GENERAL ASSEMBLY, CONCERNED THAT MANY CONTINUE TO BE VICTIMS OF GENOCIDE, REAFFIRMS SIGNIFICANCE OF 1948 GENOCIDE TREATY19981202 Concerned that many thousands of innocent human beings continue to be victims of genocide, the General Assembly this afternoon reaffirmed the significance of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, by adopting a resolution on the fiftieth anniversary of that treaty.
Acting without a vote on a text introduced by Armenia, the Assembly invited Governments and the international community to continue to review and assess the progress made in the implementation of the Convention since its adoption, and to identify obstacles and the way in which they can be overcome, both through measures on the national level and through enhanced international cooperation.
Speaking on behalf of his delegation, Armenia's representative said the dark part of this century began with the genocide of the Armenians in 1915, which was not, at the time, duly condemned by the international community. That encouraged certain regimes to commit new genocides. Many studies had proved that genocide shaped the outlook not only of the immediate victims, but also of subsequent generations. The survivors were filled with mistrust, fear and a sense of danger of what might come from the world. Regretfully, denial, which had become an integral part of genocide, often reinforced the sense of insecurity, abandonment, and betrayal. The victims needed to have the world recognize their suffering and especially to receive the expressions of regret and apology from the perpetrators. Only then could a sense of justice and rightness be restored. Until such time, the pain and the rage continued and the healing process was blocked.
Punishing the crime of genocide rendered justice but it always came as an after effect, the representative of Rwanda said, adding that the international community had always been caught in disbelief when reports of genocide started to come out, as was the case in the Second World War. He stressed that the world body had to recommit itself to heed the early warnings, which would clearly show that genocide was in the making. It had to act with speed to condemn and contain leaders who incited populations to exterminate their own citizens. Public statements on radio and television did spark off waves of genocidal killings, especially if those came from the
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highest authorities in governments. That had to be stopped and condemned in the most categorical terms without excluding the use of all other possible means.
As a nation that emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust, Israel had a unique role in punishing and preventing that atrocity, that country's representative stated. He stressed the importance of giving careful thought to the legal frameworks and definitions with which the phenomenon was identified. That was not an easy task, since genocide was undeniably real, yet seemed to defy definition. All formal definitions were either too broad to invite action or too narrow to require any. The first step was to declare it illegal. Politicization of the International Criminal Court, by defining as war crimes actions that had no connection whatsoever with the history of genocide, simply abused the Genocide Convention and insulted the memory of the millions who died in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Also making statements were the representatives of Austria (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Cyprus, Monaco, United States Liechtenstein, Ukraine, Poland, Turkey, Russian Federation, Norway and Cuba. The representatives of Turkey and Armenia exercised their right of reply.
The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, 3 December, to consider reports of its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this afternoon to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was approved and proposed for signature and accession by General Assembly resolution 260 (III) A of 9 December 1948. The Convention entered into force on 12 January 1951. As of October 1998, the Convention had been ratified and acceded to by 127 States.
The 19-article Convention states that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law. It defines genocide as any of the acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, including by killing its members; causing them serious bodily or mental harm; deliberately inflicting on a group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The Assembly has before it a draft resolution (document A/53/L.47) on the fiftieth anniversary of the Genocide Convention.
Under its provisions, the Assembly, concerned that many thousands of innocent human beings continue to be victims of genocide, would reaffirm the significance of the Genocide Convention as an effective international instrument for the punishment of the crime of genocide. Governments and the international community would be invited to continue to review and assess the progress made in the implementation of the Convention since its adoption, and to identify obstacles and the way in which they can be overcome, both through measures on the national level and through enhanced international cooperation. Governments and organizations would be invited to widely disseminate the Convention together with other international instruments in the field of human rights, with a view to ensuring its universality and full and comprehensive implementation.
The draft is sponsored by Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Haiti, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Mozambique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.
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ERNST SUCHARIPA (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union and the associated countries of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Iceland, said under the horrifying impression of the Holocaust, the conviction that such events must never occur again was a crucial element in the foundation of the United Nations and guided the work of the Organization from its inception. Genocide was a crime on different scale than all other crimes against humanity. It implied an intention to exterminate, in whole or in part, a particular group. The elaboration of a legally binding instrument for the prevention and punishment of genocide became a crucial standard-setting initiative in the early work of the United Nations. The results obtained in Rome in July at the United Nations Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court held the genuine promise of achieving a world where the interests of peace and justice would not be seen as contradictory.
