26/03/2004
Press Release
AFR/868
HQ/630



Memorial Conference on                                           

 Rwanda Genocide                                                 


MEMORIAL CONFERENCE ON RWANDA GENOCIDE CONSIDERS WAYS TO ENSURE


MORE EFFECTIVE INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE IN FUTURE


Secretary-General Says Silence In Face

Of Past Genocide Must Be Replaced with ‘Global Clamour


The silence that had greeted genocides in the past must be replaced by a global clamour, and a willingness to call what was happening by its true name, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this morning at the opening of a one-day conference in memory of the genocide in Rwanda 10 years ago.


The Memorial Conference on the Rwanda Genocide, which had started with a minute of silence for the victims, was co-chaired by the Foreign Ministers of Rwanda and Canada and moderated by Ruth Iyob, Director of the Africa Programme, International Peace Academy, andDavid M. Malone, President of the International Peace Academy. 


During two panels that followed the opening of the Conference, participants in the event remembered the 1994 tragedy and considered means to ensure a more effective international response to genocide in the future.  The Conference attracted representatives of governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, academics and members of the Rwandan

Diaspora.


The international community had failed Rwanda, the Secretary-General stated.  If it had acted promptly, it could have stopped most of the killing.  But neither the political will nor the troops had been there.  If the United Nations, government officials and the international media had paid more attention to the gathering signs of disaster, it might have been averted.


The Rwandan genocide raised questions that affected all humankind, including fundamental questions about the authority of the Security Council and the effectiveness of United Nations peacekeeping, Mr. Annan continued.  If confronted by a new Rwanda today, would the international community respond effectively?  He had suggested a number of measures that would better equip the United Nations and its Member States to meet genocide with resolve, including a special rapporteur on the subject.  More must be done, and he was currently analysing what further steps could be taken. 


The Foreign Minister of Rwanda, Charles Murigande, stressed the need to learn from the tragic failures in Rwanda, saying that no other nation or people should be allowed to suffer what the people of Rwanda had suffered.  “Let us commit ourselves to this and be true to our commitments and obligations”, he said.  The obligation and responsibility of the international community in cases of genocide was to provide protection, regardless of questions of State sovereignty. 


The international community, while it had learned what needed to be done, still lacked political agreement to prevent a Rwanda from happening again, said the Foreign Minister of Canada, Bill Graham.  Agreeing that the international community was still struggling when sovereignty collided with internal legal norms, he stressed that it was more urgent then ever to confront gross violations of international humanitarian law. 


Harsh words were said about the role of the international community in Rwanda during the first panel –- entitled “In Memoriam:  Bearing Witness”, which was chaired by the Foreign Minister of Rwanda. 


While the head of the Association of the Widows of the Genocide, Speciose Kanyabogoyi, and genocide survivor, Eric Nzabihimana, recounted the events of April-August 1994, when some 800,000 people were murdered, former Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), Romeo Dallaire, said that the Mission had been “a last priority” for the international community.  It had no budget and no structure at the time the killing began.  The Security Council had made it a point not to consider the threats and warnings about Rwanda, and as the months went by and the peace agreement was “falling to pieces”, there was political stagnation and no real desire to put any resources into the Mission


He also recalled that some 2,000 personnel from several countries, including France, United Kingdom, United States and Italy, “remained firm in totally ignoring the catastrophe” as they fulfilled their mission of evacuating their expatriates, “though they were stumbling on corpses”.  On 22 April, when over 100,000 people had been killed, the bulk of the Force was ordered to withdraw, but 450 African and 13 Canadian troops were told to stay on the ground and observe.  As millions were internally displaced, killed and injured, the Mission was able to save some 30,000, and on top of that, he had been ordered to abandon them.  The order had come from the Security Council, and nobody objected. 


“Never Again:  Toward a More Effective International Response of Genocide” was the title of the second panel, which was chaired by Canada’s Foreign Minister.  Its keynote speakers included Ibrahim Gambari, United Nations Special Adviser for Africa, Ramesh Thakur, Vice-Rector of United Nations University and Danilo Turk, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs.


