Namibia On Monday, 17 May, abstained from the vote on the United Nations’ draft resolution on the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
The resolution was adopted after 115 countries including neighbouring South Africa and Botswana voted in favour while 15 including Zimbabwe, North Korea, Russia, China, Burundi, and Eritrea voted against it.
Namibia remained undecided on the vote with 27 other countries, including Angola, Algeria, Cameroon, India, Kenya, Mali, and Ethiopia.
The draft resolution, which is procedural in nature seeks for the inclusion of an item of the same title on the annual agenda of the General Assembly as well as to request the United Nations Secretary-General to report annually to the General Assembly on the subject.
The resolution carries three pillars on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) of which the first ensures that each state has the responsibility to protect its population from four mass atrocity crimes; genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
The second ensures that the wider international community has the responsibility to encourage and assist individual states in meeting that responsibility. The third pillar outlines that if a state is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take appropriate collective action, in a timely and decisive manner and in accordance with the UN Charter.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, explained Namibia’s move to abstain from the vote was not because it is indifferent to crimes against humanity, including genocide, but due to its concerns with the application of the concept on the responsibility to protect which has been used to selectively target certain countries in pursuit of narrow interests of the few.
She explained that while Namibia supports the R2P Doctrine, the primary responsibility to prevent crimes lies with States, as outlined in the first two pillars of the doctrine, the United Nations Charter and international law.
“However, discrepancies in the interpretation of the doctrine continue to hamper discussions on the matter, specifically within the context of the third pillar, and as such its interpretation remains a serious concern, and poses risks for abuse,” Nandi-Ndaitwah said in statement.
She added as the body created to deal with all matters related to peace and security, the Security Council and not the General Assembly, should be at the forefront of addressing the issue of the responsibility to protect.
Similarly, the Namibian Constitution Article 96 prescribes that disputes and conflicts should be resolved through negotiations. Therefore, unilateral decisions to interfere in other countries will be contrary to that principle, Nandi-Ndaitwah said.
Nandi-Ndaitwah stated that the international community, including the Security Council, must do its part to prevent atrocities and regulate the collective use of force, adding that there is no pretext for the use of force against States and safeguards must be put in place to protect against the vulnerability to surreptitious interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign nations.
“Namibia remains committed to defending human rights and ending human suffering through globally supported and internationally recognized multilateral bodies and institutions,” Nandi-Ndaitwah said.