International Responses to Mass Atrocities in Africa:

Responsibility to Protect, Prosecute and Palliate


This book examines how the international community responds to mass atrocities. It argues that states and other international actors have developed three sets of norms and practices to address such situations. The first is the responsibility to protect, an assertion that when states cannot or will not stop genocide, crimes against humanity, and widespread war crimes in their territory, or are responsible for their commission, the international community has a duty to transgress sovereignty, including through the use of force, to protect civilians and stop the atrocities. Second is the recognition of the responsibility to prosecute those who commit such atrocities, institutionalized in the International Criminal Court, as well as ad hoc tribunals and the exercise of universal jurisdiction. Third is the provision of humanitarian assistance to those affected by violent conflict, identified as the responsibility to palliate since humanitarian assistance can never do more than provide temporary relief for civilians caught in war.

The book analyses how these three responsibilities operate individually and together in four interrelated African case studies – Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Darfur. A core argument is that while these responsibilities have all arisen in the context of an ongoing global revolution in the protection of human rights, they do not always mutually support each other. Indeed, policymakers and practitioners face multiple conundrums when implementing one or more of these responses. Further, while norms have been accepted, there is frequently little will or capacity on the part of states and intergovernmental organizations to engage in appropriate action to protect civilians. The book uniquely examines atrocity response from multiple perspectives simultaneously, and will be of interest to international policymakers and those who are practically involved in stopping atrocities and protecting civilians in the midst of violent conflict, as well as all who are concerned about protecting people in conflict.

Table of Contents:


Chapter 1: Interrogating International Responsibilities

Chapter 2: Rwanda: The Failure of “Never Again”

Chapter 3: Democratic Republic of Congo: Protecting Civilians?

Chapter 4: Uganda (and beyond): Testing the International Criminal Court

Chapter 5: Darfur: The Post-World Summit Test

Chapter 6: Realizing R2P3: Labeling, Institutions and Authority

Advance praise for International Responses to Mass Atrocities in Africa:

“International Responses to Mass Atrocities in Africa makes a novel move by analyzing the responsibility to protect, the responsibility to prosecute, and the responsibility to palliate comprehensively. It is the first work that takes this collective approach, and there is much to be gained by doing so. This is an important book.”—William W. Burke-White, University of Pennsylvania

“Kurt Mills takes seriously our collective responsibility to halt atrocities, to prosecute their perpetrators, and to help those in the cross-hairs of armed conflicts. His focus is Africa, where feeble international responses in too many crises have demonstrated that "never again" is an aspiration and not a reality. His is an indispensable guide for anyone thinking about how to respond to conscience-shocking international crimes.”—Thomas G. Weiss, The CUNY Graduate Center

“Too often, it is taken for granted that the international community's political, judicial and humanitarian responses to major crises are complementary. In this important volume, Kurt Mills explodes that myth and demonstrates the tensions between them and the ways in which they sometimes undermine one another. Combining detailed examination of some of the most crucial contemporary cases with a keen sense for broader political and normative trends, this is one of those rare volumes that is successful both at diagnosing the problem and offering viable solutions. With fine prose, Mills offers an important new perspective that will shape debate about how to respond to civil wars, mass atrocities and other humanitarian crises for years to come.”—Alex J. Bellamy, The University of Queensland, Australia

“International Responses to Mass Atrocities in Africa is an unusually thoughtful and nuanced contribution to the growing literature on mass atrocity prevention. Its detailed case studies and innovative protect, prosecute, and palliate framework offer fresh insights into why the implementation of R2P principles has lagged behind their normative development. Kurt Mills has proven, once again, that he belongs in the ranks of the world's leading human rights and humanitarian scholars.”—Edward Luck, first United Nations Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect


Kurt Mills

University of Pennsylvania Press

Forthcoming August 2015

ISBN: 978-0812247374