Speakers noted that despite the failures of 1994, the United Nations was the only authority to authorize international action.  The urgent task was not to evade the United Nations, but to make it work better.  Within the Organization, initiatives had been taken to address the issue of armed conflict prevention and create an office of a special adviser for the prevention of genocide.  Among the needs mentioned in the debate were reform of the Security Council, apology and reparations for Rwanda, accountability and realistic mandates for missions.


It was noted that international peacekeeping had undergone serious changes over the past 10 years, and the Security Council was currently engaged in a series of discussions on measures to meet the basic requirements of reaching reconciliation and establishing the rule of law.  Emphasized in the discussion was the importance of establishing an effective early warning system, telling the truth and administering justice in post-conflict situations.  The role of the International Tribunals was stressed in that regard.


Mr. Gambari said that the real key to preventing conflict and genocide was political will to act promptly and decisively.  Without a doubt, it was the Council, especially its most powerful members that had failed the people of Rwanda in their gravest hour of need.  The controversy over the international community’s culpability for its failure to prevent the genocide in Rwanda would not easily go away.


Introductory Statement by Secretary-General


KOFI ANNAN, United Nations Secretary-General, said the genocide in Rwanda should never have happened, but it did.  The international community had failed Rwanda, which must always leave it with a sense of bitter regret and abiding sorrow.  If the international community had acted promptly, it could have stopped most of the killing.  But neither the political will nor the troops had been there.  If the United Nations, government officials and the international media had paid more attention to the gathering signs of disaster, it might have been averted.  Warnings had been missed. 


He said the international community was guilty of sins of omission.  As head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the time, he had pressed dozens of countries for troops.  At the time, he had believed that he was doing his best.  But he realized after the genocide that he could have done more to rally support and sound the alarm.  That painful memory, along with that of Bosnia and Herzegovina, had influenced much of his thinking and many of his actions as Secretary-General.  No one must ever be allowed to forget that genocide took place in Rwanda, that it was highly organized, and carried out in broad daylight.


Continuing, he said no one who had followed world affairs could have denied that they knew a genocide was happening, on an appalling scale.  Some brave individuals had tired to stop the killing, including General Romeo Dallaire of Canada, then Commander of the small United Nations force on the ground at the time.  Some 800,000 men, women, children had been abandoned to the most brutal and callous of deaths, as neighbour killed neighbour.  Churches and hospitals had been turned into slaughterhouses and a terrible chain of events gradually engulfed the entire region. 


In Rwanda, the United Nations was doing its utmost to help people recover and reconcile, he said.  The United Nations was present throughout the country, rehabilitating clinics and schools and building up the judicial system, among other things.  In the United Republic of Tanzania, a United Nations Criminal Tribunal continued to pursue the main perpetrators of the genocide.  The Tribunal had handed down pioneering verdicts, including the first conviction for genocide by an international court, the first to determine that rape was used as an act of genocide, and the first to find journalists guilty, as they helped create the state of mind in which thousands of people could set aside the most fundamental moral instincts of all human society and embark on the wholesale massacre of fellow human beings.


The United Nations was doing what it could to help Rwanda find a path to lasting security and peace, with itself and its neighbours, he said.  While the past could not be undone, the United Nations could help Rwandans, especially the younger generation, build a new society together.  The Rwandan genocide raised questions that affected all humankind, including fundamental questions about the authority of the Security Council and the effectiveness of United Nations peacekeeping.  There had been intense debate and some genuine advances on some of the questions in the past decade.  But the question must be asked, if confronted by a new Rwanda today, would the international community respond effectively?


He had suggested a number of measures that would better equip the United Nations and its Member States to meet genocide with resolve, including a special rapporteur on the subject, he said.  More must be done and he was currently analysing what further steps could be taken.  The silence that had greeted genocides in the past must be replaced by a global clamour, and a willingness to call what was happening by its true name.  The General Assembly had designated 7 April as the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda.  The Rwandan Government had asked that the world’s observance of the Day include a minute of silence at noon local time in each time zone.  Such a minute of silence had the potential to unite the world, however fleetingly, around the idea of global solidarity. 


“May the victims of the Rwandan genocide rest in peace.  May our waking hours be lastingly altered by their sacrifice”, he said.  If everyone on the earth, regardless of colour, creed, language or ethnicity could be accepted as fully human and, as such, worthy of acceptance, the world would have taken a giant step from dehumanization and towards a stronger sense of global kinship, he added.


