Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2010

Abstract

On May 2 and 3, 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar, devastating large portions of the Irrawaddy Delta and creating the potential for a massive humanitarian crisis. Yet, the Myanmar government rejected aid from some countries, limited the amount of aid entering the country to a fraction of what was needed, and strictly controlled how that aid was distributed The United Nations and many governments criticized Myanmar's response to the Cyclone as inadequate and inhumane, and senior politicians from a number of countries discussed whether the situation justified invoking the "responsibility to protect" doctrine This article explores several questions, including: (1) whether an inadequate response to a natural disaster can constitute a crime against humanity and thus act as the trigger for the responsibility to protect; (2) whether the responsibility to protect could have been invoked by the international community in response to Cyclone Nargis; and (3) what countries would have been obligated to do if it had been invoked In particular, assuming that the invocation of the responsibility to protect would have been based on a finding by the Security Council that crimes against humanity were being committed by the government of Myanmar, would the international community be obligated to investigate and potentially prosecute the underlying violations of international criminal law? If so, what venues exist for the investigation and prosecution of these potential crimes?