UNITED NATIONS - The principle of 'responsibility to protect, the international understanding to intervene to stop atrocities from taking place, could pose a threat to national sovereignty, General Assembly President Miguel DEscoto warned Thursday. Agreed to by world leaders in '05, responsibility to protect - known as 'R2P - holds States responsible for shielding their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and related crimes against humanity, requiring the international community to step in if this obligation is not met. In a statement to the Assemblys thematic dialogue on the issue, DEscoto, a former priest who served as foreign minister under Sandinista regime from 1979-90, echoed the suspicions of some developing countries about humanitarian intervention. He said that the legacy of colonialism gave developing countries strong reasons to fear that laudable motives can end up being misused, once more, to justify arbitrary and selective interventions against the weakest States. DEscoto used the case of Iraq as an example of the lack of accountability for those who might abuse the right that R2P would give nation-states to resort to the use of force against other states. He also questioned whether the adoption of R2P in the practice of collective security would undermine respect for international law, saying that the principle is applied selectively, in cases where public opinion in P5 States [the five permanent members of the Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States] supports intervention, as in Darfur, and not where it is opposed, as in Gaza. The General Assembly President added that currently a few States, sometimes only one State, apply rules or benefit from treaties that carry the sanctions of law, but to which they are not subject. The Security Council should not have recourse to the International Criminal Court, for example, until all UN Member States are party, or at least until all Security Council members, are party to its convention, he said What is more, the operation of the veto assures that the doctrine cannot be applied to the permanent members of the Security Council. No system of justice can be legitimate that, by design, allows principles of justice to be applied differentially. in his Concept Note, DEscoto suggested that responsibility to protect was redecorated colonialism, and that the true means to eliminate genocide and similar scourges included world financial reform, Security Council reform and drawing a lesson from Jesus. In contrast, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly on Tuesday that responsibility to protect was a universal and irrevocable commitment which was made at the highest level, without contradiction or challenge. Stressing that the common task of the UN now is to deliver on this historic pledge to the peoples of the world, he delivered a set of proposals contained in his latest report on the issue. The proposals, under consideration by the 192-member Assembly, rest on three pillars: State responsibility; international assistance and capacity-building; and timely and decisive response. By developing fully UN strategies, standards, and processes for implementing the responsibility to protect, we can discourage States or groups of States from misusing these principles for inappropriate purposes, said Ban. The Secretary-General asked States to let the Assembly provide the venue for a continuing search for common ground on a multilateral strategy to protect the worlds people from what he described as massive affronts to human dignity. He also urged that the victims of such atrocities and crimes, who number in the millions, not be forgotten. Those losses have permanently stained the history of the 20th century. Together, in this century, we can chart a different course, he stated. Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said yesterday that the R2P principle must now be translated into concrete steps. We should all undertake an honest assessment of our ability to save lives in extraordinary situations, she said in a statement. A concerted effort by States, UN partners and regional organizations will be required to develop and maintain a credible capacity for rapid responses to exceptional situations similar to those of Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, said Pillay.