CHARLES MURIGANDE, Foreign Minister of Rwanda, said that in the wake of genocide his country had taken on the face of a desolate and wasted land.  Some members of the international community had even expressed doubts that Rwanda could continue to exist as a sovereign independent State.  Suggestions had been made to the effect that there was no alternative but to partition the country into a land for Hutu and a land for Tutsi, or to place it under the United Nations trusteeship.  However, the people of Rwanda had rejected those suggestions.  In the last 10 years, there had been great progress in terms of establishing peace, security and stability, reconciling and uniting the people, developing a culture of good governance and democracy, and economic recovery and growth.


Continuing, he said that the killings had been the product of decades of bad governance that had started with colonial rule and had been perpetuated by the post-independence regimes.  Rwanda had been a nation for 500 years.  The nation was a community of Rwandans -- “Abanyarwanda” – sharing a common culture and a common language, living on the same hills and inter-marrying.  Rwanda had not always been a divided nation of Hutus, Tutsis and Twas, as many had been wrongly led to believe.  The notion of ethnic difference, elevated to the status of racial difference by the colonialists, was an alien trait, deliberately designed to divide in order to rule.


At a conference that had been called to reflect on the response of the international community to genocide, he recalled that in 1994, there had been reluctance by the international community to call what was taking place by its true name.  Calling it genocide would have made it an obligation for the international community to intervene, which it was unwilling to do.  And so people spoke of “mass killing”, “tribal violence” or “acts of genocide” to escape having to take responsibility, while Rwandans died at a rate of well over 10,000 a day. 


That raised a question.  Why had there been complete failure to fulfil countries’ obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention?  There had been many warnings.  For example, a 1993 report by the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on Summary and Extrajudicial Executions, had supported earlier findings by human rights non-governmental organizations that genocide on a small scale had been committed in Rwanda and that there was a likelihood of a more large-scale killing.  As early as 1992 a French diplomat, Paul Dijoud, had warned a Rwanda Patriotic Front delegation that visited Paris that they would never get to Kigali and that, if they did, they would find all their Tutsi relatives dead.  Apart from that, there had been reports both at the United Nations Secretariat and in the possession of leading members of the Security Council.  “So the writing was on the wall.  The warnings were clear, yet nobody acted or wanted to act”, he said.


Stressing the need to learn from the tragic failures of Rwanda in 1994, he said that no other nation or people should be allowed to suffer what the people of Rwanda had suffered.  “Let us commit ourselves to this and be true to our commitments and obligations.”  The obligation and responsibility of the international community in cases of genocide was to provide protection, regardless of questions of State sovereignty.  In that respect, he agreed with the core principle of the report entitled “Responsibility to Protect” that “where a population is suffering serious harm… and the State in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect”. 


The Carlsson Report of the Independent Inquiry into the actions of the United Nations during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda dealt quite extensively on the failures of the international community, he continued.  The report recommended that the United Nations and the international community should apologize to the people of Rwanda for having failed them when they should have taken action.  With a few exceptions, that apology had not been forthcoming.  Another recommendation contained in the document was related to the need to support efforts in Rwanda to rebuild the society after the genocide.  Although the country had received support from various partners to whom it was very grateful, Rwanda had hoped for much greater support.  It had great needs, so he would appreciate greater support even now, 10 years later. 


He went on to express hope that after the genocide in 1994, the world would never be the same again.  “We should now be aware that inaction or hesitation by the international community when faced with situation like what we faced in Rwanda in 1994, can only lead to tragedy”, he said.  “The international community, all of us in our respective areas of responsibility, be it politicians, diplomats, international civil servants, peacekeepers and so on, we must all recognize and face our responsibilities.” 


“My prayer is that if a similar situation were to unfold elsewhere in the world, we should be equal to the challenge and therefore avert another horrific tragedy”, he added.  The United Nations had been established principally “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, and to “reaffirm faith in the fundamental human rights, dignity and worth of the human person”.  Sadly, those two basic principles had been betrayed.  “Let us dedicate ourselves to ensuring that this does not happen again.”


