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Syria: Draft Resolution in Security Council

On Wednesday, France, Britain, Portugal, and Germany submitted a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council condemning the actions by the Syrian government against civilian protesters. Explicitly referring to the Syrian authorities’ responsibility to protect its civilian population and suggesting that the violent measures may constitute crimes against humanity, the draft resolution called for an end to the violence, the enactment of political reforms and an investigation of the situation in full cooperation with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The resolution also urged other states stop and prevent sales of arms and related supplies to Syria. Discussion on the draft resolution is to begin on Thursday with a vote taking place in several days. While the draft resolution has the support of as many as 11 of the 15 members of the Security Council including the United States, Russia and China have expressed strong reservations against it, leaving open the possibility of a veto.

The draft resolution follows last Thursday’s warning from Special Advisers of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Francis Deng, and on the Responsibility to Protect, Edward Luck, and Human Rights Watch’s report regarding the situation in Syria. Deng and Luck expressed alarm at the attack on the civilians, called for “an independent, thorough, and objective investigation,” and urged the Syrian government to cooperate with the inquiry and “to refrain from further attacks against the civilian population.” The Human Rights Watch report, in addition to detailing what it considered to be “crimes against humanity,” went further, recommending that the UN Security Council not only condemn the human rights violations, but also refer the violations to the International Criminal Court and adopting sanctions against Syrian officials if necessary.

Kyrgyzstan: Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Reports

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International each issued new reports on the Kyrgyz government’s investigation into last year’s ethnic violence. As a result of the violence between the Kyrgyz and the minority Uzbeks, nearly 500, mostly Uzbeks, were killed, and 400,000 fled their homes. The Amnesty International report, which alleges that some of the atrocities against the Uzbeks may have constituted crimes against humanity, argued that the government did not fully investigate the violence perpetrated by the ethnic Kyrgyz and possibly even the security forces against the ethnic Uzbeks. Human Rights Watch detailed allegations of torture, as well as ethnic bias against Uzbeks during the trials following the investigation. Furthermore, the organizations expressed concerns that the government’s inadequate investigations may lead to future unrest between the two ethnic groups.

Bangladesh: War Crimes Tribunal

Bangladesh has been instituting a war crimes tribunal relating to its 1971 independence war against Pakistan. One to three million, mostly civilians, are estimated to have been killed, and approximately 300,000 women were raped. The tribunal, which is investigating the participation of Bengalis in the atrocities, is significant as it raises questions on whether accused war criminals should be tried in an international court or in a domestic tribunal, and whether countries without advanced legal systems have the capacity to properly deliver justice. The tribunal, charged with prosecuting genocide and crimes against humanity, is also important because it will be considering sexual violence as evidence in its decision-making. The court’s independence and fairness has been a point of contention, with Human Rights Watch, the International Bar Association, and the International Centre for Transitional Justice all expressing concern over several aspects of the proposed legal proceedings. It remains to be seen whether the tribunal can proceed free from political pressure and according to international judicial standards.

Photo: Guardian

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The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation is proud to announce that on April 29, 2011, AIPR Executive Director Tibi Galis and Deputy Consul General of the German Permanent Mission to the United Nations Oliver Schnakenberg signed an agreement in which the German Federal Government pledged to provide funding for AIPR’s 2011 Raphael Lemkin Seminar for Genocide Prevention. Germany’s support for genocide prevention will provide four government officials the opportunity to participate in the upcoming seminar. AIPR would like to express its thanks to the German Mission and Federal Government for helping to spread the mission of genocide prevention and aiding to make the goal of “Never Again” a reality.

In other genocide prevention news, the Madariaga College of Europe Foundation (MCF) and the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA), with the support of the Hungarian Presidency of the European Union and the cooperation of the European External Action Service and the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office, are organizing a workshop called Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, May 12 and 13 in Brussels. Representatives from many international organizations, the European institutions, NGOs and experts in the field will gather next week to discuss the topic of genocide prevention. This event, part of a larger MCF-FBA program called “Building coherence, skills and synergies in conflict prevention,” is aimed at promoting deeper interaction among “international representatives” in order to create a stronger forum for dialogue on conflict prevention, as well as a space for reflection on the challenges facing policymakers in the realm of preventing genocide and mass atrocities.