"We should keep in mind that the purpose of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will not only be to prosecute and punish those who commit the most heinous crimes, but through its mere existence, to deter and prevent individuals from committing them in the first place", he continued. The earliest possible entry into force of the Rome Statute of the ICC was therefore of utmost importance. The Union reiterated its call to all States to sign and ratify it as soon as possible. It would also be one of the lasting achievements of the General Assembly to speed up the process that would make the Convention a reality. The Court would add a new dimension to international relations and to the effectiveness of international law, by reinforcing individual responsibility.
He added: "The time when cruelties and atrocities went unpunished must come to an end. Let us renew today this commitment that inspired the founders of the United Nations. Let us strongly reaffirm the 'never again' expressed 50 years ago."
SOTIRIOS ZACKHEOS (Cyprus) said it was important that the provisions of the Genocide Convention applied to any person including constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals, and that such crimes were punished "irrespective of whether they had been committed in time of peace or war". The Ottoman massacre of one and a half million Armenians between 1915 and 1923 was an example of genocide for which, unfortunately, efforts were being exerted for the prevention of its historical recognition. Having a vibrant Armenian community in his country, Cyprus could appreciate the trauma felt by that community for the serious injustices their ancestors suffered.
Unfortunately, he said, that same policy had been applied against the people of Cyprus, during and in the aftermath of the 1974 Turkish military
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invasion and occupation of 37 per cent of the territory of Cyprus, resulting in one-third of the population being forced out of their homes and finding themselves as refugees in their own country. Turkey's policy of ethnic cleansing against the population of Cyprus was further attested by the massive colonization and systematic destruction of the religious and cultural heritage in the territory occupied by the Turkish army and by the inhumane conditions of life imposed on the few Greek Cypriots and Maronites still living in the occupied part of the island. There was no doubt that the aim was to "Turkify" completely the occupied area and to erase any signs of the long historic Greek presence there.
Unless a nation could come to terms and recognize aspects of its history, that nation could not create the foundation for understanding and reconciliation, which would allow it to take its place as a responsible partner in the international community, he said. The perpetrators of crimes had to be brought to justice and be punished in accordance with due process of law.
In pursuing that aim to do justice to the people that had suffered and to safeguard the inherent dignity of human beings, he went on, it was necessary, now more than ever, that all States cooperated in the punishment of those responsible for genocide. Recent history had demonstrated the urgent need for the implementation of the Genocide Convention. Cyprus hoped that the establishment of a permanent International Criminal Court, having jurisdiction over the crime of genocide, would act as a decisive deterrent of such crimes. His Government had worked actively for the establishment of the Court in its belief that an end must be put to impunity.
JACQUES L. BOISSON (Monaco) said that achieved through international cooperation in the aftermath of the Second World War, the Convention on the Crime of Genocide came to confirm that genocide, whether committed at the time of peace or war, was a crime under international law. It determined the crime of genocide, as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity.
However, even in the recent past those crimes, unacceptable to human morality, continued around the world, he said. Today's crimes were just as brutal, even if they were different in their scope or nature, as those which had inspired the adoption of the Convention. Difficulties in implementing the Convention and carrying out international cooperation were sometimes cited as reasons for the existence of those crimes. The establishment of International Tribunals by the Security Council and the historic decision made in Rome to establish the International Criminal Court should confirm respect for international morality. Those guilty of crimes against humanity should be punished, and no exceptions should be allowed in the implementation of the Convention.
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Practical initiatives also deserved encouragement to avoid situations leading to the crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, he continued. At the forty-ninth session of the General Assembly, Monaco had proposed the elaboration of an international convention to establish, at the time of armed conflicts, inviolable humanitarian zones. It had also suggested that roads under international control should be open to those zones to deliver assistance and humanitarian aid. Carrying out that proposal would certainly reduce the risk of crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, which were usually directed against the most vulnerable groups of population. Today, it was necessary to seek ways and means to make those principles eternally and universally applicable.