BILL GRAHAM, Foreign Affairs Minister of Canada, said the memorial conference was an occasion to reflect on the Rwandan genocide and the world’s collective failure to respond.  To ensure that the world’s failure was not repeated, the reflection must also look forward.  The question must be asked, was the world better prepared?  It had not yet learned the practical lessons it should have.  Conflicts within States had a uniquely devastating potential to disrupt the lives of millions.  The international community, while it had learned what needed to be done, still lacked political agreement to prevent a Rwanda from happening again.  The international community was still struggling when sovereignty collided with internal legal norms.  It was more urgent then ever to confront gross violations of international humanitarian law. 


Outside intervention might be warranted when diplomacy failed, he said.  The well-being of the individual must be at the centre of international affairs.  The security of persons was as important as the security of States.  The protections inherent in State sovereignty were eroded when it became a shield to protect the prerogatives of governments.  The principle of responsible sovereignty must be accepted as a fundamental norm.  To discharge its responsibility, the United Nations must act fully as a credible and efficient multilateral instrument.  It had to take care of many threats, including terrorism and global pandemics.  The United Nations was still the most important institution in the world.  As the world evolved, the international community must ask whether it had the means to carry out its mandate, namely to prevent future generations from the scourge of war.  The international community was often paralyzed by definitions that stemmed from sovereignty and narrow interpretations of international law.


Canada was fully committed to mulitlateralism, including the need to find new rules and structures and to eliminate those that had lost their utility, he said.  He applauded the Secretary-General’s commitment to reform.  Canadians were determined to see the Organization have the means to answer the most urgent needs facing the world.  His country was also determined to see the Organization draw genuine lessons from the Rwanda genocide.  As a duty to those who had died, the international community must engage in full discussions on interventions that warranted military involvement.  While some say that it was a debate that the international community was not ready to have, he believed the debate was one that could not be postponed.  In the absence of clarity, the international community risked the same paralysis that had characterized Rwanda.  One year after Iraq, and 10 after Rwanda, could be no better time to open a debate on the need to protect peoples when States failed to do so.


Panel 1 -- In Memoriam:  Bearing Witness


The Panel was chaired by CHARLES MURIGANDE, Foreign Minister of Rwanda, who introduced the speakers testifying to the horrors of 1994.


The Director General of Avega Agahozo, the Association of the Widows of the 1994 Genocide, SPECIOSE KANYABUGOYI, spoke about a tragic episode that took place in April 1994, when she had sought refuge in a secondary school, which she thought would protect her. 


She had lost her husband and two children in the genocide, as well as many other members of her family, she said.  She had been born a Tutsi, and there was nothing she could do about it.  When ex-army forces and militias had started massacres of Tutsis in 1994, she was living about 500 metres from a United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) centre.  Her house was attacked on 9 April 1994.  When the family reached a nearby school, all its rooms were filled, and they stayed in the yard.  In two days, ex-army and militia people attacked the school, and on the afternoon of April 10, grenades had been thrown and shooting began. 


During their stay at the school, people had received food and drinks from UNAMIR, but whey they went to seek refuge at the Mission’s quarters, they were refused.  UNAMIR had the capacity to protect the people, but they did not.  Obviously, it was not only a crime of genocide, but a crime committed by the United Nations against her people, as well.  About 4,000 people were massacred that day.  With many bodies on top of her, she had been left for dead.  In the morning, the militias had returned to check if everybody had been killed.  They hit her on the head to make sure she was dead. 


Genocide survivor, ERIC NZABIHIMANA, recounted the events of April through July 1994, when the final phase of the genocide took place.  For a long time prior to that, the Tutsis who remained in the country had been threatened, persecuted and denied their human rights.  In April, he heard on the radio that Tutsis had shot down the plane of the President of Rwanda and that massacres had begun.  Many people had been killed in an attack on his village.  Having fled the massacre he witnessed genocide, when people who fled their villages were hunted down and killed for several months thereafter. 


On one occasion, he had pleaded for help from French soldiers, he said, who were passing by, but they responded that they had no capacity to help, although they saw the dead and the wounded.  Obviously, the French personnel whom he had encountered had not arrived in the country for humanitarian reasons.  About 7,500 people were killed not far from a French camp before help was received.  He appealed to the United Nations and the international community to make the French Government own up to its responsibility.


