combating genocide

Combating Genocide: A
Key Component of U.S. Foreign Policy

Lorne W. Craner

Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
at the U.S. Department of State

When President George W. Bush was
presented in the fall of 2001 with an article on the subject of the Rwanda
genocide, he inscribed in firm letters in the memo’s margin:  “NOT ON MY
WATCH.”  President Bush resolutely determined that while he is commander in
chief, he plans to do everything he can to ensure that the plague of
genocide that afflicted Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s will not scourge
the earth again.[1

From Nuremberg to Arusha, the United
States has been the world’s leader in ensuring accountability for genocide,
war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Nothing is more central to our
values as a people and our interests as a nation than the prevention of
genocide through the promotion of the rule of law and democratic
governance.  President Bush’s decision to retain the Office of War Crimes
Issues demonstrates the administration’s continuing commitment to the
subject.  Genocide is an act of tyrants, of cynical cabals clinging to power
through mass murder, a persistent toxin in the international arena curable
through the expansion of freedom, justice and democracy.

America’s commitment to
preventing genocide and promoting democratic societies that respect human
rights is not new.  It has been an essential aspect of our foreign policy
for years and is one of many stances that form a comprehensive approach to
war crimes, human rights and foreign policy in general.  By ratifying the
International Convention on Genocide in 1988, the United States officially
adopted as its policy “never again.”  But the events of September 11th
and the war on terror have given our efforts renewed and heightened
significance.  On Human Rights Day 2002, President Bush proclaimed:  “Across
the globe, we will continue to stand for those who fight for fundamental
freedoms…our fight against oppression demonstrates our Nation’s dedication
to a future of hope and understanding for all peoples.”

No country is immune from
the evil of hateful groups and individuals.  The battle against terrorism
has reminded us of our common humanity and vulnerability.  It has reminded
us that lawlessness and impunity anywhere in the world is a threat to
civilization everywhere.  In our struggle against genocide, it does not
matter whether people are victimized in Europe, America or Africa.  No one
can be forgotten.  Crimes cannot be ignored because they occur in distant

 The key to the prevention
of genocide starts at the local level.  We believe that states, not
international institutions are primarily responsible for ensuring justice. 
Every state must accept its obligation not only to international law but to
humanity to prevent serious violations of international law and to hold
perpetrators accountable.  We, the members of the international community,
have an obligation to ensure that each state fulfills this responsibility. 
We believe the best way to combat genocide and other grave atrocities is to
build domestic judicial systems, strengthen political will and promote human
freedom.  If a state is unable or unwilling to accept its sovereign
responsibility, we must not let that state abdicate this responsibility but
must strive toward the goal of one day establishing and securing the rule of
law throughout its territory.

 Genocide is a product of
tyranny and lawlessness.  Democratic nations with free and fair elections, a
professional military under civilian control, open media and citizen access
to government insulate themselves from the threat of genocide.  Freedoms
such as the right to criticize one’s government, the right to practice
freely any religion and the right to associate with others shine light into
the darkness of ignorance and despotism.  When these rights are protected by
the rule of law, it is less likely that genocide will occur.  A society
ruled by laws and not by tyrants ensures that equality and the rights of
each person are protected, systems exist to uphold accountability, and
strong courts render no one above the law.  Nations that have transformed
themselves in this manner have seen the threat of genocide diminish. 

 Because genocide is a
crime against our dignity and existence as humans and often a threat to
international peace and security, it is in the interest —indeed it is the
responsibility—of every nation to combat it with vigor.  The issue of
genocide presents three distinct challenges for the international community
and demands that every member do its part.  First, we must work together to
prevent the seeds of genocide from growing by using the range of tools at
our disposal.  Second, we must act to halt atrocities when they erupt.  And
third, we must hold accountable perpetrators of egregious crimes. 

 In all three challenges,
a broad coalition of state and non-governmental actors must come together if
we are to succeed in ensuring that the crime of genocide remains a relic of
the last century.  Private groups and nongovernmental organizations play a
valuable role in sounding the alarm before genocide occurs.  These groups
also provide comfort and aid to surviving victims and displaced persons.  It
is essential that public-private relationships with nongovernmental
organizations be crafted and sustained.  Organizations such as the Center
for the Prevention of Genocide are critical components of that policy:  They
serve as agents of early warning, advocates for swift action, and defenders
of justice. 

 The United States is
committed to fulfilling its longstanding role as an advocate for the
principle that there must be accountability for war crimes and other serious
violations of international humanitarian law.  We will continue to play a
leadership role to right these wrongs.  The U.S. armed forces will obey the
laws of war, while our international policies are and will remain completely
consistent with these norms.  We will continue to discipline our own when
appropriate.  We will remain committed to promoting the rule of law and
helping to bring violators of humanitarian law to justice, wherever the
violations may occur.  We will support politically, financially, technically
and logistically any post-conflict state that seeks to credibly pursue
domestic humanitarian law.

With strong U.S.
leadership, the U.N. Security Council established the International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR), acting under
Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which empowers the Council to maintain
international peace and security.  Everyone has a part to play to ensure the
success of these Tribunals.  The Bush Administration has encouraged other
member states to assist the Tribunal in all possible ways, including by
providing the Tribunals with adequate resources and by urging states with
indicted persons within their territory to apprehend and transfer those
individuals to the Tribunal.

