8 April 2004
General Assembly Meets to Mark Day of Reflection on 1994 Rwanda Genocide, Expressing Deep Sorrow for Victims, Determination to Act in Future
NEW YORK, 7 April (UN Headquarters) -- During a special meeting convened today by the United Nations General Assembly to honour the victims of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, a survivor of the tragedy, who had been only nine years old at the time, described before hushed delegations a nightmarish account of the 100-day slaughter in which neighbour had risen up to kill neighbour in the most barbaric and merciless ways. In the end, some 800,000 people were killed while the international community stood idle.
Jacqueline Murekatetes story was the sombre highlight of the Assemblys commemoration of the International Day of Reflection on the genocide, which also included performances by Rwandan singer Cecile Kayirebwa and the Harlem Boys Choir. The meeting was just one of many related events planned by the United Nations around the globe, including the observance of a minute of silence at noon throughout the worlds time zones to honour the victims. In Geneva, Secretary-General Kofi Annan unveiled a five-point United Nations plan to prevent future genocides, calling particular attention to the crisis unfolding now in the Darfur region of the Sudan.
Ms. Murekatete said that she could not help but think that if different decisions had been made [at the United Nations] in April 1994, no one would today be commemorating what was now being called the preventable genocide, and many of her loved ones, among them her parents and numerous other family members, would be alive.
Now 19 years old and a college freshman, Ms. Murekatete had joined with a Holocaust survivor to educate youths around the world about the Holocaust, the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and other large-scale atrocities that had taken place as the world watched on but remained silent. She asked participants today to not only acknowledge the merciless deaths, but to also keep in mind that those deaths could have been prevented. Along with that acknowledgment, she asked each and every individual to vow to make sure that events such as those that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 would never occur again, either there or anyplace else in the world.
Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said that a decade ago the international community failed Rwanda. None of us, neither the Security Council, nor the United Nations Secretariat, nor governments in general, nor the international media, paid enough attention to the gathering signs of disaster. And once the genocide was under way, no one did enough to stop it, even when televised images of slaughter were visible around the world.
Our sorrow is genuine and deep, she said, but added that it would be of little meaning to future generations unless it was transformed into something more: into real, concerted action, by the entire international community, to ensure that such a descent into horror was never again permitted. The United Nations human rights machinery, therefore, had a vital role to play in giving warning of the approach of tragedy, and any action to prevent it must be grounded in a resolute effort to uphold universal human rights and dignity.
Still, she stressed that no matter how good the United Nations early warning systems were, they would be of little use unless Member States could summon the political will to act when warning signs appeared. Right now, for example, we have abundant warning that something horrible is going on in the Greater Darfur region of the Sudan, she said, echoing the Secretary-Generals warning that it was vital for international humanitarian workers and human rights experts be given full access to the region and to the victims, without further delay. If such access were denied, the international community must be prepared to take swift and appropriate action.
Addressing the Assembly via video from the Rwandan capital of Kigale, President Paul Kagame said that as the world remembered the more than 1 million brothers and sisters who were killed in the genocide, it must ask itself whether appropriate measures were in place to ensure that that never happened again, anywhere in the world. His Government had adopted a two-pronged approach to banish the ideology of genocide. It included constitutional measures, as well as implementation of a proactive programme aimed at promoting national unity and encouraging open and frank discussions about the costly mistakes of the past to ensure that those were not repeated. The global communitys response to a similar situation should not be allowed to be as inadequate as it had been in Rwanda.
If the international community could turn back the hands of time, it would go back to that fateful day when ethnic tensions and other circumstances erupted into the violence and genocide in Rwanda, shaking the region and the world, said Assembly President Julian Robert Hunte (Saint Lucia) as he opened the ceremony. Having had a decade to reflect, all would agree that the world should have acted differently. Knowing what we know now, there would be no blurred lines or ambiguities to affect out understanding of the complexities that triggered the genocide, he said.
But, he believed, nevertheless, that the tragedy had swung open the door for Rwanda, the United Nations and the wider international community. It underscored for the Government and people of Rwanda the value of finding alternatives to violence and armed conflict, and the importance of according a central place to dialogue and human rights. For the United Nations, the tragedy had stimulated discussion and debate over the Organizations role in crisis and civil conflict within Member States. Above all, those voices that called in distress to our United Nations in the midst of tragedy must be assured that the Organization would stand for human rights, for freedom and justice, peace and security, and that the appropriate response would be forthcoming.
Gunter Pleuger (Germany), President of the Security Council for the month of April, said that people watching the United Nations in Rwanda and anyplace else around the world should understand that it was serious about mastering that challenge. Today, the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council, as well as high representatives of the Economic and Social Council, the United Nations Secretariat and the regional groups had come together to reaffirm their joint resolve. That should be seen as a sign of hope, with the understanding that that hope placed on the Organization the obligation not to fail you again, he concluded.
