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Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia at the Roundtable Discussion on Responsibility to Protect: Deepening our commitment to mass atrocity prevention

01.10.2012

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Firstly, I would like to thank you inviting Estonia to this meeting of R2P friends.

Responsibility to Protect is undoubtedly an increasingly important concept in international relations and security. Estonia is a firm supporter of the R2P principle to protect people from ethnic cleansing, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, adopted in 2005, and would like to contribute to its further elaboration , and we look forward to work closer with you.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today the content of R2P is not debated. The revolutionary or transitional developments of the past couple of years have raised awareness of the R2P concept. The difficulty, however, lies with its application: when governments do not live up to their ultimate responsibility to protect its population from the atrocities defined as the R2P crimes, the international community must take the responsibility to react, and act.

 

However the keywords for understanding the concept are prevention and accountability, the human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights of women and the child. We must explain it more and better as very often the concept has been misleadingly seen as being related to a military intervention only.

 

R2P also means making the most of new technologies in the service of fundamental rights and freedoms. Today, new media make it impossible to hide war crimes both on and off the battlefield. Modern technology brings home the reality and horror of war. Therefore, we must recognize the important role of the technology in advancing human rights. World-wide communication and growing interconnectedness means that every situation that could possibly lead to the worst crimes against civilian population will be known. A strong civil society and media, equipped with modern technological solutions, makes it impossible to argue for inaction.

 

Dear friends of R2P,

 

Accountability is one of those tools without which R2P cannot be enforced. Functioning legal system and law enforcement would not only put an end to the impunity but also serve as a deterrent. In this context I would also highlight the importance of transitional justice mechanisms. In more complicated cases the international criminal justice system, especially the International Criminal Court, plays a crucial role in providing timely and decisive responses to such crimes. Possible and pending investigations by the Court may deter further atrocities, prevent their escalation or accelerate their end. Therefore it is essential to cooperate with the Court and apprehend those it has indicted.

 

 Recently we have witnessed the complete breakdown of any semblance of the rule of law in Syria. We continue to see extensive human rights and international humanitarian law abuses. It appears that both sides have committed serious international crimes. Yet we still see no solution. We cannot look on and wait for the violence to spread even more widely. The Security Council – especially its permanent members – must overcome their differences and find a solution to this bloodshed. There has to be as well an ICC involvement.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Experience shows that if we fail to act responsibly, we will, in the end, be forced to do so. There is the need to take responsibility, and to do more. The Human Rights Council is an important organ with essential functions to respond and draw attention to emergencies that might give rise to R2P crimes. Estonia looks forward to becoming a member of the Human Rights Council and to working proactively towards the fulfillment of its mandate from 2013 onwards.

 

To conclude, Estonia would like to become a member of R2P Group of Friends here in New York to be engage even more actively in the future.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, let us put some effort into making the world a better place. Because we know that inaction is not an option.

 

I thank you, and I wish you a lively continuation of the discussion.

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