American Friends Service Committee
Sara Burke, Managing Editor
Sam Diener, Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
Donald Paneth the United -Nations -correspondent for the New York -Indypendent.
Genocide - the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, political, religious, or ethnic group - can happen again.
As in the past, perhaps it is already happening without being recognized. Does the United States commit a species of genocide when it overtly or covertly occupies a nation-and destroys its government, institutions society, and identity? Is the US preparing to carry out genocidal policies when it refused to accede to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, or withdraws by executive fiat from Senate ratified international treaties, or announces a nuclear first strike policy aimed at both nuclear-armed and non-nuclear states?
How are episodes of genocide, mass murder, ethnic cleansing to be prevented? The latter question was considered at an international forum, attended by more than 1,000 persons - government officials, diplomats, university professors, lawyers, crisis interventionists, writers - from 55 countries, the United Nations and 13 other international organizations, sponsored by the Swedish government in Stockholm January 26-28, 2004.
Participants, addressing the responsibility to prevent genocide, contended that the principles of state sovereignty need to be redefined. The term "atrocity crime" was proposed, which would include genocide, crimes against humanity, and serious war crimes.
They argued that there was a need for preparedness and willingness to bypass conventional procedures, and act within hours - not weeks. They recommended setting up a new subsidiary body to the UN Security Council to highlight issues requiring foresight and imminent action. They insisted that the international community must intensify its attention to the systemic causes of genocidal thinking.
"No lessons about genocide prevention can be learned if the genocides are blotted out of the world's consciousness," Gerald Caplan, coordinator, Remembering Rwanda (website), said.
"In 100 days, beginning April 6, 1994," Caplan recounted, "Hutu extremists in Rwanda mobilized tens of thousands of ordinary Hutu - the majority people - in an effort to exterminate all Tutsi in Rwanda. About three-quarters of all Tutsi were murdered, a total between 600,000 and a million souls.
"Yet neither during the ominous build-up of violence and ethnic hatred nor during the genocide itself did the major powers take any of the actions that might first have prevented or later curtailed the genocide. Instead the French government worked hand-in-glove with the Rwandan government until the genocide was unleashed, while during the crisis the American government actively prevented reinforcements being sent to a pathetic United Nations military mission."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the forum that events of the 1990s, in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda, were "especially shameful. In Rwanda in 1994 and at Srebrenica in 1995," Annan said, "we had peacekeeping troops on the ground at the very place and time where genocidal acts were being committed. But instead of reinforcing our troops we withdrew them. In both cases, the gravest mistakes were made by member states, particularly in the way decisions were taken in the Security Council."
The roots of violence and genocide must be attacked, he said. Theses are intolerance, racism, tyranny, and dehumanizing public discourse. "The question is, do we have the will?"
Preventing genocide means preventing wars, Peter Wallensteen of Uppsala University, Uppsale, Sweden, said. Wars often repeat themselves with the same actors. Systematic research also points to such dynamics in genocides.
"War-genocide relations can be observed," Wallensteen explained, "through an analysis of: political change, power struggles, the use of opportunities created in the fog of war, the general brutalization that goes with wartime conditions, state failure, or victor's revenge."
The world media can play a part in genocide prevention through early warning, the monitoring of hate speech, and through positive reporting to promote peacebuilding, forum participants suggested.
Two forms of hate speech should be "ostracized," Yigal Carmon, Middle East Media Research Institute, said. They are dehumanization and incitement to murder. The media do not make ideologically-motivated genocide happen, Frank Chalk, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, said. But they facilitate and legitimize it. Ideology and propaganda may be employed systematically to create the panic-fear which allows ordinary people to believe that they are killing defensively.
A genocide background paper was given by Kristian Gerner and Klas-Göran Karlsson, professors of history, Lund University, Lund, Sweden. The paper examined previous genocides-Armenian (1915-1918), Soviet (1930s), the Nazi death camps and their Jewish, Roma (gypsy), and other victims (1933-1945), Cambodia (1975-1979), Rwanda (1994), Bosnia (1992-1995). Some participants objected to the paper's omission of the US extermination of Native Americans and Belgian enslavement of Africans and theft of natural resources in the Congo.
Prime Minister Goran Persson recalled Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew, a lawyer. In 1933, at an international conference of lawyers in Madrid, Lemkin had presciently put forward a proposal "to declare the destruction of racial, religious, or social collectivities, a crime under the law of nations." Later, he coined the word genocide, from the Greek, genos, meaning "race" or "tribe," and "cide," from the Latin, caedere, meaning to murder. In 1948, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to which 132 nations had adhered by the year 2000.
In a closing declaration, forum participants
stated that they were committed to developing and using practical
tools and mechanisms to prevent genocide; to protecting groups
identified as potential victims; to bringing the perpetrators
of genocidal acts to justice; to educating young people and the
wider public of genocidal dangers. The forum had presented, in
the low-keyed, reflective Swedish manner, an implicit warning
signal against violence, against war, against nuclear weapons
- and against genocide.