Vol 4 No 1

Dear Reader,

In their last annual report, Human Rights Watch warned that atrocities are the new normal. Across the world, ultranationalists are legitimising hate speech and inflammatory language, which often serve as precursors to hate crimes and act as early warnings of atrocity risks. Discussions on atrocity and conflict prevention, international criminal justice and sexual and reproductive health in conflict zones are becoming harder and harder to place on the agenda of the UN Security Council (UNSC). At the same time, despite the deadlock in the UNSC on ensuring that those responsible for gross human rights violations are brought to justice, some progress is being made in collecting and preserving evidence of crimes committed in Syria and Myanmar through the work of independent international investigative mechanisms established by the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council (progress is also made regarding the collection, preservation and storying of evidence of ISIS crimes in Iraq, thanks to the work of the UN Investigative Team for Accountability of Da’esh (UNITAD), established by the UNSC). It is against this background that our fourth volume is published, bringing to the fore six student papers that touch on a variety of subjects: from the developing nature and scope of international fact finding missions to conflict related sexual and gender based violence, and the operationalisation of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in the Central African Republic, Myanmar, Libya and Syria.

Our issue opens with a letter signed by Dr Jess Gifkins, reviewing the big debates related to the Responsibility to Protect norm and highlighting the recent shift in R2P scholarship toward R2P implementation. The issue continues with an article by Niriksha Sanghvi, analysing the evolution of the International Fact-Finding Mission in armed conflicts – from documenting factual events to investigating, collecting, and preserving evidence of international criminal and humanitarian law violations in conflict areas. Dawn Stevenson’s article examines the gendered structural violence and inequality entrenched in patriarchal societies, as well as the multidimensional consequences of sexual abuse that make sexual violence such an effective weapon of war. Related to this, Jennifer Amy Leigh’s article analyses how gendered experiences shape processes and practices of war and peace. Turning to the implementation of R2P, Claudia Broadhead’s article examines the strengths and limitations of R2P in the Central African Republic crisis, looking at how international, regional and sub-regional organisations have operationalised the norm. Julia Smith reviews the ways in which R2P has been misapplied in Myanmar (2008), applied in Libya and absent in Syria in order to make the case that norms are “constant ‘work in progress’ that are continuously contested and transformed through practice and by a range of actors”, and to show that contestation surrounding R2P has led to the development of important initiatives such as the Responsibility Not to Veto. On the same note, Amy Hart, who also looks into the status of the R2P norm, makes the case that R2P is an established norm and highlights the limitations of norm theory.

The contributions to this issue continue to expand the scope of the R2P Student Journal, making it focus on broader subjects related to understanding the causes and responses to gross human rights violations.


Georgiana Epure and Kristin Smette Gulbrandsen

This issue was originally published under our previous title, the Responsibility to Protect Student Journal.