Genocide, the duty of memory to action

Genocide does not only imply a duty of memory, but rather an obligation of action: legal, military, political, economic, public information and education action. Genocide news not only involved today the responsibility of States, but also intergovernmental organizations and civil society: religious leaders, universities and research institutes, media, artists, local communities and diasporas, humanitarian organizations, doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists, builders of peace and reconciliation.

The recent conviction of Radovan Karadzic for genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [1] recalled that the twentieth century Europe has experienced several genocides. It’s even in Europe the term “genocide” was used for the first time, [2] as a result of the Holocaust, systematic extermination of Jews perpetrated by the Nazi regime during World War II.

The Secretary of State, John Kerry, has declared March 17, 2016, [3] “Daesh” genocidal, guilty of genocide against Christians and other minorities. [4] He concluded his statement by saying that it is certainly important to name and define the crimes, but it is essential to make them stop. This will require, he added, to unite the United States and other countries, and determined action against genocide, "ethnic cleansing" and other crimes against humanity. [5]
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in the 2091 resolution, entitled “Foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq,”; January 27, 2016) [6] and the European Union, by the resolution adopted by Parliament European 4 February 2016 (“systematic massacre of religious minorities by the “EIIL / Daech”) [7], for their part, already recognized the genocide of Christians and other minorities “Daesh “.
Genocide is part of our history and our current events. How to avoid it at best in the future? To prevent genocide, we must adopt an approach that allows to defend in depth, multi-level, life and human dignity of every person without discrimination.


We consider three approaches:

  • A legal approach;
  • Media approach;
  • A moral and religious approach.


The legal approach begins in 1948, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted in New York at the time of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention for the prevention of genocide.

Other international instruments will follow, starting with the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 on the protection of war victims, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians, but also in 1950 the European Convention on Human Rights, in 1951 the Refugee Convention, in 1954 the Hague Convention on the protection of cultural property, in 1966 the two International Covenants on human rights, in 1994 the Statute of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, in 1995 the Statute of the International Tribunal for Rwanda, and in 1998 the Statute of the International Criminal Court, those three Statutes providing for the prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide.

The implementation mechanisms are first States Parties to these instruments and also the United Nations [8] starting with the Security Council [9] and, in their areas of respective competences, Unesco, [10 ] the High Commissioner for Refugees, universal and regional bodies of Human Rights, ICRC, and no particular mandate but in their area of influence, the Inter-Parliamentary Union [11] and international [12 .] and national NGOs [13]

The media approach must be understood in the broadest sense: artists, filmmakers, writers, researchers, educators, historians, military experts, psychologists, psychiatrists, video game designers, journalists, all of which can influence the public opinion and decision-makers to prevent genocide. [14]

The moral and religious approach must extend beyond religious communities, and include all people with respect for life and dignity, belonging to these communities, believers or not. This requires to convince every religion to cope with their own extremists, and to consider, individually and collectively, the essential values of humanity that unite us all. As Martin Luther King said, if we do not learn to live as brothers (and sisters), we will all perish as fools [15] … an African proverb also shows the need to go to the source of our common humanity “When the branches are fighting, the roots are reconciled”

As stated by Pope François June 20, 2014 to participants of the International CONFERENCE ON “INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND THE GLOBAL CLASH OF VALUES” In place of the global clash of values, it thus becomes possible to start from a nucleus of universally shared values, of global cooperation in view of the common good.[16]

Meanwhile the necessary convergence of values and raising the public awareness, it is urgent that Governments and international organizations take protective, preventative [17] and repressive measures, in view of current phases or future reconstruction and reconciliation.

The resolutions adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament give indications of actions to be undertaken.

The resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of January 27, 2016 affirms the duty to act under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 and provides the following examples of actions:

  • Prevent their nationals from taking part in acts of genocide;
  • Not granting refugee status in any case the fighters who may have perpetrated acts of genocide and / or other serious crimes prohibited by international law and seeking international protection on their return to Europe;
  • Focusing on radicalization of underlying factors and on prevention deterrence and rehabilitation policies, that can yield long-term results.
  • Make a serious contribution to the fight against violent extremism and radicalization leading to terrorism by adopting a 2015-2017 action plan which aims to increase the ability of European companies to reject all forms of extremism;
  • In particular, take concrete steps to preventing radicalization through education, in prisons and on the Internet;
  • Promoting integrated approaches at local level to ensure the involvement of all stakeholders: civil society, faith-based organizations, social and educational services and the police and judicial institutions.
  • Develop effective measures to detect and stem the spread of violent extremist propaganda on the internet, social networks and the media;
  • Strengthening intercultural and interfaith dialogue with leaders of the various communities with particular emphasis on preventing radicalization and the need to counter hate speech and violent extremist propaganda;
  • Give a high priority to de-radicalization programs for returning veterans in their country
  • Strengthen international cooperation between national and local authorities and specialized agencies to ensure rapid exchange of relevant information, experience and best practices to establish contact with foreign fighters for the purpose of prevention, awareness, rehabilitation and reintegration, as appropriate after a sentence has been served.

