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By CHRISTINE LIM

In recognition of Genocide Prevention Month, the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the UN and United to End Genocide co-hosted a panel discussion on Monday with Magid Kabash of Sudan, Kambale Musavuli of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Stephen Lamony of Uganda.

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The panel, held at the Bohemian National Hall in Manhattan, discussed the role of the International Criminal Court, arrest warrants, and the importance of justice for victims of atrocity crimes. Discussants drove home the point that ending the culture of impunity by holding perpetrators accountable sets an important example for would-be leaders and backers of mass atrocities.

Tiina Intelmann, Ambassador of Estonia and President of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC, said in her opening remarks that the global community must cooperate to end the culture of impunity. She hailed both the KONY 2012 campaign and the ICC’s recent conviction of former Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo as positive steps toward the ultimate goal of preventing mass atrocities.

Staci Alziebler-Perkins, NYC Genocide Prevention Coalition Convener and 2011 Carl Wilkens Fellow, shared the story of how she became an activist and said the ICC had many cases it should give more focus to, but the number of cases has been on the rise while funding has been decreasing.

Speaking in place of Hawa Abdallah Salih, who was ill and could not attend, Magid Kabash, a refugee and activist from Sudan with the Nuba Mountains International Association, gave the audience a firsthand account of the atrocities occuring in that region and implored the international community to act to protect the Nuba people from the Sudanese government.

The focus of the discussion, however, fell heavily on the atrocities, past and present, in the Congo. Kambale Musavuli of the Democratic Republic of Congo, human rights activist and national spokesperson for the Friends of the Congo, said he hoped “the ICC and international bodies support the UN Mapping Report [documenting “the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the DRC between March 1993 and June 2003”] and the ICJ ruling as it is an attempt to end the culture of impunity, to provide justice for the victims and create a framework for accountability for mass crimes committed and still being committed in the Congo.”

Stephen Lamony of Uganda, a human rights and victim’s rights advocate, as well as Situations Adviser & Outreach Liaison for Africa at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, discussed the importance of arrest warrants.

Finally, in a pre-recorded video address, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor for the ICC, updated the audience on the court’s activity and urged them to give maximum exposure to ICC cases.

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In Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s 2009 Report Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, he outlines the three pillars of the principle:

  1. The enduring responsibility of the State to protect its populations, whether nationals or not, from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and from their incitement.
  2. The commitment of the international community to assist States in meeting those obligations.
  3. The responsibility of Member States to respond collectively in a timely and decisive manner when a State is manifestly failing to provide such protection.

In response to the common misunderstanding of the third pillar as use of force, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect has created a new educational document detailing the third pillar’s range of measures and key actors.

And in furtherance of international commitment to the principle, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect this week wrote an open letter to the United Nations member states, urging them to prioritize setting goals for advancing R2P over the next year. Former diplomats and UN officials wrote how this year alone, lives were saved in Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, and Libya through international efforts to uphold R2P. Specifically, they called on member states to:

  • Appoint a senior government official as a national focal point for R2P.
  • Encourage all relevant UN agencies and departments to incorporate an R2P perspective into their activities.
  • Use the tools available to the General Assembly to uphold R2P and take preventive and protective action.
  • Work together to develop additional goals and benchmarks for advancing R2P.

Addressing the opening of the General Assembly this week, Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves (pictured above) spoke of the importance of international law, the International Criminal Court, and upholding the rule of law. He stressed the importance of developing common practices and the capacity to actually implement R2P.

Photo: un.org

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