 To date, the United
States has provided more than $300 million to the two Tribunals, making us
by far the largest donor.  We have offered and paid rewards of up to $5
million through the U.S. Rewards for Justice program for information leading
to the arrest and transfer of fugitive indictees to the Tribunals.  We have
urged the Tribunals to keep a narrow focus on their mandate to prosecute the
political and military leaders most responsible for serious violations of
international humanitarian law.  And finally, we have pressed the regional
states to fulfill their international obligation to cooperate fully with the
Tribunals, including arresting all persons on their territory, and to begin
to undertake their responsibility to prosecute lower-level war crimes cases
domestically.  Through this work, 51 ICTY and ICTR indictees have been
apprehended in the past two years, more than in any other two-year period.

Meanwhile we are working
in the Balkan states to provide political, financial, technical and
logistical support to assist their current efforts to prosecute lower-level
war criminals.  We are now seeing promising changes in a once devastated
region.  Serbia and Montenegro is a case in point.  Not long ago this
nation’s predecessor, Yugoslavia, was engulfed in the terror of ethnic
conflict and genocide that gripped much of the Balkans. Today this nation is
a growing democracy with improving legal safeguards for individual rights. 

 In other parts of the
world our focus is just as sharp.  In Sierra Leone, the United States has
been a founding supporter of the Special Court, a hybrid model combining
international and domestic participation.  The United States has contributed
$5 million for the Court’s first year of operation and expects to make
similar contributions both for the Court’s second and third years.  The
Court seeks to bring to justice those most responsible for serious
violations of international humanitarian law and relevant Sierra Leonean law
committed during the country’s civil war.  The Government of Sierra Leone
has appointed one of the three trial chamber judges and the deputy
prosecutor; the U.N. Secretary General has selected the remaining judges,
the chief prosecutor and the registrar.  This hybrid approach helps bring
the expertise of international jurists to a war-torn country, gives the
citizens of the country joint ownership of the process, and seeks to leave
behind the foundations for the rule of law once the Court fulfills its
mandate.  With judges sworn in on December 2, 2002, the court is up and
running in Freetown and expects to issue indictments in the coming months.

We are also focused on
avoiding another round of genocidal violence in Africa’s Great Lakes
region.  This is most pressing in the Eastern Congo where our efforts are
focused on preventing further atrocities and pursuing accountability for
past crimes.  In Burundi, we are working with our partners to support the
Arusha peace process, hoping to prevent further genocidal acts in a country
that has had more than its share of violence.  While we hope for a peaceful
transition, one of the lessons of 1994 is that we must also plan for the
worst-case scenario.  We are supporting the deployment of South African
peacekeepers and remain engaged on a daily basis in the effort to bring all
the warring factions into the peace process.  At the same time, we are
working with Burundi’s 19 political parties to ensure a just and lasting
settlement to the conflict and urging that those who have murdered civilians
or committed other violations of international humanitarian law be held
accountable for their actions.  It is essential that survivors of genocide
be able to resume their lives with the knowledge that their oppressors have
been brought to justice.  Likewise those considering genocide must know that
the world will not stand idly by while they slip away into the night and
lurk to foment conflict another day.

 One of the main goals of
U.S. security assistance to Africa is to prepare African militaries to
respond to complex human rights crises in their regions.  Operation Focus
Relief (OFR) in Sierra Leone, which trained seven military battalions from
the West African nations of Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana, assisted in the
deployment of effective peacekeepers under the U.N. Assistance Mission in
Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL).  Prior to OFR and UNAMSIL, the people of Sierra
Leone were at the mercy of brutal insurgencies, including the Revolutionary
United Front.  By deploying a credible military deterrent, the international
community is helping to protect the people of Sierra Leone and give them a
chance to rebuild their shattered country.  Through the African Crisis
Response Initiative (ACRI) and its successor, the Africa Contingency
Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA), the United States has helped to
train soldiers in several African nations to conduct peacekeeping and
humanitarian relief.  ACOTA seeks specifically to strengthen a country’s
capacity to train its own troops and the ability of African militaries to
work together.  This program aims to create a sustainable force for peace
and stability.

Sometimes early warning
programs and the promotion of democracy are not enough.  The United States
is willing to act with other nations globally, regionally and if need be
unilaterally to stop genocide from happening.  When diplomacy and action
through international bodies such as the United Nations fail, the world must
be willing to act to protect the lives of innocents and bring the
perpetrators of genocide to justice.

Today some of the
greatest threats of genocide exist in Central Africa.  Thousands have lost
their lives in the last decade.  Their deaths are devastating to the
continent, and to the world.  In Johannesburg in May 2001, Secretary of
State Colin Powell said of those who lost their lives:  “We will never know
the gifts that they may have brought to Africa and the gifts they may have
given to humanity.”A concerted long-term effort to prevent genocide through
the promotion of democracy and human rights is a key part of U.S. foreign
policy.  Nations must work together and with private groups to further these
ends.  When prevention fails to stop genocide, the world must be willing to
use principled force and bring the perpetrators of genocide to justice.  We
must protect the value and dignity of every individual on a global, regional
and even unilateral level.  The world today is a smaller place and any act
of terror or genocide affects us all.  This is why the prevention of
genocide and other crimes against humanity is a fundamental goal of U.S.
foreign policy, one that should be shared by every nation on earth.


Lorne W. Craner is
Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S.
Department of State.  Prior to his appointment, Mr. Craner was president of
the International Republican Institute (IRI), a non-governmental
organization dedicated to advancing democracy worldwide.  He received his
Masters degree in national security studies from Georgetown University.



Power, Samantha.  “Genocide and America.”  The New York Review of
.  14 Mar.


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