Former Commander of UNAMIR, General (Retd) ROMEO DALLAIRE, said that talking about Rwandan genocide, it was necessary to be frank.  The “Never Again” concept that had come from the holocaust of the Jewish communities during the Second World War had failed in the case of Rwanda.  The international community had demonstrated total irresponsibility toward human beings in a State that “did not count”. 


The Mission in Rwanda had no budget and no structure, he continued, while thousands of dollars and enormous efforts were being poured into Yugoslavia.  The question he often asked himself having commanded an operation that “was a last priority” for the international community, was why the genocide in Rwanda was considered “tribalism”, while in the European context, there was talk about ethnic cleansing, which attracted significant attention.  The Security Council made it a point not to consider the threats and warnings about Rwanda and, as the months went by and the peace agreement was “falling to pieces”, there was political stagnation and no real desire to put any resources into the Mission.  As a result, when the genocide commenced in April, he still had no budget for the Mission deployed.


Some 2,000 personnel from several countries, including France, United Kingdom, United States and Italy, had come to evacuate their expatriates and though they were stumbling on corpses, they remained firm in totally ignoring the catastrophe and accomplishing their mission.  On 22 April, when over 100,000 had been killed already, the bulk of the Force was ordered to withdraw, but some 450 African and 13 Canadian troops stayed on the ground and observed.  As millions were internally displaced, killed and injured, the Mission was able to save some 30,000 and on top of that, he had been ordered to abandon them.  The order had come from the Security Council, and nobody objected. 


By the first week of May, while the Mission had been continuously providing information, it was realized that genocide was not going to taper off and end.  It was continuously gaining in strength and spreading.  Under enormous pressure from international media, it was finally agreed on 17 May, that the Mission would be reinforced to assist in attempting to stop the massacres.  The term genocide was not applied.  The reinforcements never arrived before August.  The fear of casualties to troop-contributing nations was over by then.  The Security Council considered the lives of troops more significant that those of innocent civilians. 


When peacekeepers were withdrawn leaving thousands for slaughter, they were not peacekeepers anymore, he said.  The decision was made not by the United Nations, but by national governments.  The peacekeepers reverted to national command and the Blue Berets were off.  That was the case when Belgian peacekeepers were withdrawn from the compound leaving over 4,000 people to die, as one of the witnesses had said.


Panel 2 -- Never Again:  Toward a More Effective International Response to Genocide


BILL GRAHAM, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada, chaired the panel.


IBRAHIM A. GAMBARI, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa, said the controversy over the cable from General Dallaire to United Nations Headquarters reporting a possible plot to kill huge numbers of Tutsis was, in his view, overblown if not actually besides the point.  While the failure to bring the cable to the Council’s attention might be unfortunate, there were more serious failures in the system.  Structural and policy failures, including the fact that the Security Council, which had plenty of warning about the impending tragedy in Rwanda, should be acknowledged and corrected for the future.  Early warning was a necessary but not a sufficient tool for preventing serious conflicts, let alone genocide.


The real key was political will to act promptly and decisively, he said.  In the case of Rwanda, however, there was a glaring and tragic lack of political will to intervene to stop the genocide, especially on the part of the Organization’s most powerful members.  When Member States collectively made disastrous decisions such as in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda, there was a tendency to place blame on the world body, especially the Secretary-General.  The United Nations was only as effective and responsive to world crises as its Member States wanted it to be.  The international community must move beyond apology to a collective determination to ensure that “never again” shall the tragic events be allowed to occur.


As Nigeria’s chief delegate during the events leading up to the 1994 Rwandan crisis and the genocide that followed, he said he was in a privileged position to explain things the way he saw them at close range.  Without a doubt, it was the Council, especially its most powerful members that had failed the people of Rwanda in their gravest hour of need.  The controversy over the international community’s culpability for its failure to prevent the genocide in Rwanda would not easily go away.  Following the commencement of the genocide, about one dozen soldiers serving in United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) had been killed on 7 April 1994.  Belgium decided to withdraw its battalion from the mission.  As a result, Bangladesh then decided to withdraw its contingent and by 19 April, the first batch of UNAMIR soldiers had been evacuated to Kenya.