Recalling the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be celebrated in a few days, he said the occasion should make the international community more attentive to the question of human rights. Genocide was the most flagrant violation of human rights. The proposed draft resolution on the Genocide Convention was intended to recall that prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide must be universal and global and not subject to exceptions.
BETTY KING (United States) said that despite all that had been learned and all the hard work that had been done since the Second World War, the horror of genocide remained. That plague continued to haunt the earth, generating racial, ethnic and religious hatred and mass murder in the Great Lakes region of Africa, the former Yugoslavia and many other parts of the world. The horrors of the past must be acknowledged and each nation must take full responsibility for the world and seek to ensure that the rights of all individuals were protected. The international community must put in place effective judicial systems to safeguard human rights and the rule of law.
She said that just four short years ago, Rwanda had been the site of one of the worst genocides in modern history. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had been established to bring the perpetrators to justice. The United States was working through the Great Lakes Justice Initiative to enhance the rule of law and end the culture of impunity as a means to break the cycles of ethnic violence. Through that initiative, the United States would help build credible, impartial judicial instruments throughout the Great Lakes region.
Another region of profound and continuing concern was Kosovo, where criminal assaults on the civilian population had reminded the world how fragile the Balkan situation remained, she said. Mass killings, the brutal, forcible removal of large numbers of civilians, and the massive, unwarranted destruction of civilian homes had occurred, demonstrating the continuing justification for systems by which the international community could be vigilant in the prevention and punishment of those vicious crimes.
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In addition to vigilance, there must be full cooperation by the international community in exacting justice, she said. Despite the incontrovertible commitments made during the 1995 Dayton Agreement, numerous indicted suspects remained at large in the former Yugoslavia. The United States called on all nations, "particularly the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)", to cooperate with the efforts of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, to bring the accused to trial and to permit the Tribunal to fully investigate alleged crimes in Kosovo.
Also in recent history, the world had been sadly witness to the murderous tide that had swept Cambodia during the rule of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, where 2 million Cambodians had been killed, she said. One of the top priorities of the United States Government was bringing the people responsible for that mass murder to justice. Today the United States reaffirmed its strong support for continued international attention to the crime of genocide.
VOLODYMYR YEL'CHENKO (Ukraine) said last month his country commemorated one of the most tragic chapters in its history -- the sixty-fifth anniversary of the man-made famine of 1932-1933, when the Ukrainian people became the object of a conscious and deliberate genocide undertaken by the Soviet regime. That famine was not caused by natural calamities, but was the result of a political ideology calculated in a vicious criminal scenario and implemented by those who pursued the authoritarian ruling of Joseph Stalin's regime. It was aimed at suppressing and eliminating the freedom aspirations of nations such as Ukraine. According to the most modest estimates, it took some seven million innocent lives. Although many years had passed by since that period, the horrible tragedy could not and should not be forgotten. The post-war period had also seen a number of crimes of genocidal nature and he cited Bosnia and Herzegovina and Rwanda.
He said 50 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, "we hear about mass exterminations of innocent people and ethnic cleansing in various parts of the world".
There was a need to take a fresh look at the substance of the Convention, he said, adding "We must try to determine why all this happens and discuss the ways and more effective means to ensure the practical implementation of the Convention." The definition of genocide should be expanded to include all groups targeted by policies which led to the destruction or any delineation of humanity.
Chemical, biological or radiological warfare could also be regarded as innately genocidal, he said. Any study of genocide must also be informed by and connected to all other efforts to understand and prevent the mass destruction of human life. A praxis to understand and prevent poverty, disease and war would also directly enhance the prevention of genocide.
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EUGENIUSZ WYZNER (Poland) said that international cooperation was indispensable to prevent and punish the crime of genocide. The elaboration and adoption of an international instrument to combat that crime in just two years could be regarded as a considerable success and proof of the international community's determination not to allow those atrocities to continue. Poland, as the first victim of the Second World War, suffered the heaviest losses in proportion to its population and, therefore, had energetically supported the convention against genocide.
