A new manual on genocide prevention prepared by AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) was launched at an event attended by more than 100 diplomats and human rights experts at UN headquarters.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson praised the JBI publication, a Manual on Human Rights and the Prevention of Genocide, as an “impressive and important tool” for helping governments make better use of UN human rights mechanisms to protect civilians and respond to warning signs of a risk of mass atrocities.
“Prevention should be our priority, ” said Eliasson. “But prevention can only be effective if we pay serious attention to early warning signs and address such signs quickly, firmly and courageously.”
The need for action at the earliest indications of possible mass atrocities was echoed by Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana, Rwanda’s permanent representative to the UN. Gasana, who recently served on the UN Security Council, asked “Are we sitting here to manage conflicts or to prevent conflicts?”
Several speakers referred to the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda as an example of a mass atrocity that could have been prevented if the UN and international community had heeded the warning signs. “We should make every effort to prevent what happened in 1994 in Rwanda, ” from happening again, said Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide.
JBI produced the genocide prevention manual at the request of Dieng, who lauded the Blaustein Institute’s longstanding support for his work and that of his predecessors. The manual “makes excellent use of already existing human rights mechanisms and puts the expertise that comes from these mechanisms at the service of all who are engaged in efforts to prevent genocide, ” said Dieng.
The JBI manual will be distributed to UN member states and to UN staff. “We hope the manual will provoke more thinking on what can be done to prevent genocide, ” said JBI Director Felice Gaer.
The manual takes on a certain urgency as Eliasson expressed concern about the many recent episodes of horrific violence and suffering occurring around the world “characterized by violence targeting people, based on their identity, ethnicity, religion or race. This is a very dangerous trend.”
Eliasson also highlighted the Secretary-General’s “Human Rights Up Front” initiative, which he has spearheaded. Like the JBI Manual, it is also aimed at making the UN more effective in providing early warning about the risk of mass atrocities.
Jerry Biederman, Chair of JBI’s Administrative Council, introduced the meeting and pointed out that since 2008 JBI has worked with the Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide to clarify the scope of the obligation to “prevent genocide” in the Genocide Convention.
The JBI Manual identifies 21 patterns of serious human rights violations that can trigger States’ responsibility to prevent genocide. It also provides guidance on steps States can take to prevent such violations from spiraling out of control, all of which is derived from the work of independent UN human rights experts.
The Manual was prepared by JBI Associate Director Christen Broecker, with the assistance of an expert Steering Committee, which included members of the JBI Administrative Council and current and former UN officials. Steering Committee members included Thomas Buergenthal, Adama Dieng, Walter Kaelin, Roberta Cohen, Bertrand Ramcharan, Edward Luck, Laurie Blank, Naomi Kikoler, and Irwin Cotler, among others.
The Manual on Human Rights and the Prevention of Genocide is the latest product of AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute ongoing efforts aimed at naming, defining, and punishing the crime of genocide.