Children of Gaza, why don’t we cry for you?
Let’s not forget, 2020 marks the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, which has been institutionalized internationally through the World Summit Outcome Document (WSOD).
In a section of the WSOD titled “Responsibility to Protect People from Genocide, War Crimes, Ethnic Cleansing and Crimes Against Humanity,” Heads of State and Government decide as follows:
“Every state has a responsibility to protect its populations against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This responsibility involves the prevention of these crimes, including their incitement, by appropriate and necessary means. We accept this responsibility and will act accordingly. The international community should, where appropriate, encourage and assist States to assume this responsibility and assist the United Nations in building an early warning capacity. ” [para 138]
The international community, through the United Nations, also has a responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations against genocide, crimes of war, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we stand ready to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with the United Nations. relevant regional organizations. appropriate, if peaceful means are insufficient and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. We stress the need for the General Assembly to continue to consider the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and its implications, bearing in mind the Charter principles and international law. We also intend to commit, where necessary and appropriate, to assisting States in building their capacities to protect their populations against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and to assist those who are in trouble before crises and conflicts erupt. [para 139]
The Heads of State and Government have clearly recognized and accepted the responsibility to protect their own populations against “genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” and to use diplomatic and humanitarian means. and appropriate peaceful measures to help protect populations from, where appropriate, take peaceful or even coercive measures in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations to ensure the protection of populations.
And this year marks the 20th year of the creation of the term “responsibility to protect” (R2P), as it is now called.
The ideas behind it are the fruit of decades-long efforts in international society to identify and define crimes that have shocked the conscience of humanity and to protect populations from them.
Kashfi, Salahi and Sadeqi (2020) explain R2P as follows:
It encompasses three specific responsibilities: a) prevent – tackle both the root causes and the direct causes of internal conflicts and other crises that put populations at risk; (b) respond – respond to situations of compelling human need with appropriate measures, which may include coercive measures such as international sanctions and prosecutions, and in extreme cases military intervention; and c) rebuild – provide, especially after military intervention, full assistance for recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation. The term “crimes under international law” is more or less used to refer to what is now encompassed by the description “genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”. “
What was therefore resolved by the heads of state and government in the WSOD was to accept the “responsibility to protect”, thus institutionalizing R2P.
However, it must be said that in principle, States are responsible and accountable to the international community for the protection of their populations and that the international community can act to protect populations when national authorities fail to do so. Both come with the sovereignty of a state.
While the doctrine can – often – be seen as a departure from the classical definition of sovereignty, it actually has deep historical roots.
Luke Glanville (2013) argued that accountability dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries and that “states have since been responsible for this responsibility to God, the people and the international community”.
Over time, the right to national autonomy came to take precedence over the protection of individual freedoms, but the hands-off concept of sovereignty was not firmly established until the twentieth century, and it does not exist. ‘remained only a few decades before being questioned. by renewed claims that sovereigns are responsible for protection.
R2P cannot therefore be considered as a break with a non-interventionist conception of sovereignty.
So where are the “humanitarian and other means” of the international community – particularly the United Nations – to help protect the people of Gaza from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity?
And where is the “timely and decisive” collective action of the international community, through the Security Council, to do the same?
Let us also remind Heads of State and Government that immediately after the “Responsibility to Protect” section of the WSOD, a section titled “Children’s Rights” follows. In this section, the Heads of State and Government state the following:
“We express our dismay at the growing number of children involved in and affected by armed conflict as well as all other forms of violence, including domestic violence, sexual abuse and exploitation and trafficking. We support cooperation policies aimed at strengthening national capacities in order to improve the situation of these children and help their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. ” [para 140]
It is inadmissible – to borrow from Graca Machel whose report entitled “Impact of Armed Conflict on Children” was submitted to the United Nations General Assembly in 1996 – that children’s rights continue to be attacked and that the community international does not defend them. In the 1996 report, Machel wrote:
“It is unforgivable that children continue to be attacked, raped, murdered and yet our conscience is not revolted nor our sense of dignity questioned. This represents a fundamental crisis in our civilization. The impact of armed conflict on children must be everyone’s business and everyone’s responsibility; governments, international organizations and all elements of civil society. Each of us, each individual, each institution, each country must initiate and support global action to protect children. Local and national strategies must be strengthened and strengthened through international mobilization. “
It was 25 years ago. Four years ago, in a press release, Unicef warned that children in conflict zones around the world “are attacked on a shocking scale” as parties to conflicts blatantly ignore designed international laws. for their protection.
Sadly, this shocking scale has continued unabated.
Seven years ago, an imaginary letter from a child victim in Gaza whose life was cut short by an Israeli F-16 combat missile supplied by the United States read as follows:
Hi. My name is Eman; it means faith in Arabic. I doubt that you saw me or that you remember me; only particular photos arrive on your TV screen, these are the ones you will remember. I am a Palestinian child from Gaza. I love my dolls, playing with my sister and swimming. I have been told that many of you cry for me, but please don’t cry for me. I just arrived at [sic] this place and wanted to write to let you know I’m okay. Really I’m fine. I just miss mom.
“There are a lot of people here, like at home in Gaza. A lot of Palestinian children, too, some have been here for a very long time. Why would you want to cry just for me?
But children of Gaza, why don’t we cry for you?
* Hafiz Hassan reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the author or post and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.