The Convention, he said, was supposed to be complemented by the creation of an international penal tribunal with jurisdiction over the crime of genocide or by the addition of a criminal chamber to the International Court of Justice. Such a tribunal, however, had not been created and the early hopes associated with the adoption of the Convention were premature. In spite of the fact that international law explicitly condemned genocide as the most heinous crime, the world had yet witnessed it in various parts of the globe in defiance of the basic rules of morality. Meanwhile, the international community had failed to respond or responded belatedly to prevent it.
The Security Council had a particular role to play in dealing with genocide, as it had primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, he continued. Its ability to react quickly to crises may in many instances be critical in preventing the crime's reoccurrence. Also, the historic sentencing of the Tribunal for Rwanda, the first of war criminals since the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals, brought life to the 50-year-old Convention, thus proving it an effective tool for dealing with genocide. The Tribunal's work underscored the growing awareness that combating genocide was a duty of all members of the international community.
Furthermore, the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, with jurisdiction over the crime of genocide, would be the long awaited complement to the 1948 Convention, he went on to say. The past 50 years had shown that only a permanent judicial body with broad international support may effectively guarantee the implementation of the Convention. A strong court would be the best deterrent against such crimes and would create a new culture in international relations. Poland hoped that the remaining documents necessary for the Court to become operational would be completed before the end of June 2000, so the international community would enter the new millennium better prepared to fight genocide.
AHMET ARDA (Turkey) said that when the General Assembly affirmed that genocide was a crime under international law, the bitter experiences of the Second World War were very much alive. The Convention on the Crime of Genocide expanded the boundaries of international law in more than one angle. However, only in the last decade, the international community had twice witnessed genocidal atrocities committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Africa. If the international community had manifested its determination to
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cooperate, as foreseen by the Convention, the need to establish two ad hoc tribunals would not have arisen.
Last summer, 50 years after the adoption by the General Assembly of the Genocide Convention, an issue that had not been sufficiently addressed by the Convention had been resolved, he continued. Article VI of the Convention stated that "persons charged with genocide shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed or by such international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties which shall have accepted its jurisdiction". The Statute of the International Criminal Court, by addressing the crime of genocide, was in a sense fulfilling the provision in article VI of the Genocide Convention.
Turkey hoped that 50 years after the adoption of the Convention, the international community would be able to draw lessons from its shortcomings, enhance cooperation and take timely measures to liberate mankind from the odious scourge of genocide, he concluded.
MOVSES ABELIAN (Armenia), introducing the draft resolution before the Assembly, said Colombia, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Paraguay, United Republic of Tanzania, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Vanuatu had also joined the list of co- sponsors.
Speaking on behalf of his delegation, he said the dark part of this century began with the genocide of the Armenians in 1915, which was not, at the time, duly condemned by the international community. That encouraged certain regimes to commit new genocides. Many studies had proved that genocide shaped the outlook not only of the immediate victims, but also of subsequent generations. The survivors were filled with mistrust, fear and a sense of danger of what might come from the world. Regretfully, denial, which had become an integral part of genocide, often reinforced the sense of insecurity, abandonment, and betrayal. The victims needed to have the world recognize their suffering and especially to receive the expressions of regret and apology from the perpetrators. Only then could a sense of justice and rightness be restored. Until such time, the pain and the rage continued and the healing process was blocked.
He said that for the descendants of the perpetrators, it was of utmost importance to engage in introspection, to face and learn from history, to question how such violence could have occurred, to examine what led them down the road to genocide, and to find some redemption through acts of contrition -- beginning, but not ending with a knowledge and acceptance of the truth. If they were unable or unwilling to deal with the truth and instead tried to maintain a righteous self-image, then they might again be placed on a path toward victimizing other groups. In a modern world, not to take genocide denial into consideration was to fail to comprehend a major component of the
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dynamics of extermination. Denial of the deniers had much to do with their initial success and brazen behaviour.
The establishment of the International Criminal Court earlier this year was a vital step towards creating a working mechanism that would provide the necessary link, which the international legal system needed, to guarantee solid protection of human rights in terms of bringing to justice those responsible for genocide or crimes against humanity, he said. If human rights were to have any meaning, no-one could remain indifferent when anyone's rights were being violated anywhere. Human rights did not belong to Governments -- and they were limited to no continent. They were fundamental for humankind itself.
