Genocide prevention: 60 years of abject failure

Darfur reinforces the impotence of this UN mandate

Linked with Eric Reeves – USA.

Published on The Christian Science Monitor, by Eric Reeves, January 30, 2008.

2 excerpts: … This year marks the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 9, 1948, the Convention reflects the tireless work of Raphael Lemkin, a Polish linguist and Jew who had survived the Holocaust. But in the long and too often darkened years that followed, the Convention has never prevented a single genocide, even as “prevention” receives pride of place in the ponderous convention title. Despite the many instances in which international action was desperately required, the demanding words of the Convention have always rung hollow:

“The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and punish” …


… If the slowly deploying UN/African Union force fails to halt the violence, or aborts – a possibility explicitly raised by head of UN peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guéhenno – then genocidal destruction will almost certainly accelerate and hundreds of thousands more will probably die. If the international community fails to commit the resources required by this extraordinarily difficult mission, the lack of security will become intolerable. Humanitarian groups – the essential lifeline for more than 4.2 million human beings in Darfur – will be obliged to suspend operations or withdraw. A critically weakened population could face a cataclysm of death and suffering.

More than any genocide following the Holocaust, Darfur’s killing fields are the measure of whether, 60 years after its ratification, the UN Convention has any remaining force or meaning. The debacle of deployment in Darfur argues that the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations desperately requires a substantial, robust standing force, prepared to deploy urgently to protect civilian populations facing geno-cide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity. Actual deployment would be at the request of the Secretary-General, and while a two-thirds majority of the Security Council should be formally required, deployment must not be held hostage to the veto of the five permanent members. This requires substantial revision of the UN Charter, but fundamental changes at the UN are widely recognized as critical for the organization to remain relevant in the 21st century.

Darfur reveals the consequences of having no such international force. If a ruthless regime of génocidaires can insulate itself from international action simply by claiming “national sovereignty,” then Mr. Lemkin’s labors will have been in vain. And a Genocide Convention that remains impotent in the face of ongoing, fully reported genocidal destruction will mark in us the deepest hypocrisy. (full text).

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