SOAS University of London

SOAS scholar gives evidence at Foreign Affairs Committee on responsibility to protect and humanitarian intervention

11 May 2018

Dr Leslie Vinjamuri, Director of the Centre on Conflict, Rights and Justice, and Associate Professor of International Relations at SOAS University of London, gave evidence at the Foreign Affairs Committee on the Responsibility to Protect and Humanitarian Intervention earlier this month.

The inquiry examines the legal basis to intervene militarily in other states for humanitarian purposes, and reviews the conditions that apply in the aftermath of the UK participation in air strikes in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons

Dr Vinjamuri discussed the responsibility to protect (R2P) and the importance of prevention: “One thing that has been very significant in terms of the progress and the positives that have come out of R2P is that on a state-by-state basis we have seen multiple examples of states developing capacity and initiatives to concentrate on understanding the causes of atrocity crimes and trying to develop a set of indicators, so that they can begin to predict when low-level violence might escalate into genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes or crimes against humanity. This has also happened within the international architecture. That focus on prevention and capacity-building, while still in its early days, has taken a very significant step forward.”

Dr Vinjamuri also discussed the role of the Security Council.  “I would not discredit or deny the significance of taking something to the Security Council for deliberation when one knows that there will not be a resolution…it provides..evidence that there is a basis for collective action, perhaps outside the Security Council, despite one veto or two abstentions...”

Dr Vinjamuri was asked about what should happen if consensus cannot be reached or there is disagreement in the UN Security Council. She noted that the use of chemical weapons or mass atrocities could not be ignored, but that establishing clear criteria for agreeing a response was essential... “…one cannot be naïve and not think about the consequences of any action, especially the use of military force. Any decision to use military force has to…be taken with respect to a careful assessment of the consequences in humanitarian terms, as well as in political and strategic terms, of that action.”

For further information on the inquiry and for a full transcript visit the Foreign Affairs Committee site.