Tag: <span>Yugoslavia</span>

Genocide Convention UN: Growth of World Law.

Genocide Convention: 9 December 1948.

Featured Image: Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

By Dr. Rene Wadlow.

Genocide Convention: 9 December 1948.
An Unused but not Forgotten Standard of World Law.

Genocide is the most extreme consequence of racial discrimination and ethnic hatred. Genocide has as its aim the destruction, wholly or in part, of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such. The term was proposed by the legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, drawing on the Greek genos (people or tribe) and the Latin cide (to kill).(1) The policies and war crimes of the Nazi German government were foremost on the minds of those who drafted the Genocide Convention, but the policy was not limited to the Nazi. (2)

The Genocide Convention is a landmark in the efforts to develop a system of universally accepted standards which promote an equitable world order for all members of the human family to live in dignity. Four articles are at the heart of this Convention and are here quoted in full to understand the process of implementation proposed by the Association of World Citizens, especially of the need for an improved early warning system.

Article I

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • (a) Killing members of the group;
  • (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Unlike most humanitarian international law which sets out standards but does not establish punishment, Article III sets out that the following acts shall be punishable:

  • (a) Genocide;
  • (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
  • (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
  • (d) Attempt to commit genocide;
  • (e) Complicity in genocide.

Article IV

Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.

Article VIII

Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III.

Numerous reports have reached the Secretariat of the United Nations of actual, or potential, situations of genocide: mass killings; cases of slavery and slavery-like practices, in many instances with a strong racial, ethnic and religious connotation – with children as the main victims, in the sense of article II (b) and (c). Despite factual evidence of these genocides and mass killings as in Sudan, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and in other places, no Contracting Party to the Genocide Convention has called for any action under article VIII of the Convention.

As Mr Nicodene Ruhashyankiko of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities wrote in his study of proposed mechanisms for the study of information on genocide and genocidal practices “A number of allegations of genocide have been made since the adoption of the 1948 Convention. In the absence of a prompt investigation of these allegations by an impartial body, it has not been possible to determine whether they were well-founded. Either they have given rise to sterile controversy or, because of the political circumstances, nothing further has been heard about them.”

Yet the need for speedy preventive measures has been repeatedly underlined by United Nations Officials. On 8 December 1998, in his address at UNESCO, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said:

“Many thought, no doubt, that the horrors of the Second World War – the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations, the Holocaust – could not happen again. And yet they have, in Cambodia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, In Rwanda. Our time – this decade even – has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits. Genocide – the destruction of an entire people on the basis of ethnic or national origins – is now a word of our time, too, a stark and haunting reminder of why our vigilance must be eternal.”

Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan spoke with the media at the United Nations Office at Geneva following the June 30, 2012 Meeting of the Action Group for Syria. By US Mission in Geneva, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In her address Translating words into action to the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1998, the then High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Mary Robinson, declared :

” The international community’s record in responding to, let alone preventing, gross human rights abuses does not give grounds for encouragement. Genocide is the most flagrant abuse of human rights imaginable. Genocide was vivid in the minds of those who framed the Universal Declaration, working as they did in the aftermath of the Second World War. The slogan then was ‘never again’. Yet genocide and mass killing have happened again – and have happened before the eyes of us all – in Rwanda, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia and other parts of the globe.”

We need to heed the early warning signs of genocide. Officially-directed massacres of civilians of whatever numbers cannot be tolerated, for the organizers of genocide must not believe that more widespread killing will be ignored. Yet killing is not the only warning sign. The Convention drafters, recalling the radio addresses of Hitler and the constant flow of words and images, set out as punishable acts “direct and public incitement to commit genocide”.

Mary Robinson (2014). By Nationaal Comité 4 en 5 mei, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Genocide Convention

The Genocide Convention, in its provisions concerning public incitement, sets the limits of political discourse. It is well documented that public incitement – whether by Governments or certain non-governmental actors, including political movements – to discriminate against, to separate forcibly, to deport or physically eliminate large categories of the population of a given State, or the population of a State in its entirety, just because they belong to certain racial, ethnic or religious groups, sooner or later leads to war. It is also evident that, at the present time, in a globalized world, even local conflicts have a direct impact on international peace and security in general.

