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Posted on on July 1st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (



So, what we have here is that the UNSG, on the eve of his departure to East Asia, with a full schedule of events that day, that also took him that evening to the Japan Society – an event we reported, had also made sure that the UN Outreach Division of DPI organize an event intended to save future generations from the horrors that supposedly belong to times predating the UN. The problem is that it took 60 years to reach the point that the institution has finally decided to remember the 1939-1945 Holocaust against Jewish people, the Roma and Sinti, and the murders of others that bared for all to see the extent of the capability of the human species of being subhuman.

But this was not the end to the   sub-humanity – it is being demonstrated in continuing fashion. We know of Rwanda, Bosnia, and we try not to see now Darfur. Different people have different views on ongoing killings. Are these genocide? Let’s sit down and talk – this while the killings go on daily. Neigh, there is no UN decision to go in and stop the killings but we preach that every individual has the responsibility to do what the Governments sitting at the UN refuse to do.

Mr. Akasaka, a UN UnderSecretary-General, opened the meeting and said that fundamental human rights are the basis for the UN charter codified three years later in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He also told us that the Paris September 3-5, 2008 gathering of DPI and NGOs will deal this year with Human Rights as this is the 60th celebration of the signing of the Declaration.

Mr. Akasaka said here something very important.   The UN Charter governs relations between States – large and small; the Universal DHR guards the relations between human beings and the States – The INALIENABLE RIGHTS OF HUMAN BEINGS. And furthermore – on December 9, 1948, the day before the signing of the UDHR, The UN General Assembly adopted the Genocide Convention. Thus he continued this logic by saying that the UNSG has said that preventing genocide is a collective and Individual Responsibility and called for the entire UN system to be empowered to prevent massacres.

He Continued by saying that the panel will present stories on how individuals have helped, also how modern technology like satellite imaginary can help and that we will hear how NGOs and media have brought to the front the horror stories.

Prior to that he also said that the UN was established because of the horrors of the Holocaust and the two- the Holocaust and the UN are interrelated like cause and effect that was intended to avoid any repeat of such horrors.

Mr. Akasaka finished his introductory. left the place and Mr. Eric Felt took over.

Mr. Felt introduced   Mr. Jean-Marc Coicaud as moderator. He is the Head of the New York Office of the Tokyo based UN University. He wrote: an article   “Meaning and Value of Political Apology” that he presented on May 23, 2008, at an earlier part of this two part series of the UN DPI Outreach Programme on Genocide related issues.

DOWNLOAD: age-of-apology-jm-coicaud.pdf

That presentation was based on a chapter from “The Age of Apology: Facing Up To The Past” that was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. That book was a product of the Tokyo office of the UNU   Peace and Governance Program. So we see the UN relates Holocaust and Genocide to the future of humanity and the future of the UN – by first taking the step to recognize the wrongs of the past.

On June 26 Dr. Coicaud made reference to that first round of these meetings, and said that the first session dealt with “Can Genocide be Prevented?” and he said that the answer was not clear. WHAT WAS MISSING WAS THE OPERATIONAL ANSWER – how to achieve results in operational terms. He expressed the hope that in this second session we might come up with an answer – and that would be an achievement.

We clearly blessed on his hope, but we, honestly, do not expect such a thing from the UN – though clearly, an institution like the UN University should be allowed to point fingers and say just that – the UN does nice talk sometimes, but is short of actions most of the time. The world cannot do just with talk and demands actions – so one must think of reforming the UN so it would act when action is warranted.

Mr. Felt added to Mr. Coicaud that there is an individual as well as a collective responsibility to prevent genocide.

Now, the first presentations by the   Holocaust   Remembrance institutions. First to make the presentation was Mr. Robert Rozett, Director of Libraries at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel. He presented cases of rescue in the hope we can learn from actual happenings.

He said that we are trained to look at rescue in the form of a cavalier on a white horse, but in the Holocaust we look mostly at neighbors, at the Pope, at people as individuals.

(a) the rescue of Aron Wolff and his family by a neighbor in Carpathia at Scoll. In this case it was a man who was once helped by a loan. Swisten remembered that deed and came to help now without doing this for money. In the end of the war Swisten was killed by another neighbor because he helped a Jew.

(b) the case of Rabbi Weissmandel who tried to get the Vatican to help with the Slovak government. His argument was to create labor camps right there in Slovakia rather then send the Jews to Poland for working camps there (this as in the euphemism for the extermination camps in Poland). His idea would benefit the slovaks he said. Eventually 60,000 Jews were deported – 30,000 stayed.

August 1944, Weissmandel himself and his family were in a car to go to Auschwitz, but was allowed to stay and had to leave his family in the railroad car. He was smuggled to Switzerland to continue his rescue efforts but never forgave himself for leaving his family to go to their death.

(c) the case of a little boy saved by a dog while the farmer who knew the boy was in the dog-house never took a stand – not for the boy nor against him. The dog stood guard for the boy and not just shared his food with him, but actually let him eat first. The lesson here is about the ethics of the dog vs. the ethics of humanity {just go and tell this today to those committing genocide in Africa, Bosnia, or to the likes of Ahmedi-Nejad}.

Here, Mr. Joseph Rubagumya, now with the School of International Public Affairs of Columbia University, originally from Rwanda, told about his own experience from Africa’s wars of extermination. His family left first from Rwanda in 1960   to Congo, then to Uganda,Sierra where they worked on a coffee plantation.   He returned in June 1994 to Rwanda and everything they had was from cans sent in from donors. Eventually people from an NGo helped him get a scholarship to the US.