Statements were also made by Dan Penjo (Bhutan), the Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council; as well as Felipe Chidumo (Mozambique), on behalf of the African Union; Francis Butagira (Uganda), on behalf of the African Group of States; Le Luong Minh (Viet Nam), on behalf of the Asian Group; Roksanda Ninčić, on behalf of the Eastern European States; Lamuel Stanislaus (Grenada), on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States; and Aldo Mantovani(Italy), on behalf of the Western European and Other States.
The Assembly will meet again at a time to be announced.
The General Assembly met this morning to mark the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. Top United Nations officials are expected to mark the tragic 1994 events with gatherings in New York, as well as in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, and in Geneva, where Secretary-General Kofi Annan will address the Commission on Human Rights.
The entire United Nations system will pause at noon local time to observe minutes of silence in memory of the more than 800,000 victims of the genocide. Inviting the wider international community to do the same, Mr. Annan has said, Such a minute of silence has the potential to unite the world, however fleetingly, around the idea of global solidarity.
This past December, the Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution proclaiming 7 April 2004 as the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda. The horrific events were sparked when the plane headed for Kigali carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundi counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down and both men were killed.
The resolution encourages all Member States and United Nations agencies to participate in the observance of the Day, and calls upon States to act in accordance with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide so as to ensure that there is no repetition of the events of the kind that occurred in Rwanda in 1994.
JULIAN ROBERT HUNTE (Saint Lucia), President of the General Assembly, said if the international community could turn back the hands of time, it would go back to that fateful day when ethnic tensions and other circumstances erupted into the violence and genocide in Rwanda, shaking the region and the world. Knowing what we know now, there would be no blurred lines or ambiguities to affect our understanding of the complexities that triggered the genocide, he said.
Importantly, the world would be better prepared to take preventive and prompt action consistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter. But while the world looked backward today, everyone must also move forward. The way was being led by the African Union -- those most profoundly touched by the tragedy -- and, for its part, the Assembly had chosen today as the day to not only commemorate the victims of the 1994 genocide, but to mark the commitment of the international fight against genocide throughout the world.
The charge to the United Nations was exactly what it should be, first and foremost, honouring the memory of the victims. Although the Charter spoke of fundamental freedoms and tolerance, the 800,000 men, women and children who perished in the Rwanda tragedy did so at the hands of those with whom they should have been engaged in nation-building. What a pity ethnicity did not yield to nationhood; that the deliberate killing of the Presidents of both Rwanda and Burundi en route to Kigali did not cause a nation to mourn, but instead resulted in 100 days of terror and violence in full view of the United Nations and the world. What a pity it was that people could be targeted for assassination, that complicity prevailed, and that the media helped to fuel the conflict, he said.
What happened in Rwanda was recognized as genocide by the United Nations, and all should be reminded that they act in accordance with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. All must act in accordance with that instrument, in Rwanda or wherever atrocities occur. Many of those who perpetrated violent acts in Rwanda -- government officials, military and civilians -- were not people in faceless crowds. They could be made to understand that it was not wise to seek to remake our diverse would in their own image. For seeking to do so would result in untold tragedy. The early establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had sent a clear message that genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Rwanda and even in neighbouring countries would not go unpunished.
The United Nations and the Security Council had been mandated to maintain international peace and security, no mater how formidable the challenge, he said. The international community could ill afford to be silent, selective or inconsistent in its response when violence threatened to engulf a region or a country. The international community did not act in time to stop the atrocities in Rwanda -- all knew that the tragic events were taking place even as United Nations peacekeepers were on the ground. Some even lost their lives.
Having had a decade to reflect, all would agree that the world should have acted differently. The international community must seek to ensure that its commitment to multilateralism was given the standing to which all States had agreed under the Charter, no matter what the circumstances. He believed, nevertheless, that the tragedy had swung open the door for Rwanda, the United Nations and the wider international community. It had underscored for the Government and people of Rwanda the value of finding alternatives to violence and armed conflict, and the importance of according a central place to dialogue, human rights, human dignity and national unity.
For the United Nations, he said the tragedy had stimulated discussion and debate over the broad spectrum of issues concerning the Organizations role in crisis and civil conflict within Member States. It had also afforded it the opportunity to confront, head on, issues that could lead to other tragedies. Above all, for the wider international community, those voices that called in distress to our United Nations in the midst of tragedy must be assured that the United Nations would stand for human rights, for freedom and justice, for peace and security, and that the appropriate response would be forthcoming.
GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany), President of the Security Council for April, said that, as the United Nations looked back at what happened in Rwanda and ahead to the prospect of a brighter future, its Members must first look at themselves, because it was in them that the world had placed its hope that the dignity and worth of the human person would be preserved and that social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom would be promoted. Two weeks ago, Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated, with a sense of bitter regret, that the genocide in Rwanda should never have happened, and that the international community had failed Rwanda. That was a painful, yet honest acknowledgement, to which the Council had nothing to add or subtract.