Therefore, the Genocide Convention is also a constant reminder of the need to moderate political discourse, especially constant and repeated accusations against a religious, ethnic and social category of persons. Had this been done in Rwanda, with regard to the radio Mille Collines, perhaps that premeditated and announced genocide could have been avoided or mitigated.

For the United Nations to be effective in the prevention of genocide, there needs to be an authoritative body which can investigate and monitor a situation well in advance of the outbreak of violence. As has been noted, any Party to the Genocide Convention (and most States are Parties) can bring evidence to the UN Security Council, but none has. In the light of repeated failures and due to pressure from non-governmental organizations, the Secretary-General has named an individual advisor on genocide to the UN Secretariat. However, he is one advisor among many, and there is no public access to the information that he may receive.

Direct and public incitement to commit genocide.

Therefore, a relevant existing body must be strengthened to be able to deal with the first signs of tensions, especially ‘direct and public incitement to commit genocide.” The Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) created to monitor the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination would be the appropriate body to strengthen, especially by increasing its resources and the number of UN Secretariat members which service the CERD. Through its urgent procedures mechanisms, CERD has the possibility of taking early-warning measures aimed at preventing existing strife from escalating into conflicts, and to respond to problems requiring immediate attention. A stronger CERD more able to investigate fully situations should mark the world’s commitment to the high standards of world law set out in the Genocide Convention.

Notes

1) Raphael Lemkin. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for World Peace, 1944).
2) For a good overview see: Samantha Power. A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2002)
3) E/CN.4/Sub.2/1778/416 Para 614

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Vaclav Havel Book Reviews

Vaclav Havel: Resistance and Vision.

Vaclav Havel on Wenceslas Square on November 17, 2009. By Ben Skála, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons.

He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game.  He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity.  He gives his freedom a concrete significance.  His revolt is an attempt tolive within the truth”

Vaclav Havel.

The Czechoslovak Government.

Vaclav Havel, whose birth anniversary we note on 5 October, he was first noted for his resistance to  a repressive government; as one of the writers; and first signers of Charter 77; demanding that the Czechoslovak Government; implement the human rights; it claimed to uphold in signing; the 1975 Helsinki Accord

The Charter 77 was openly signed; eventually by hundreds.  The regime’s response to the publication of what it called an “anti-State” document was harsh.  Most of the early signatories were arrested and spent years in prison.  Jan Patoeka; a philosophy professor  and chief inspiration of the Charter; died as a result of the police interrogation.

Vaclav Havel started his long career by writing plays.  His political essays followed later.  Both his plays and essays; contained detailed analyses of the working of the totalitarian system; and the way it could be resisted. This type of regime creates a situation; that forces all its citizens to live a lie.  He wrote:

Because the regime is captive to its own lies; it must falsify everything.  It falsifies the past, it falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future.  It falsifies statistics.  It pretends not to possess an omnipotent; and unprincipled police.  It pretends to respect human rights.  It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to prevent nothing.”

Jan Patočka By Jindřich Přibík, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Living in Truth.

In such a situation; a revolt is first of all an effort to live within the truth.

When I speak of living within the truth; I naturally do not have in mind only products of conceptual thought such as a protest; or a letter written by a group of intellectuals.  It can be any means; by which a person or group revolts against manipulation; anything from a letter by intellectuals to a workers’ strike; from a rock concert to a student demonstration; from refusing to vote in a farcical election to making an open speech at some official congress or even a hunger strike.”  (1)

His aim was to create immediate changes; in the daily lives of people.  As soon as people set out to discover their own truth; and to live in accordance with it; they provide others with an option to discover; their own individuality in return.  Living in truth can be an act of obstruction; disrupting the workings of a monolithic  system; but it can also be an act of construction; part of the creation of new structures.  Constructive action requires active ways to create new institutions “building the new society in the shell of the old.”