The reality at United Nations Headquarters was that many Member States seemed mainly concerned about their troops and the potential political repercussions, in their respective capitals, of dead peacekeepers returning home in body bags, he said.  While such concerns were legitimate, those countries had ignored the moral duty to help save defenceless civilians who were being massacred in broad daylight.  In contrast, the Ghanaian battalion of less than 500, in technical violation of the resolution, had remained, demonstrating how much a well-equipped United Nations force with a robust mandate could have been able to accomplish.  Tunisia had also done much to help to save as many people as possible.


In response to the pressure on the United Nations to do something, the then Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, had sent a report to the Council on 20 April, presenting it with three alternatives to the status quo, he said.  They included the deployment of immediate and massive reinforcement of UNAMIR and a change in its mandate; the reduction in the deployment of UNAMIR to a small group, and a complete withdrawal, which the Secretary-General had not favoured.  Faced with the three options, the Council had chosen the second option, adopting on 21 April resolution 912 (1994), which called for a reduction of UNAMIR forces from some 2,558 to about 270, in the midst of an unfolding genocide.  In hindsight, the Secretary-General should have indicated the option that he preferred.  It was the Secretary-General’s duty to at least try to persuade the Council to do the right thing under difficult circumstances.  That represented a collective failure of all members of the international community, in particular the Council members.


Another failure was on the part of the Non-Aligned Movement members of the Council, who should have at least abstained on resolution 912, he said.  Why had Nigeria and other African members of the Council failed to persuade it to act differently?  First, there was only one African country contributing troops to UNAMIR, namely Ghana.  Nigeria and other African members of the Council had little leverage over the position of other troop-contributing countries, which were pushing for withdrawal.  The Movement was also not given the opportunity to present draft resolutions concerning conflicts in which it had direct interest.  The Belgian Government had decided to lobby vigorously with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies on the Council to put an end to the entire operation.  The Belgians were not just content to leave, but to pull down the entire mission, to justify why they had left.  The United States initially appeared to want a total withdrawal and had to be persuaded to accept a drastic drawdown of military personnel as a compromise solution.


Events were moving so rapidly on the ground in Rwanda that the leadership of the Organization of African Unity had not had the opportunity to organize diplomatic lobbying efforts in the key Western capitals to strengthen the hands of the African members of the Council, he added.  Also, in the post-cold war environment there was a considerable pressure to adopt Council resolutions by consensus.


The Rwandan tragedy also illustrated an enormous contrast between the international community’s will to prevent or halt genocide, on the one hand, and Council support for the French to launch Operation Turquoise as a humanitarian initiative, on the other.  He said that, while the entire world watched the ongoing tragedy unfold, the Council adopted resolution 929 (1994), authorizing France to carry out humanitarian operations in Rwanda under Chapter VII of the Charter.   The Nigerian delegation had characterized resolution 929 as a “reluctant decision of a divided Security Council”.


The Council was a political institution that functioned in concentric circles of interests and relative influence, he said.  The outer ring consisted of the non-permanent members that did not belong to the Non-Aligned Movement, unless they had other connections with NATO members.  The next circle comprised the non-aligned caucus, whose members tried to harmonize their positions on issues before the Council.


Then there were the five permanent members and the “permanent one”, namely the United States, he said.  It was a matter of great regret that at the time when other African countries were struggling to cope with the genocide, United States officials would not allow the word “genocide” to be used in public comments apparently due to fear in Washington that to do so would have increased domestic and international pressure.  Yet, as President Bill Clinton, while in office, had decided to make a stopover in Kigali in March 1998, he seized the opportunity in a public event to acknowledge the genocide.  That gesture, though of little comfort to the victims, was better late than never for the single remaining super-Power to openly address the horrendous crime against humanity in Rwanda.


RAMESH THAKUR, Vice-Rector, United Nations University, said he was taking the floor as a member of the panel that commissioned the report, “The Responsibility to Protect”.  As the genocide had unfolded, and almost 1 million people had been butchered in a mere three months, the world’s silence witnessed to its apathy.  The genocide remained one of the most shameful incidents since the Holocaust.  It was not a matter of lack of knowledge or capacity, but a failure of civic courage at the highest and most profound level.  The worst act of a country’s domestic criminal behaviour was the large-scale killings of its own people.


