.
T

he Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, named Jared Genser as Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) on October 10, 2020. Since addressing human rights in the Americas through regional multilateral mechanisms is not unprecedented, the OAS should consider the development of an approach that builds on Hemispheric traditions in order to prevent future human rights atrocities.

While there are concerns that developing a regional R2P mechanism could undermine international efforts, there is precedent of regionalizing human rights efforts in the Americas. Latin American governments and policymakers have historically sought to promote Human Rights at the regional level through the development of mechanisms that would justify collective intervention. In the mid-1940s, Latin American governments engaged in a debate over the Larreta Doctrine, which proposed that the region had a responsibility to safeguard democracy and human rights. The doctrine proposed by Uruguayan foreign minister, Eduardo Rodriguez Larreta, stressed that principles of non-intervention should not be used to mask violations of human rights.

The Larreta doctrine is only one example of the importance of regionalizing concerns by Latin American governments. For instance, during the creation of the United Nations, Latin American states lobbied for the ability to develop and maintain regional organizations. This resulted in the inclusion of Chapter VIII in the UN Charter that explicitly allows regional organizations to exist and address regional challenges. These provisions were used within the Americas to justify collective military intervention in the past. In fact, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States turned to the OAS to provide support for the “Quarantine” zone, preventing additional Soviet supplies from reaching the island. Similarly, the OAS pushed for U.S. intervention in Haiti under the Clinton administration due to the human rights abuses in the country. However, both of these cases happened in an ad hoc manner.

Over the course of the 20th century human rights have also become the center of the Inter-American System. Latin American leaders have often pushed for human rights structures in international law and it is a central component of the Organization of American States’ founding charter. Further, in its attempts to protect populations in the Americas, the region’s governments, along with the OAS, established the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Despite the centrality of human rights to the Inter-American system, threats to human rights in the region persist and these mechanisms have been weakened. In fact, some countries have sought to pull out of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to protect themselves and due to the perception that not all countries were treated equally by the Inter-American system.

Given the precedent of human rights protection in the Americas and the ongoing challenges to the regional Human Rights regime, the development of an R2P mechanism can be effective in preventing human rights atrocities. This can be done in a number of different ways.

First, the existence of a regional R2P mechanism can be used to consistently deter governments from implementing policies that put lives at risk. Further, a R2P mechanism grants the OAS and the Inter-American Human Rights Regime with a policy tool that immediately can respond to human rights abuses in the region. What will be of importance is tying the decisions of R2P to findings by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in order to preserve the autonomy and integrity of the process.

At the same time, an R2P mechanism must be developed with past U.S. interventions in mind by having decision-making options that is representative and participatory of all OAS members. Additionally, if a mechanism is designed in a way that legitimizes actions taken on behalf of human rights and not regime change, it can serve two key roles. Not only will it provide a way to defend Human Rights, but it will inherently ban and condemn unilateral action.

While the development a regional R2P mechanism will cause vigorous debate, it must be considered as an opportunity to protect the people of the Americas and to strengthen the Inter-American System by supporting the ideals upon which this system was created. However, creating a mechanism without the necessary safeguards and teeth to prevent human rights atrocities is insufficient. The discussions will now need to include the Caribbean nations, who were not part of the initial creation of the Inter-American system. At the very least, discussions on a regional R2P should be entertained with the intent of learning from the challenges faced by other regional initiatives and framing its development as in the interest of all member states.

About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is a contributing editor with The Diplomatic Courier and a specialist in Latin American foreign and public affairs.
About
Wazim Mowla
:
Wazim Mowla is an MA candidate at American University’s School of International Service and is an expert on Caribbean affairs.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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Can There Be a Regional Responsibility to Protect?

October 21, 2020

T

he Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, named Jared Genser as Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) on October 10, 2020. Since addressing human rights in the Americas through regional multilateral mechanisms is not unprecedented, the OAS should consider the development of an approach that builds on Hemispheric traditions in order to prevent future human rights atrocities.

While there are concerns that developing a regional R2P mechanism could undermine international efforts, there is precedent of regionalizing human rights efforts in the Americas. Latin American governments and policymakers have historically sought to promote Human Rights at the regional level through the development of mechanisms that would justify collective intervention. In the mid-1940s, Latin American governments engaged in a debate over the Larreta Doctrine, which proposed that the region had a responsibility to safeguard democracy and human rights. The doctrine proposed by Uruguayan foreign minister, Eduardo Rodriguez Larreta, stressed that principles of non-intervention should not be used to mask violations of human rights.

The Larreta doctrine is only one example of the importance of regionalizing concerns by Latin American governments. For instance, during the creation of the United Nations, Latin American states lobbied for the ability to develop and maintain regional organizations. This resulted in the inclusion of Chapter VIII in the UN Charter that explicitly allows regional organizations to exist and address regional challenges. These provisions were used within the Americas to justify collective military intervention in the past. In fact, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States turned to the OAS to provide support for the “Quarantine” zone, preventing additional Soviet supplies from reaching the island. Similarly, the OAS pushed for U.S. intervention in Haiti under the Clinton administration due to the human rights abuses in the country. However, both of these cases happened in an ad hoc manner.

Over the course of the 20th century human rights have also become the center of the Inter-American System. Latin American leaders have often pushed for human rights structures in international law and it is a central component of the Organization of American States’ founding charter. Further, in its attempts to protect populations in the Americas, the region’s governments, along with the OAS, established the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Despite the centrality of human rights to the Inter-American system, threats to human rights in the region persist and these mechanisms have been weakened. In fact, some countries have sought to pull out of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to protect themselves and due to the perception that not all countries were treated equally by the Inter-American system.

Given the precedent of human rights protection in the Americas and the ongoing challenges to the regional Human Rights regime, the development of an R2P mechanism can be effective in preventing human rights atrocities. This can be done in a number of different ways.

First, the existence of a regional R2P mechanism can be used to consistently deter governments from implementing policies that put lives at risk. Further, a R2P mechanism grants the OAS and the Inter-American Human Rights Regime with a policy tool that immediately can respond to human rights abuses in the region. What will be of importance is tying the decisions of R2P to findings by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in order to preserve the autonomy and integrity of the process.

At the same time, an R2P mechanism must be developed with past U.S. interventions in mind by having decision-making options that is representative and participatory of all OAS members. Additionally, if a mechanism is designed in a way that legitimizes actions taken on behalf of human rights and not regime change, it can serve two key roles. Not only will it provide a way to defend Human Rights, but it will inherently ban and condemn unilateral action.

While the development a regional R2P mechanism will cause vigorous debate, it must be considered as an opportunity to protect the people of the Americas and to strengthen the Inter-American System by supporting the ideals upon which this system was created. However, creating a mechanism without the necessary safeguards and teeth to prevent human rights atrocities is insufficient. The discussions will now need to include the Caribbean nations, who were not part of the initial creation of the Inter-American system. At the very least, discussions on a regional R2P should be entertained with the intent of learning from the challenges faced by other regional initiatives and framing its development as in the interest of all member states.

About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is a contributing editor with The Diplomatic Courier and a specialist in Latin American foreign and public affairs.
About
Wazim Mowla
:
Wazim Mowla is an MA candidate at American University’s School of International Service and is an expert on Caribbean affairs.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.