Havel’s writings had an influence on the emergence of a civil society in public life.  However; the embryonic spirit of a civil society “living in truth” was not fully developed. Vaclav Havel as President of Czechoslovakia; was not able to prevent the rise of narrow nationalism; which led in 1993 to the split creating the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Helsinki, KSZE-Konferenz, DDR-Delegation. By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-P0730-019 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Post-Havel Generation.

I had first heard Vaclav Havel speak in Prague in October 1990. However; when he addressed the founding meeting of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly.  The Assembly had brought together; some 800 people from peace, human rights, ecology, feminist, and world citizen movements; many of whom had been active in efforts to bridge the East-West Europe divide of the Cold War. 

This was the first chance for such; a large group of activists to meet after the radical changes in Eastern Europe.  Havel was both a key actor and a symbol of these changes.  Yet his remarks were not turned toward the past; but toward the challenges that faced us.  He echoed what the Polish writer; and activist Adam Michnik, also there; had said:

The greatest threat to democracy today is no longer communism.  The threat grows instead from a combination of chauvinism, xenophobia, populism and authoritarianism; all of them connected with the sense of frustration typical of great social upheavals.”

Seven months later; war broke out in what had been Yugoslavia.  The new civic structures that Havel hoped would be forces for peace and creativity; were not able to break the hold of aggressive; narrow nationalism.  In fact, since 1990; after a first fire of hope; civil society throughout Central and Eastern Europe has grown progressively weaker.  There are few of the post-Havel generation with as broad a vision or a willingness to act.

I met with Havel again; when he came to the United Nations in Geneva to speak at the celebration of the 50th anniversary; of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  He was open to representatives of NGOs. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

His role as President; had not changed his basic nature – a creative intellectual open to the ideas of others.  In his talk to the Commission on Human Rights; he stressed that there are many treaties; and declarations that use the term international;   but the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the only one that uses the term universal – a sign that the writers of the Declaration; wanted to include all countries and all individuals.  It is its universal character; which makes it a base for relations among peoples across national and cultural frontiers; a basis for the healing of nations.

I had been active in unsuccessful efforts of mediation in the Yugoslav conflicts; and I was worried; at the growing national-ethnic tensions in Europe.  In our discussion; I think that he shared my concerns; but knew that mobilizing trans-frontier civil society was difficult. 

Civil society groups were not up to the challenges; that history presented.  Yet; he stressed that even in dark periods; which he had experienced much more than I had; we must also see the growth of new institutions; preparing for the future – institutions which are open; which break down social divisions; which are sensitive to all voices.  Today; it is our task to be aware of the growth of these new entities; to participate in them; to add our energy to theirs; and thus to speed the manifestation of the new age.

Eleanor Roosevelt holding poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in English), Lake Success, New York. November 1949. By FDR Presidential Library & Museum, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Notes.

1) The fullest presentation of Havel’s views on the ways to resist oppression are in his long essay, The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-eastern Europe. John Keane Editor (London: Routledge, 2009)

See also Delia Popescu. Political Action in Vaclav Havel’s Thought: The Responsibility of Resistance (Latham, MD: Lexington Books, 2012)

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Rape as a Weapon Appeals

A Step Forward in the U.N.’s Efforts Against Rape…

Featured Image: Photo by Stewart Munro on Unsplash.

On Tuesday, 23 April 2019; the United Nations Security Council voted for resolution N° 2467; concerning the use of rape as a weapon in times of armed conflict.  This resolution builds on an earlier resolution of 24 June 2013; which called for the complete and immediate cessation of all acts of sexual violation by all parties in armed conflicts. The new resolution introduced by Germany contained two new elements; both of which were eliminated in the intense negotiations in the four days prior to the vote of 13 in favor and two abstentions, those of Russia and China.

