The Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

Developing the UK’s understanding of mass atrocities and atrocity prevention

Dr Adrian Gallagher research on mass atrocity prevention has led him to give oral and written evidence to the UK Government on a range of issues, including: the Xinjiang Detention Camps in China, the ‘Uniting for Peace Resolution’, ‘The Question of Genocide Determination and the Response of the International Judicial System’ and ‘'The Extent and Effectiveness of Post-Conflict Planning in Libya’.

Dr Gallagher has also appeared as an Expert Oral Witness, at the House of Commons Defence Committee discussing 'The situation in Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant' (ISIL), with Adam Roberts (University of Oxford) and Marcus Weller (University of Cambridge).

Dr Gallagher published two articles ‘Syria and the indicators of a manifest failing’ and ‘What Constitutes a Manifest Failing? Ambiguous and Inconsistent Terminology and the Responsibility to Protect’ which were read by members of the UK Defence Committee and led him to being invited to give this oral evidence. The Committee sought expert guidance on the legal debates surrounding humanitarian intervention and the Responsibility to Protect in relation to DAESH in Iraq and Syria.

Dr Gallagher played a key role in shaping the Committee’s understanding of this topic which is reflected in the fact that the final report cites his evidence on several occasions. Dr Gallagher highlighted that the UK Government could not invoke the Responsibility to Protect without gaining the consensus of the UN Security Council and that the Uniting For Peace Resolution would add legitimacy but would still not qualify as a legal intervention. As the report notes ‘Dr Adrian Gallagher argued, however, that it remained relatively straightforward to make an argument for the legitimacy of a humanitarian intervention (provided the consent of the Security Council could be achieved)’.

Furthermore, the Committee needed to establish whether President Assad was evidently ‘manifestly failing’ in relation to his responsibilities under the Responsibility to Protect framework and the implications of this. Dr Gallagher presented data which demonstrated that President Assad was ‘able’ yet ‘unwilling’ to protect the Syrian people from the threat posed by DAESH.

Overall, Dr Gallagher’s research helped the Committee understand the legal issues surrounding the Responsibility to Protect.