Further material about Rwanda was distributed at the entrance to the room. It spoke about “Never Again” and the “Responsibility to Protect: Who is responsible for protecting vulnerable peoples?” It also had a couple of pages about “Sexual Violence: A Too of War.” It extolled “Supporting Survivors” and paragraphs about the various   International Criminal Tribunals.

The third speaker was a lady with experience at many of these International Criminal Tribunals – Sierra Leone, Cambodia ….Ms. Daphna Shraga is Principal Legal Officer in the UN Office of Legal Affairs. She seems to be a top lawyer and the crispness of her presentation was in itself a demonstration how tough it is to do justice in a warped UN system.

The UN recognizes as punishable crimes of genocide if bodily and mental harm are committed and killings if it is an act by one group against another by reasons of religion or ethnicity, but excepts if harm is done because of political or cultural differences. So, the genocide convention refers only to racial, ethnic, religious differences.

Prevention and Punishment are two different notions. If punishment prevents – this is only for next cycle of violence – and obviously the violence was not committed yet – so this is something that does not come under the convention.

These strange principles were established at Nuremberg – that the individuals are responsible because states are abstract entities that do not commit crimes. The responsibility thus falls on individuals.

The genocide is about the fact that one is born into the group – this is why political and cultural reasons are not included.

In the case of Bosnia-Herzegowina – the Serbs against the Muslims – there was killing of the young only – not the whole group – the argument was that this does not constitute by definition genocide! As no other crimes come under the statute except crimes a defined genocide by that statute – these crimes were not punishable.

In 2007 the International Court of Justice made the judgement that if the individual is made responsible it is still the responsibility of the State – also because the State did not prevent or punish the crime.

Srebeniza was a special case as here there was enough evidence that genocide was committed against a whole group – basically – here all men were killed – not just young ones.

Is there an obligation of all States to prevent genocide in any State? Even though it was decided already that the obligation extends from the State were it was started – the prevention is to be obligatory to those outside that State.

{we had here a belly full of doubts about much of what was said – legalistics aside. What is culture if not a combination of ethnicity and religion? How can one exclude crimes against people because of their culture? Albeit, it is obvious that the Soviets and China had no interest in safeguarding rights of politics and culture in those dingy days of post San Francisco negotiations, but should not the UN step in and straighten this mess out today?).

Presentations four and five take us back to the Holocaust. Both presenters part of the Washington DC US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Ms. Bridget Conley-Zilkic, the director of the Committee on Conscience, who stated that there is a commitment that the memory is tied to action today – Agitation, Memorialization and Conscience are the three committees in the Museum.
The Holocaust was based on total collapse – the individual, the social, the national, and the international.

Mr. Larry Swaider, Chief Information Officer at the Museum stepped in explaining the communication technology he use at a website with 17 million uniques/year coming from 100 countries.

He uses now GoogleEarth and can see villages being burned. Looking at what happens today in the world he can see people fleeing when he picks at following a particular person.

there is today the possibility to use “World of Witness” – a Geo-blog. Also some book clubs, like Oprah’s do follow genocide.

The sixth and last presentation was by the honorable Edward C. Luck, Now on leave from his position at Columbia University, he is Director of Studies at the International Peace Academy and is and was Special Adviser to the last two UN Secretary-Generals. He was also a President of the UN Association of the US. His Focus is on the obligations that come under the Responsibility To Protect and he was involved with former UNSG Kofi Annan in getting this concept accepted by the UN. So, no wonder that his topic was about the Responsibility of the State to Protect its Citizens.

He started by saying that he is sorry Mr. Akasaka is not in the room anymore. This because he wanted to set the record straight on a very important issue. He said that the Holocaust was not mentioned in San Francisco of 1945.
Basically the idea was then to establish the institution of the UN and the hope was that once there is an institution it can then be used for all sorts of things. This was a very fast creation and then the question was posed – so what will the UN do?

The Holocaust teaches us that genocide today is not just about Africa – it is about anywhere. just think what one of the most advanced nations – Germany – did. It can thus happen in a most advanced country in Europe – it can happen anywhere.

There are now policy tools, institutions, and individuals themselves that can make a difference.

Mostly – there is now a responsibility to try. To recognize what is happening and to do something. In Darfur we see a response.

1998 – 1999, Kofi Annan, with the help of Canada worked on this and came up with the R to P idea in 2001.

Responsibility to Protect is not the enemy of Sovereignty because States were created with the responsibility to protect their citizens.

The international community has the responsibility to assist the State. Not to punish the State when they failed, but to help them solve the internal problem. When they fail – there is a responsibility to use diplomacy and help.

Here Prof. Luck brought to his help front page recent news – the Kenya case when Kofi Annan went in recently to mediate between the two warring factions.

Another not so distant case was the dilemma the US had in how do you prevent WWIII with the USSR and all those economic and social issues that came up? The US did not pay enough attention to those issues – only to the National Strategic side.

Ms. Daphna Shraga pointed out that there is this concept that the UN is immune – but it is for the member states to evoke the UN immunity in court. To this Prof Luck said that there is also something like a Court of Public Opinion.

Yad Vashem found very strong interest in China – this also because of receptivity from their own experience at Nanjing. Young audiences in China are interested in how the memory of the Holocaust is kept alive. The task is to keep good documentation of what has happened and such documentation is being organized now in China.

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