The first new element in the German proposed text concerned help to the victims of rape.  The proposed paragraph was:

“urges United Nations entities and donors to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services including sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial, legal and livelihood support and other multi-sectoral services for survivors of sexual violence, taking into account the special needs of persons with disabilities.”

Sexual and Reproductive Health.

The U.S. delegation objected to this paragraph claiming that “sexual and reproductive health” were code words that opened a door to abortion.  Since a U.S. veto would prevent the resolution as a whole; the paragraph was eliminated.  

There had been four days of intense discussions among the Security Council members concerning this paragraph; with only the U.S. opposed to any form of planned parenthood action. After the resolution was passed with the health paragraph eliminated, the Permanent Representative of France; Ambassador Francois Delatte spoke for many of the members saying:

“It is intolerable and incomprehensible that the Security Council is incapable of acknowledging that women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict and who obviously didn’t choose to become pregnant should have the right to terminate their pregnancy.

Sexual violence in conflict situations.

The second concept of the German draft that was eliminated; was the proposal to create a working group to monitor, and review progress on ending sexual violence in armed conflict.  Such a working group was opposed by the diplomats of Russia and China; both of which have the veto power.  Thus, for the same reason as with the U.S. opposition; the idea of a monitoring working group was dropped. Both China and Russia are opposed to any form of U.N. monitoring; fearing that their actions on one topic or another would be noted by a monitoring group.  The Russian diplomat had to add that he was against the added administrative burden that a monitoring group would present; but that Russia was against sexual violence in conflict situations.

The Association of World Citizens.

Thus, the new U.N. Security Council resolution 2467 is weaker than it should have been; but is nevertheless a step forward in building awareness.  The Association of World Citizens first raised the issue in the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in March 2001 citing the judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia; which maintained that there can be no time limitations on bringing an accused to trial.  The Tribunal also reinforced the possibility of universal jurisdiction that a person can be tried not only by his national court but by any court claiming universal jurisdiction and where the accused is present.

The Association of World Citizens again stressed the use of rape as a weapon of war; in the Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights Violations; in the Democratic Republic of Congo; citing the findings of Meredeth Turshen and Clotilde Twagiramariya in their book What Women Do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict in Africa. (London: Zed Press, 1998).

Rape is …

They write “There are numerous types of rape.  Rape is committed to boast the soldiers’ morale, to feed soldiers’ hatred of the enemy, their sense of superiority, and to keep them fighting:

Rape is one kind of war booty women are raped because war intensifies men’s sense of entitlement, superiority, avidity, and social license to rape:

Rape is a weapon of war used to spread political terror; rape can destabilize society and break its resistance; rape is a form of torture; gang rapes in public terrorize and silence women because they keep the civilian population functioning and are essential to its social and physical continuity rape is used in ethnic cleansing; it is designed to drive women from their homes or destroy their possibility of reproduction within or “for” their community; genocidal rape treats women as “reproductive vessels”; to make them bear babies of the rapists’ nationality, ethnicity, race or religion, and genocidal rape aggravates women’s terror and future stigma, producing a class of outcast mothers and children – this is rape committed with the consciousness of how unacceptable a raped woman is to the patriarchal community and to herself. 

This list combines individual and group motives with obedience to military command; in doing so, it gives a political context to violence against women, and it is this political context that needs to be incorporated in the social response to rape.”

The Security Council resolution.

The Security Council resolution opens the door to civil society organizations to build on the concepts eliminated from the governmental resolution itself.  Non-governmental organizations must play an ever-more active role in providing services to rape victims with medical, psychological, and socio-cultural services.  In addition; if the U.N. is unable to create a monitoring and review of information working group; then such a monitoring group will have to be the task of cooperative efforts among NGOs.  It is always to be hoped that governments acting together would provide the institutions necessary to promote human dignity.  But with the failure of governments to act; our task as non-governmental representatives is set out for us.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

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World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot”…

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