A German court has ordered FDLR militia leaders Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni to stand trial for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed on Congolese territory, AllAfrica.com reports. Murwanashyaka, 47, and Musoni, 49, were arrested in November 2009 and indicted in December 2010 for 26 crimes against humanity and 39 war crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Rwanda. Congolese Minister of Information Lambert Mende commented: “This is a very good achievement for the peace process in the Great Lakes region since the trial of these criminals will send a strong signal to those willing to go ahead with their diabolic projects in both the DRC and Rwanda.”

Over 100 people were killed in days of fighting in Sudan’s hotly contested Abyei area, while thousands have fled southward away from the carnage, Time magazine reported. The article discusses the recent referendum where South Sudan decided to succeed from the North and whether or not this fighting will signalize the “moment it all starts falling apart.”

Joe Olzacki, director of performing and visual arts in Bloomfield schools, will testify at a public hearing before the legislature’s education committee in support of a bill that would require Connecticut high schools to teach students about the Holocaust and other genocides.  The Hartfield Courant noted that only five states—California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and New York—mandate that schools provide genocide education. Olzacki  commented: “Today’s kids don’t know what ‘never again’ means.”

Photo: Reuters Africa

Today, we have our first report “From the AIPR Team,” featuring Samantha Horn, AIPR’s legal and operations associate:

Things are extremely busy right now at AIPR. Our next Raphael Lemkin Genocide Prevention Seminar for CGSC students from Fort Leavenworth is coming up in April, and so we are in the midst of logistical details and last-minute curriculum changes for the program. All is going very well, though, and we are excited to be back in Poland soon.

Our founder and president, Fred Schwartz, will be traveling to South America this month, so I have been scheduling meetings for him with ministries of foreign affairs and justice, as well as with U.S. embassies. Mr. Schwartz will be traveling to Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, so it will be quite a trip. AIPR works very closely with the governments of Argentina and Brazil and has had participants in our seminars from these countries, as well as from Chile, but we are looking to expand our reach in the region, as in 2012 we are planning to launch a Raphael Lemkin Genocide Prevention Seminar for Latin America, which will be dedicated solely to the Latin American region with the program tailored to meet the needs of these countries, touching upon issues such as politicide and transitional justice. We are very excited about this initiative, and have the great help of the governments of Argentina and Brazil for this endeavor. Hopefully, this upcoming trip will expand our base.

I am also working on recruitment for our standard Lemkin Seminar, for government officials from around the world. The application deadline is March 1, and so I am in the midst of reviewing applications and calling those countries that have confirmed their intent to participate but have not sent in their applications.  A great variety of countries will be attending, including Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Niger, Brazil, Argentina, the United States, Germany, and Sweden. I believe this will prove to be an incredible seminar, and the beginning for many of them of their work in genocide prevention. All in all, we are busy at work here at AIPR!

Holocaust memorial day is commemorated annually on January 27. The day follows General Assembly Resolution 60/7 adopted on November 1, 2005.  At Auschwitz-Birkenau, the German and Polish Presidents urged global vigilance to prevent crimes against humanity. At Germany’s official Holocaust remembrance day ceremony the first Roma guest of honour also noted how his people face new threats, including discrimination and exclusion.

On January 25, it was reported that Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana, who is accused of committing war crimes in Democratic Republic of Congo, will be extradited from France to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face such charges. Mr Mbarushimana was arrested in Paris in October 2010 following a request from the ICC, as the BBC reports.

On January 23, the UN published a report on the worsening situation in Darfur as reported by Reuters Africa. The report noted the “worrisome increase” in fighting between rebel and government forces in Sudan’s western Darfur region. The Associated Press further reported on January 27 that the US is calling for peacekeepers in Darfur to be more “aggressive.”

The US Supreme Court reaffirmed that state public school guidelines can exclude materials disputing that the mass killing of Armenians in the early 20th century constituted genocide. This decision, reported in the Boston Globe, is seen as a victory for Armenian groups, even though the Assembly of Turkish American Associations had argued that removing the references prevented students from learning more than one view.

Foreign Policy Magazine, and their online blog Passport, discussed the Ivory Coast, focusing on the escalating situation and the issues of genocide definition and military intervention.  Hirondelle News Agency also reported on the current cases being heard in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. They also drew attention to the first German trial in relation to the 1994 genocide.  The accused, Onesphore Rwabukombe, former mayor of Muvumba (eastern Rwanda), is charged with “ordering and coordinating three massacres” committed between 1990 and 1994.

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