And, finally, to recall the role of religious leaders as "foreign fighters actually harm the religious communities to which they claim to belong."

The European Parliament resolution of 4 February 2016 refers to the Guidelines of the European Union (EU) EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief,  the European Union Guidelines on promoting compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL), EU guidelines on violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them, the Guidelines to EU Policy towards third countries on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the EU guidelines on children and armed conflict, the EU guidelines for the Promotion and protection of the rights of the child, the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline

It asks that :

  • Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, regardless of where or when they occured, shall be effectively prosecuted by measures adopted at national level, by strengthening international cooperation and by the Iinternational Ccriminal Court and international criminal justice,
  • Syria and Iraq accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court;
  • Members of the UN Security Council support referral to the International Crimina
  • Court by the Security Council to investigate violations in Iraq and Syria by the so called group “ISIS / Daech”; against Christians , Yezidis and religious and ethnic minorities;
  • The competent authorities of countries, some direct or indirect way, supporting these war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide of these crimes, cooperate, finance or complicit, fully comply with their obligations legal under international law and put an end to these unacceptable acts that cause tremendous harm to Iraqi and Syrian companies and severely destabilize neighboring countries as well as international peace and security;
  • Recalls that resolution 2253 (2015) of the UN Security Council imposes on United Nations Member States a legal obligation to prohibit assistance to so-called group “ISIS / Daech”; and other terrorist organizations, including the provision of weapons and financial assistance, including illegal oil trade, and urges them to erect any assistance that order offense in their national legislation; recalls that the inaction of certain Member States of the United Nations constitutes a violation of international law and that other Member States would then be obliged to implement the United Nations Security Council resolution taking measures to translate individuals and entities responsible to justice;
  • Condemns in the strongest terms the destruction of sites of religious and cultural symbols by the so-called group “ISIS / Daech” which are all aggression against the cultural heritage of all peoples of Syria and Iraq of humanity in general; calls on all States to intensify their investigations and criminal judicial cooperation in order to identify all the groups involved in the illicit trafficking of cultural property and damage or destruction of a cultural heritage which belongs to all humanity, Syria, Iraq, the Middle East and North Africa at large;
  • Urges all countries in the international community, including Member States of the European Union, to fight actively against radicalization and improve their legal and judicial systems to prevent their nationals and citizens to be able to join the ranks of the so-called group “ISIS/ Daech”; to participate in violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and to ensure that those who are prosecuted as soon as possible, there including those people who made incentive perpetrators to commit these crimes, including on the internet, or supporting such acts;
  • Request the European Union to establish a permanent Special Representative for freedom of religion and belief;
  • Recognizes, promotes and demands respect for all the inalienable right, which can claim any religious or ethnic minority, or otherwise,from Iraq and Syria to continue to live on its traditional and historical lands of origin in dignity, on an equal and safe and freely practice his religion and beliefs, free of coercion, violence or discrimination; believes that to alleviate suffering and stem the exodus of Christians, Yazidis and other communities in the region, it is imperative that political and regional religious leaders say clearly and unequivocally in favor of maintaining their presence and the full exercise of their rights as citizens of their countries on an equal footing;
  • Calls on the international community and its Member States, the European Union and its Member States, to ensure the opportunities and the necessary security conditions for those who were forced to leave their homeland or were displaced from strength, to realize as soon as possible their right to return to their homeland, preserve their homes, their land, their possessions and goods, their churches and their religious and cultural sites, and allow them to lead a life and have a worthy future;
  • Notes that the ongoing persecution of religious and ethnic groups in the Middle East is one of the causes of mass migration and internal displacement;
  • Underlines the importance that the international community provides, in accordance with international law, protection and assistance, including military, to those who are targeted by the so-called group “ISIS / Daech” and other terrorist organizations the Middle East, including ethnic and religious minorities, and it is important that those people involved in the development of sustainable political solutions for the future;
  • Calls on all parties to the conflict to respect the universal human rights and facilitate the provision of aid and humanitarian assistance by all possible means; demand the establishment of humanitarian corridors; believes that safe haven, protected by forces mandated by the United Nations, could be an element of the response needed if we are to meet the significant challenge of providing temporary protection to millions refugees, victims of the conflict in Syria and Iraq;
  • Confirms its active and full support to international diplomatic efforts and action of the Special Envoy of the United Nations, Staffan de Mistura.

The resolution finally instructs its President to forward this resolution to the European Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the Governments and Parliaments of the EU Member States, the Government and Parliament of Syria, the Government and Council of Representatives of Iraq, the Regional Government of Kurdistan, the institutions of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC), the UN Secretary-General, the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council.

Other organizations such as the African Union, could also be involved.

As for the Security Council, having acknowledged in its resolution 2249 (2015) that “Daesh” is a threat to international security, it should go beyond its resolution 2253 (2015) prohibiting any form all military and financial assistance to " Daesh "and should take effective measures to avoid falling back into passivity that allowed genocides in Srebrenica [18] and Rwanda. [19].

Michel Veuthey,
Deputy Permanent Observer
Mission of the Sovereign Military Ordre of Malta to the United Nation Office at Geneva

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