He added: "We cannot bring back to life the dead of this century or those who have been victims of political mass murder throughout the ages, but we can act to bring about a world free from the scourge of mass killing. In committing ourselves to creating a world of peace, freedom, and mutual respect, we honour the memory of those who have fallen victim to the ultimate crime."
DORE GOLD (Israel) said that as a nation that emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust, the most extreme, brutal and incomparable instance of genocide in human history, Israel had a unique role in punishing and preventing that atrocity. If legal headway was to be made in preventing genocide, it must be recognized that it did not happen in a vacuum. Genocide could potentially spring up in a variety of concrete, existing social and political structures.
Therefore, he said, it was important to give careful thought to the legal frameworks and definitions with which the phenomenon was identified. That was not an easy task, since genocide was undeniably real, yet seemed to defy definition. All formal definitions were either too broad to invite action or too narrow to require any. The first step was to declare it illegal. Politicization of the International Criminal Court, by defining as war crimes actions that had no connection whatsoever with the history of genocide, simply abused the Genocide Convention and insulted the memory of the millions who died in Nazi-occupied Europe.
The term genocide had increasingly been recruited to serve controversial political and cultural aims and contexts, usually falling beyond the legal scope of the term itself, he said. References to heinous instances of violence and destruction, as equivalent to the crime of genocide, tended to distort the concept and weaken its applicability. Perhaps it would be wise to strengthen the Convention to apply to groups that had so far resisted classification, but who might become targets of genocidal crimes, those included groups defined by gender and political circumstance. That should be done by using the legal means available, by using the international treaty mechanism rather than misinterpreted contemporary legal definitions. Lastly,
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the obligation of States under the Genocide Convention was not merely to refrain from committing genocide, but to prevent and punish acts of genocide.
ALEXANDRE V. ZMEEVSKI (Russian Federation) said that the creators of the Genocide Convention were guided by irrefutable proof of human suffering during the Second World War. The Convention described genocide as a crime and laid the foundation for international cooperation to save humankind from that horrible evil. Unfortunately, acts to destroy national, ethnic, racial and religious groups were not just a memory. Today's inter-ethnic and religious conflicts again repeated the heritage of the fascist concentration camps.
The day when the Statute of the International Criminal Court was adopted was a historic one, he said. The fact that the jurisdiction of that Court addressed the crime of genocide along with crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression testified to the fact that the international community was entering a new stage of international defence of human rights.
Decisive efforts on the international level were needed to punish persons guilty of genocide, he said. The new criminal code of Russia determined genocide as one of the most serious crimes, which called for severe sanctions. The Russian Federation was convinced that even 50 years after the adoption of the Convention, it was necessary to remain vigilant until an end was put to that scourge. In conclusion, he thanked the delegation of Armenia for its important initiative.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said that the obligation to prevent and punish genocide was not limited to the parties to the Genocide Convention. In its very first session, the General Assembly adopted a resolution characterizing genocide as an international crime. The experience obtained by the ad hoc tribunals was a stepping stone towards the establishment of the International Criminal Court, in accordance with the Rome Statute adopted in July.
The adoption of the Rome Statute was historic, since the existence of a permanent, global institution of that kind would significantly enhance deterrence against the most heinous international crimes including genocide, he said. The Statute provided for an independent, effective and credible Court, while at the same time allowing for as broad a basis as possible of support to the Court. The significant contributions from all regions, legal systems and cultures to the negotiation process both before and during the Rome Conference, cemented the foundation for a really universal institution, even more so than the Statutes for the Nuremberg, Tokyo, former Yugoslavia or Rwanda Tribunals.
Furthermore, on a wide-ranging number of issues, the Statute provided for the first time for satisfactory written rules of international law, thus enhancing substantially legal predictability and certainty, he concluded.
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RAFAEL DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba) recalled that his country was one of the original sponsors of the draft resolution which called genocide a "crime against human rights". He said international cooperation was essential to prevent and properly punish the crime of genocide. Considering the era of its introduction, he believed that the existing definition of genocide was fairly advanced and covered a wide area including conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and attempts to commit genocide. Any exercise aimed at the progressive development of the Convention and further codification of that law should be discussed in conjunction with articles 2 and 3 of the 1948 Convention.