Humanitarian intervention had been a persistent challenge in the 1990s, he said, and the challenge had not disappeared.  It was easy to justify war by calling it humanitarian.  The report captured the sense of solidarity from which external help should spring.  Governments were responsible for protecting the safety and lives of their citizens and were accountable for their acts of commission and omission.  While the State had the primary responsibility, it was the responsibility of the international community to act when States were unable or unwilling to fulfil their responsibility to protect their people.  At that point, the principle of State sovereignty must yield to international responsibility to protect. 


The commission had tried to find thresholds when armed intervention was warranted, he said.  In such cases, the circumstances had to narrow, the bar must be high and operational safeguards must be tight.  A threshold had been crossed when larger scale violence was about to occur.  Other principles included right intention, last resort and proportional means.


The goal was not to wage war in a State but to protect victims of atrocities, he said.  Who had the right to authorize force?  The United Nations was the only authority to override national sovereignty.  Its work could be supplemented by regional organizations.  The urgent task was not to evade the United Nations, but to make it work better.  Washington had a point about the inadequacy of the United Nations system to eliminate real threats.  If the United Nations persisted in proving that true, others would act, causing further damage to the United Nations authority.


The challenge was neither to deny the reality of intervention, nor to denounce it, but to come out of it better, he said.  Living in a fantasy world was a luxury that the world could ill afford.  The choice was between ad hoc or rules-based intervention and unilateral or multilateral intervention.  To be effective, intervention must be legitimate, and to be legitimate it must conform to international law.  To conform to international law, intervention must conform to the United Nations Charter. 


DANILO TURK, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said he wished to focus on practical means and improvements in the United Nations system in the last decade.  The International Convention Against Genocide had to be given serious reflection.  The Convention’s definition of genocide as a crime was very narrow.  The large area of norms, institutions and practical means to prevent genocide was not addressed by the convention.


The imperative of preventing genocide was understood much more broadly and the prevention of situations was taken more seriously today, he said.  The prevention of civilians from being involved in armed conflict had become a more pressing responsibility.  The traumatic experience in Rwanda was an essential element in shaping the thinking and practice in the past decade.


One of the Secretary-General’s efforts was the initiation of a broad-ranging discussion on the prevention of armed conflict, he continued.  That discussion was starting to yield consensus on specific activities by the United Nations system.  New mechanisms within the United Nations system included an emphasis on the development-related structural prevention of armed conflict.  The Secretary-General’s good offices also had a preventive effect. 


There was increased sensitivity in the United Nations on the need to prevent armed conflict, he said.  The Secretary-General had proposed the establishment of a new institution, namely the special adviser for the prevention of genocide.  The profile and mandate of that office was now being discussed.  He hoped the office would soon be established.  Another area was the international criminal tribunal, which had already strengthened the standards of accountability, and the evolving role of certain regional organizations.  Rapid reaction from United Nations partners could establish conditions in which the deployment of a United Nations force could stabilize a situation.  Peacekeeping had also become more effective in the past 10 years.


The notion of “never again” came to mind not only in the case of Rwanda but in others as well, he said.  The prevention of conflict was a complex task.  In all post-conflict peace-building situations there was a need for a balance between national reconciliation and improvements in establishing the rule of law.  Various approaches existed in that context, and the Council was engaged in important discussion to define policies for both requirements.  The common denominator of both tasks was the truth.  Without the truth, the prospect of stable peace became fragile.  Criminal justice was an important instrument of truth.  It was the cornerstone of truth telling and establishing the rule of law.  Post-conflict peace-building required patience and persistence.  Progress was being made and should not be underestimated, he added.


Question and Answer Session


Among the points raised in the first round of questions was how to help the survivors.  One participant said he was dismayed by the Secretary-General’s remarks this morning that the United Nations was doing much to help rebuild the country, when in reality, orphans could not afford to go to school, and genocide victims were dying due to inadequate health care.  What was the United Nations doing to alleviate the suffering of the genocide victims?  Other issues raised included the possible use of reparations as a preventive measure, and the need to prevent double standards.


Another participant, noting that Rwanda had been on the Council at the time, asked what its role had been and how its actions could have been curtailed.  The United Nations was a body of nations.  How could it be held accountable for its actions?   


