This document, entitled “The Responsibility to Protect: Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty,” was released in December 2001 and sets out the framework for the responsibility to protect. The report, known as the ICISS report, underlines the primary responsibility of sovereign states to protect their own citizens from mass murder, large scale loss of life, rape and more. The ICISS report also highlights when states are unwilling or unable to protect their populations the responsibility must be borne by the broader community of states to prevent genocides as seen in Rwanda and Srebrenica.
In the synopsis of the report the Commission emphasizes: “This report is about the so-called “right of humanitarian intervention:” the question of when, if ever, it is appropriate for states to take coercive – and in particular military – action, against another state for the purpose of protecting people at risk in that other state. At least until the horrifying events of 11 September 2001 brought to center stage the international response to terrorism, the issue of intervention for human protection purposes has been seen as one of the most controversial and difficult of all international relations questions. With the end of the Cold War, it became a live issue as never before. Many calls for intervention have been made over the last decade – some of them answered and some of them ignored. But there continues to be disagreement as to whether, if there is a right of intervention, how and when it should be exercised, and under whose authority.”
Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies
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