First International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime Looks to Past, Present and Future
By admin December 11, 2015



The United Nations has established the  International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, to be celebrated on December 9th, with the dual purpose of ensuring people worldwide are aware of this crime and engaged in its prevention, and honoring those who have fallen victim to it. The slogan for the day is “Remember the Victim, Prevent Genocide.” The U.N. General Assembly celebrated in New York with a symphony performance and a moment of silence.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said about the day that “The prevention of genocide is a specific obligation under international law. Governments must act on this imperative by investing in prevention and taking preventative action. On this new international observance, let us recognize the need to work together more concertedly to protect individuals from gross human rights violations and uphold our common humanity.” He further stated that the global community must look for warning signs and be prepared to act immediately when seen, especially as genocide is quite systematic and planned out, not accidental.

Adama Dieng, the U.N. Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, said Wednesday that the commemoration was about the past, in that we must know history in order to understand the present and to take action in the future. “The memory of genocide should prompt us to action,” he said. “It should scare us into avoiding past mistakes. Remembering…only acquires its full meaning if we use lessons painfully learnt from the past to improve the lives of today’s and future populations.” He called genocide “an identity-based conflict” whose prevention is really good management of diversity. “We must protect this diversity,” he continued, “and use it to promote dialogue and understanding, not to spread hatred and intolerance.” Dieng concluded by calling genocide a crime not bound by time. “Genocide takes time to develop, and the consequences of the extreme violence that characterize the crime of genocide endure…for generations.”

Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said that he had seen populations targeted in areas like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Mali and other places. He said that “intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia” were the culprits, and that an “us versus them dynamic,” fed by violent extremists and terrorists, was taking root.

In a 2014 U.N. document titled, “Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes: A Tool for Prevention,” a number of common and specific risk factors for genocide are laid out. Common risk factors include armed conflict or instability, a record of human rights violations, weak state structures, various incentives, capacity to commit atrocity crime, the absence of mitigating factors, and enabling circumstances and triggering factors. Specific risk factors include intergroup tensions or patterns of discrimination, signs of an intent to destroy a protected group, signs of widespread or imminent attack against a population, and serious threats to those protected under international humanitarian law or those involved in peacekeeping.

The U.N. has an outreach program on the Rwandan Genocide, designed to learn lessons and support survivors. Founded in 2005, the program is still active today. The U.N. has also designated January 27th, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, as the International Day of the Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. These programs and commemorations are key in the battle to learn from past genocides and prevent them in the future.

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