On Friday 23 November 2007, at 10.00am, the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin, in association with the Department of Foreign Affairs, will host a guest lecture by Louise Arbour (former judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, former Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, and now UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; see CBC | wikipedia), entitled:
Responsibility to Protect as a Duty of Care in International Law and Practice
The lecture will address the historical origins and development of the responsibility to protect norm, its fundamental differences from the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, the legal core of responsibility to protect and when and how the norm is engaged, the role that UN institutions can play in interpreting and applying the norm and mechanisms of cooperation available to the international community.
It promises to be a fascinating lecture, and I am greatly looking forward to it. It is no exaggeration to say that the international community has not dealt very well either with calls for or with cases of humanitarian intervention, especially over the last ten to fifteen years or so. There is no agreement on such fundamental questions as whether a right on the part of one state to intervene by force in the internal affairs of another state on humanitarian grounds actually exists, let alone if and when and how it ought to occur in any given case. Against this backdrop of unfortunate uncertainty, a further norm of international law is beginning to emerge relating to states’ responsibility to protect (ICISS | wikipedia) populations that are at risk in other states and to prevent the occurrence of large-scale tragedies. Depending on your point of view, this norm is either a justification for humanitarian intervention or an illegitimate infringement upon state sovereignty. Either way, what the High Commissioner will have to say will no doubt prove a significant contribution to an important debate.