Zimbabwe, at UN, warns against misuse of responsibility to protect principle

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. UN Photo/Lou Rouse

22 September 2011 – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe warned today about the misuse of the principle of responsibility to protect, telling the General Assembly that it should not be deployed arbitrarily or unfairly to attack an individual country.

In an address to the Assembly’s annual general debate, Mr. Mugabe said the principle “should not be twisted to provide cover for its premeditated abuse in violating the sacred international principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of States because to do so amounts to an act of aggression and destabilization of a sovereign State.”

UN Member States adopted the principle – which aims to safeguard populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing – at the World Summit in 2005.

It followed international concern about a series of notorious failures to protect civilians from such crimes – as in the 1994 Rwandan genocide or the massacre of thousands of people at Srebrenica in 1995.

Mr. Mugabe said that “to selectively and arbitrarily apply that principle [of responsibility to protect] merely serves to undermine its general acceptability,” and he said the Security Council’s five permanent members bore a particularly high responsibility to ensure that the principle is applied appropriately.

The President said the situation in Libya, where NATO had engaged in “blatant illegal, brutal and callous” bombings, was an example of misuse.

“After over 20,000 NATO bombing sorties that targeted Libyan towns, including Tripoli, there is now unbelievable and most disgraceful scramble by some NATO countries for Libyan oil, indicating thereby that the real motive for their aggression against Libya was to control and own its abundant fuel resources.”

In March, the Security Council authorized UN Member States to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya after forces supporting then leader Muammar al-Qadhafi cracked down against a popular uprising.

Mr. Mugabe added that “we in Africa are also duly concerned about the activities of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which seems to exist only for alleged offenders of the developing world, the majority of them Africans

“The leaders of the powerful Western States guilty of international crime, like [former United States President George W.] Bush and [former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony] Blair, are routinely given the blind eye. Such selective justice has eroded the credibility of the ICC on the African continent.”


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