Responding to questions, Mr. TURK noted that United Nations mechanisms had to be further developed.  At present there was a range of mechanisms in the field of human rights.  The Council needed to be made more fully aware of situations as they arose.  That had been the genesis of the Secretary-General’s decision to propose the establishment of a special adviser for the prevention of genocide.  


The reparation debate would be a long slug, Mr. Gambari said.  Rather than waiting for the issue to be resolved, it was necessary to find ways to help the genocide victims and to help in the country’s reconstruction.  The United Nations system as a whole was doing its best to complement the efforts of the Rwandan Government to rebuild. 


Regarding Rwanda’s presence on the Council at the time, he said the African Group had three seats on the Council, and elected members on the basis of rotation.  Rwanda had been elected in December 1993.  The presence of Rwanda’s delegation had not prevented anyone from condemning what was going on.


Regarding the accountability of the international community, he said institutional change was needed.  The Council needed to be made more representative.  Lapses in delivery of services by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had been addressed in a report, which had addressed the need not to give operations unrealistic mandates.


Mr. GRAHAM agreed that information was important, especially for youth.  The issue of reparations boiled down to whose taxpayers were going to pay.  It was a difficult matter.  He was not sure that reparations would serve as an impulse to prevent similar tragedies in the future, as the issue would submerge the international community in protracted discussion.  Regarding questions of human rights abuses, solutions must be kept within juridical and legal concepts.  The rule of law must be applied when dealing with them, which was why Canada was such a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court.  Justice had to be rendered according to the law. 


Mr. THAKUR said that, as he himself came from a developing nation, he had become increasingly dissatisfied with the tendency of developing countries to find failure with everyone else but themselves.  Developing countries must take responsibility for their own actions.   To his surprise, the concept of the responsibility to protect had been much more challenged by the developing world.  Before taking about double standards, the developing world needed to take genuine efforts to find ways forward.


Looking at the consequences of genocide, at the dire situation of the survivors, widows and orphans, he did believe the United Nations could do more in Rwanda, Mr. Murigande said.  Indeed, it was assisting the country in building schools and hospitals and had provided help in organizing an international conference on Rwanda in 1995.  However, the country’s needs were great.


Commenting on a question regarding the duty to protect, Mr. Gambari said that part of the answer was to strengthen the capacity of the international community and its political will.  At the same time, the collapse of ethical norms within societies had led to the collapse of negotiations on such issues as humanitarian ceasefire.  A coalition of actors, including non-governmental organizations, should promote such tools in crisis situations.  Evidence of massive violations of human rights by authorities, authorization of the Security Council and cooperation with regional organizations were needed for international action to save lives.


Concluding Remarks


In his concluding remarks, Mr. MURIGANDE thanked the organizers and participants of the Conference and said that in the case of Rwanda, he was tempted to say that not many lessons had been learned from the tragedy.  There had been also no tangible evidence of change in the Council and the United Nations on the whole as far as his country was concerned.  For months and years that followed the genocide, the country had begged the Security Council to disarm the forces that had committed genocide, which were known as EX-FAR/Interahamwe.  Under the cover of refugee camps, they had rearmed and retrained.  The excess of food supplies that they were receiving from the international community was being transformed into arms.


The members of the Council had asked for an inquiry into the flow of arms into the country, and the report had clearly shown how those forces had been re-armed with international help, he said.  However, the report was never acted upon.  Up to now, the Council had been reluctant to forcefully disarm and demobilize those forces.  Should the country be attacked and destroyed by them, the international community would shed some tears and place flowers on the graves.


Mr. GRAHAM said he was grateful to have participated in the event.  After hearing the moving testimony of the survivors and General Dallaire, the challenge was to find solutions.  Under those circumstances, despite its failures, he emphasized the role of the United Nations today.  In the past, it had debated endlessly the interventions in former Yugoslavia, giving too little attention to Rwanda.  The international community owed it to itself to assist Africa in solving its problems.  It would be not easy to translate well-meaning words into action.  He hoped today’s Conference would be remembered as an important step in preventing future Rwandas.


Ms. IYOB said responsibility for the past and resolve for the future were very important.  The phrase “Never Again” called upon countries to put their resolve behind it.


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