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Rule of law key to protection of citizens: UN official

UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Patricia O'Brien [official profile] said [statement, PDF] Wednesday at the 55th Annual meeting of the Russian Association of International Law that "rule of law is key to the implementation of R2P and hence, to the prevention of atrocities." The concept R2P, Responsibility to Protect, was initiated in 2005 in response to the events in Rwanda, Srebrenica, Kosovo and Darfur [JURIST news archives]. O'Brien described the three pillars of R2P which are 1) the enduring responsibility of States to protect their populations; 2) the role of the international community to assist States to protect their populations before conflicts escalate; and 3) a commitment in which States are prepared to take collective action through the Security Council when national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations. The UN senior legal official stressed that the international assistance is to maintain the sovereignty of individual nations while providing additional protection to the population by assisting governments in preventing atrocities. The rule of law upon which R2P is based has an essential principle of governance:

[T]he rule of law ultimately comes down to a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities—including the State itself—are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated—and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It entails supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, and fairness in the application of law. It speaks to separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness, and procedural and legal transparency.
O'Brien discussed the R2P invocation in Libya and Syria in which the international community took measures under Pillars II and III to assist the country's population including referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. At the end of her statement, O'Brien again stressed that individual governments have the essential responsibility of protecting their citizens while the international community's involvement should be limited to assisting those nations to meet those obligations.

On Tuesday, while commemorating the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture [official website], UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] urged [JURIST report] the international community to take measures to stop torture by numerous states against their own citizens. Last week, the new Senegalese government was urged to adopt fresh measures [JURIST report] to protect and promote human rights by addressing the impunity that undermines the judicial system and rule of law in the country. Amnesty International [advocacy website] found that the government was using torture and other similar methods to stop protesters and civilians as well as journalists and political opponents. Syria has also been subject to criticism by UN experts [JURIST report] and human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] for its use of torture against civilians. It was reported [JURIST report] that Syria was even sexually abusing detainees regardless of gender and age. Even Canada was condemned [JURIST report] earlier this month for being complicit in rights violations against three Canadians who were held prisoner in Syria. The Canadian government dismissed [JURIST report] the criticism six days later. Exactly two years ago, Pillay pledged justice for torture victims [JURIST report], noted that democracies with a rule of law in place still maintain amnesties that prevent torturers from being brought to justice and promised that the international criminal tribunals and the ICC will continue to prosecute those responsible for torture.

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