Jun 2010Maria Varaki

Three years ago, at the Hague Joint Conference on Contemporary Issues of International Law, Prof. Alvarez talked about ‘the schizophrenias of R2P’ to add that, ‘R2P’s normative legs result from its not consistent, various iterations, as well as from the lack of clarity as to whether it is a legal or merely political concept. It means too many things to too many different people.’

Three years later, the deliberations of the previous week proved the continuing existential question around these three words. We experienced interesting debates between political scientists and lawyers, but also among lawyers themselves regarding the normative nature of R2P as a purely political concept or emerging legal norm. We focused a lot on prevention, trying to preserve the ‘purity’ of the new idea from the ‘dirty’ burden of humanitarian intervention. We denounced the rejectionist states and hailed the ‘like-minded’ or friends of R2P. We confirmed our moral commitment to the shared values of the international community as a whole, reiterating the same theoretical foundation, which underpins the international criminal justice project. We questioned the wisdom of the crimes language option, spoke of the global rule of law status, and explored the responsibilities, if any, of the Security Council.

At the end, we even heard that Darfur is not a case study for R2P since the crisis there emerged before the adoption of the outcome document in September 2005.

Some issues, however, became clear, like the conclusion that politics define the limits of law regardless of the contrary contention we lawyers support, that we still do not speak the same language when we use R2P, and that the prevention dimension is not less controversial than the intervention one. We finally witnessed the triumph of state sovereignty, reminding us that it still remains a volcano in action which can explode every time the ‘international community’ tries to impose those shared values, and we departed with a big question mark!