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Topic: The responsibility of states to prevent atrocity crimes

Presenter: Yvonne Breitwieser-Faria, PhD candidate, UQ School of Law

Advisors: Prof Anthony Cassimatis, Prof Alexander Bellamy

Online link: https://uqz.zoom.us/j/598503042

Time: 11am-1pm Friday, 27 March 2020



Amidst the frequent reports of serious human rights and international humanitarian law violations, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleaning (combined also referred to as atrocity crimes) have gained increasing political momentum as a global issue. The response to such crimes, let alone their prevention, however, remains highly politicised, raising the question of whether states incur a legal obligation to prevent atrocity crimes.

States generally appear to accept that they incur some form of obligation, legal or otherwise, to prevent atrocity crimes. Foreign involvement to prevent or react to atrocities was traditionally considered to conflict with the principle of non-intervention in a sovereign state. This, however, does not reflect the conceptualisation of sovereignty to also encompass responsibilities towards states’ populations nor the modern efforts to reframe the principle to one of non-difference.

This thesis seeks to address conceptual challenges of atrocity prevention through the identification of legal obligations states incur to prevent atrocity crimes, their scope and practical conceptualisation, and explores states’ international responsibility arising from a breach of their obligation. It examines a practical legal approach to the application of atrocity prevention by exploring the parameters under which legal obligations of states to prevent atrocity crimes exists.