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A Duty to Prevent Genocide

Due Diligence Obligations among the P5

John Heieck

This perceptive book analyzes the scope of the duty to prevent genocide of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US in light of the due diligence standard under conventional, customary, and peremptory international law. It expounds the positive obligations of these five states to act both within and without the Security Council context to prevent or suppress an imminent or ongoing genocide.
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Chapter 3: The conflict between the P5’s duty to prevent genocide and the P5’s rights and duties under conventional and customary international law

John Heieck


The preceding chapters stand for the proposition that, under conventional and customary international law, the duty to prevent genocide requires the P5 to, inter alia, vote for and not veto draft Security Council resolutions aimed at preventing or suppressing imminent or ongoing genocides. These chapters also note that if a member of the P5 vetoes such a resolution in contravention of the duty to prevent genocide, then the duty to prevent does not fail; instead, it falls to the remaining members of the P5 to cooperate together, through a variety of arrangements outside of the Security Council, to use their best efforts to prevent genocide from occurring. If cooperation is not possible, however, then the due diligence standard dictates that the US, with its unparalleled military and economic means, is the ultimate duty-bearer with respect to the duty to prevent genocide, which, under the right circumstances, requires unilateral humanitarian intervention by the US to protect national, ethnic, racial, or religious groups under threat of or being subjected to genocide. Nevertheless, there are other potentially conflicting conventional and customary norms with respect to the duty not to veto and the duty to intervene associated with the duty to prevent genocide; namely, the right to veto under the UN Charter and the prohibition of the use of force under the Charter and customary international law. As a result, the third chapter of A Duty to Prevent Genocide: Due Diligence Obligations Among the P5 systematically analyzes the Charter and custom in order to determine if a conflict exists between the aforementioned norms. At the conclusion of its analysis, this chapter argues that a conflict does indeed exist between these norms, thus necessitating a resolution by the relevant conflict resolution mechanisms under general international law.

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