Thursday 22nd November, 6pm, Parksinson B.08
Following last weeks EGM (thanks to all who participated!) Let's discuss the current complex question of the application of Justice for Genocide, but also current and possible UN strategies in preventing future mass atrocities.
Chair Training Programme ⑁
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Genocide is a charged word, conjuring images of cultural devastation and the worst crimes possible mankind can commit. From 1944 there have been many definitions of genocide though the one we will use is that laid out in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide:
“Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the 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”.
At present the charges described here and enforced within Article 6 of the Rome Statute which founded the ICC have only been levelled individually against Saddam Hussein following the ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish population in Iraq (though he was executed before charges were faced); Jean-Paul Akayesu found guilty of 9 counts of genocide in Rwanda where he was sentenced to life imprisonment for each count and Jean Kambanda, who is still the only head of state to be found guilty on charges of genocide setting an important precedence for disregarding the principle of State Immunity in these cases. More recently, this legislation has been used to find Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan guilty of the genocide of the ethnic Vietnamese people, the Chams (an ethnic group found in south-eastern Asia), ethnic Chinese, ethnic Thai, Muslims, Buddhists, Cambodian Christians and many other minority groups in modern-day Cambodia where their mass killing accounted for the death of 21% of the population. And the UN Security Council has charged the ICC with investigating the crimes of genocide and other crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict in Sudan.
As is obvious this legislation can be used to mete out some justice to those who have suffered at the hands of authoritarian regimes but do its powers extend far enough? There are notable omissions from this legislation for example, it does not provide for the systematic execution of political opponents, something Russia and other nations ensured was removed from the first draft in 1948. There are also many countries who have only ratified this legislation under certain reservations the USA, Philippines, Rwanda and China being the principal member states who hold reservations to this Convention. There are also no provisions to take this legislation and apply it retroactively to seek out justice and compensation for victims of historical genocide for example in the Armenian genocide, Holodomor, the Rwandan genocide and of course the Holocaust (including but not limited to Porajmos, the Serbian genocide and the Shoah). We are looking to debate whether retroactive reparations are just and further what is the role of the UN in the prevention of future genocide?
Following the failure of the UN in the withdrawal of UNAMIR and failure in establishing UN peacekeeping guidelines on the use of force to stop genocide there were many lives lost in Rwanda, where the actions of the UN were decried even by Ban Ki-Moon. However, the UN has shown some success in mediating and defusing conflict particularly in the Siege of Sarajevo as part of the Balkan Wars where UNPROFOR (UN Protection Force) were able to confiscate and collect heavy weaponry from the Bosnian Serbs and prevent their use for some time. This leads to our discussion on should the UN and it’s protection forces be allowed to take a greater role in the prevention of genocide even if it is in violation of member state sovereignty? Or are there better solutions available to prevent these atrocities on an international scale?