Time to Act on Myanmar's Crimes Against Humanity

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NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says it's time for the U.N. to invoke one of its new resolutions. The "Responsibility to Protect" resolution, passed in 2005, says that the U.N. should step in when a nation fails to protect its population from crimes against humanity. Schorr says it's time to act regarding Myanmar.

DANIEL SCHORR: Too bad the American-led invasion of Iraq has given intervention such a bad name.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: If ever there was a case for crossing sovereign borders, it lies today in Myanmar, where a xenophobic junta of ruling generals has compounded the catastrophe of Cyclone Nargus by obstructing international aid to the victims.

President Bush and other world leaders have condemned the military regime. They have as of now not taken any concrete action to force relief for the desperate people of Myanmar. There is one possible recourse on the books. In September 2005, at a summer session marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, 171 leaders voted to establish a principle of international law called the Responsibility to Protect. In a world of Rwandas and Darfurs, the U.N. resolution held that when a state fails to protect its population from crimes against humanity, then the U.N. security council should step in and take collective action in a timely and decisive manner.

The Responsibility to Protect resolution was a Canadian initiative. Then-Prime Minister Paul Martin said, the United Nations will not find itself turning away or averting its gaze. European Union members meeting in Brussels called on the Security Council to authorize a massive relief effort without a green light from the Myanmar government, if necessary. And French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has talked of invoking that resolution, but so far there does not appear to be much movement in that direction. But a lot more people may be dead in Myanmar before the international community can gird itself to force a humanitarian effort over the heads of the ruling junta.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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