He said that although the Convention was an important tool for fostering international cooperation, the international community had not been able to put an end to the practice of genocide. There had not been an effective and coherent mechanism through which all could seek equal recourse and due process. Hunger and lack of access to medical supplies by women and children were examples he cited in relation to that issue.
The blockade of Cuba by the United States was a genocidal policy that targeted a people with extermination through hunger and disease, he said. It was of far-reaching importance that the crime of genocide was included in the list of crimes that could be brought before the International Criminal Court.
GIDEON KAYINAMURA (Rwanda) said that genocide derived from the obsessive folly of dictatorial leadership and fear of change. His country had suffered one of the most devastating tragedies in recent history. Many had fallen into the mistaken belief that the Rwandan genocide was the result of ethnic fighting. That was not the case. The victims of genocide in Rwanda were neither armed nor were they political activists. They were simply wiped out because they belonged to a different ethnic group which was perceived as the enemy of the leadership.
Punishing the crime rendered justice but it always came as an after effect, when the crime had already consumed, leaving behind deep wounds of trauma and devastation, he said. Yet, what happened in the past and continued to happen today was that the international community always got caught in disbelief when reports of genocide started to come out as was the case in the Second World War. The world body had to recommit itself to heed the early warnings, which would clearly show that genocide was in the making. It had to act with speed to condemn and contain leaders who incited populations to exterminate their own citizens. Public statements on radio and television did spark off waves of genocidal killings, especially if those came from the highest authorities in governments. That had to be stopped and condemned in the most categorical terms without excluding the use of all other possible means.
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He said that in an attempt to ensure that there would never again be impunity in similar crimes in Rwanda, an Organic Law on the organization of the prosecution of offences constituting genocide or crimes against humanity was promulgated on 30 August 1996. It sought to reconcile Rwanda's past while building for the future to prevent the reoccurrence of genocide in the country. The signing and ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court by Member States would be a significant milestone in international criminal justice. However, that would not be enough. There had to also be other international actions aimed at countering intellectually crafted obscurantism and revisionism, which sought to hide, diminish or belittle the past relating to genocide.
The Convention being celebrated today called on all its signatory States to return the perpetrators of genocide to the countries where the crimes were committed to be tried, he said. Rwanda hoped that exceptions to the provisions of the Convention, which were based on the excuses of the dictates of law, the official capacity of the defendant or even for political and business interests, as was the case of Rwandan suspects in some countries, would not be allowed. Renewed cooperation by Member States was critical in that regard. The Assembly had to agree on additional measures to prevent further crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity. A coalition had to be formed against genocide, revisionism and obscurantism.
Action on Draft
The Assembly adopted the draft resolution without a vote.
Right of Reply
AHMET ARDA (Turkey) said that the representative of Armenia had indirectly referred to Turkey in his statement. There was no doubt that thousands of Armenians and Turks had perished during the tragedies that were mentioned. The disintegration process had taken two centuries. Although the Turks had also suffered much during that time, a modern republic was established. The new republic was not based on revenge, blame or hate. The Ottoman archives were open to researchers. Armenians had drawn one conclusion but other scholars had drawn other conclusions. He believed that Armenians were resourceful enough to assert their identity through other means than referring to the tragedies of the past.
MOVSES ABELIAN (Armenia) said that his delegation had not intended to concentrate on the question of Armenian genocide. However, he wanted to reply to the representative of Turkey. The genocide against Armenians had been the first genocide of this century. Rape, assault, plunder were witnessed by the Armenian community. The genocide continued until it consumed the lives of 1.5 million Armenians. Lord Curzon, the British Foreign Minister of the time,
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had said that there had been 3 million Armenians in Asia Minor, and only 130 thousand were left.
In reference to the past and memory, he said that it was difficult to have a "dialogue with the past". In speaking about a massive traumatic event, both the victims and the perpetrators were driven to suppress recollection. The victims wanted to go on with their lives, and the perpetrators denied the full measure of their guilt. In both groups there was a strong desire to "close and bolt the door" on the past. In dealing with massive genocide, it was necessary to have communication between the past and the present, if lessons were to be learned from the events.
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