He said that the genocide in Rwanda had been a shock that moved the whole Organization; that had triggered some important innovations in peacekeeping; that also defined the mandate of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and that had a considerable impact on the work of the Security Council. Since 1994, the Council had responded in various ways. Among them, it had given increased attention to the prevention of conflict. It had also moved to address its root causes and to understand post-conflict peace-building, as an effort to create a politically, socially and economically sustainable framework for a better, more prosperous future.
The Council had also increasingly recognized the threats to international peace and security posed by massive violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law, resulting in large-scale atrocities and genocide. In particular, the Council had acknowledged that combating impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide was an essential tool for deterring the future commission of such crimes and for restoring the shattered faith of the victims. In reaction to the Rwanda genocide, the Council created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Inspired by the Brahimi report and lessons learned from the failures in Rwanda, the Council had also established several multi-functional peacekeeping missions that were better prepared and, when necessary, more robust.
He said that the Council had also found ways to respond swiftly and more effectively and to establish a more flexible cooperation with regional peacekeeping arrangements in cases of urgency. Recently, the situations in Haiti, Côte dIvoire, Liberia and Ituri had benefited from that approach. Yet, as much as the Council had progressed, it must not stop here. Knowledge, understanding and political will were commodities in constant need of reinvention and reaffirmation. That was particularly relevant for the preventive use of coercive measures authorized by the Council. Such measures might be necessary when other ways and means proved insufficient. The Council should live up to its responsibilities in that regard.
The United Nations stood at a critical juncture in its history, he said. Learning the lessons from the past, it also readied itself to meet the challenges of the future. The genocide in Rwanda had raised questions that affected all humankind -- fundamental questions about the authority and responsibility of the Council, the effectiveness of United Nations peacekeeping, the reach of international justice, the roots of violence and the responsibility of the international community to protect people threatened by genocide and other grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
He said that people watching the United Nations in Rwanda and anyplace else around the world should understand that it was serious about mastering the challenge. Today, the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council, as well as high representatives of the Economic and Social Council, the United Nations Secretariat and the regional groups had come together to reaffirm their joint resolve. That should be seen as a sign of hope, with the understanding that that hope placed on the Organization the obligation not to fail you again, he concluded.
Speaking through a video transmission, PAUL KAGAME, President of Rwanda, said he was grateful today that the General Assembly and people from different walks of life around the world were joining the people of Rwanda as they commemorated that most tragic and painful chapter in the nations 500-year history. Today, as the world remembered the more than 1 million brothers and sisters who were killed in the genocide, it must ask itself whether appropriate measures were in place to ensure that that never happened again, anywhere in the world.
In Rwanda, he said, a two-pronged approach had been adopted to banish the ideology of genocide. The approach included constitutional measures, as well as implementation of a proactive programme aimed at promoting national unity and reconciliation, and encouraging open and frank discussions about the costly mistakes of the past to ensure that those were not repeated. For its part, the international community should ask itself whether an appropriate early warning mechanism was in place. The international communitys response to a similar situation should not be allowed to be as inadequate as it had been in Rwanda.
He said that, over the past 10 years, Rwanda had made significant progress, both economically and politically. Successful presidential and parliamentary elections had been held last year, local government had been democratized and good and accountable governance was being promoted, including through the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)s peer review mechanism. Similarly, the process of economic transformation was also under way. The economy had been growing at a rate of more than 6 per cent per year, but the country still faced enormous problems in overcoming crippling poverty and underdevelopment. He appealed to the international community to come to Rwandas assistance as it rebuilt the country.
Deputy Secretary-General LOUISE FRÉCHETTE, said that 10 yeas ago the international community failed Rwanda. None of us, neither the Security Council, nor the United Nations Secretariat, nor governments in general, nor the international media, paid enough attention to the gathering signs of disaster. And once the genocide was under way, no one did enough to stop it, even when televised images of slaughter were visible around the world.
Our sorrow is genuine and deep, she continued, but added that sorrow was of no use to the 800,000 defenceless men, women and children who suffered the most brutal deaths. And it would be of little meaning to future generations unless it was transformed into something more: into real, concerted action, by the entire international community, to ensure that such a descent into horror was never again permitted.
She stressed that Secretary-General Kofi Annan regretted that he could not be in New York, but that his choice to address the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva was highly appropriate. Genocide, after all, is the ultimate violation of human rights, and it usually comes as the climax of many lesser violations.
The United Nations human rights machinery, therefore, had a vital role to play in giving warning of the approach of tragedy, and any action to prevent it must be grounded in a resolute effort to uphold universal human rights and dignity. She said that Mr. Annan had announced an action plan, which brought together a wide range of activities of the United Nations system under the rubric of preventing genocide. Those activities included, among others, preventing armed conflicts, and especially internal conflicts, protecting civilians, working to end impunity, and monitoring the warning signs that foretold when genocide or other comparable disasters were approaching. That was an area where the United Nations human rights system, as well as its humanitarian agencies, was already heavily engaged, in partnership with civic organizations.
She added that it was hoped that the Secretary-Generals newly appointed Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide would address some gaps in the system. That Advisers mandate would refer not only to genocide, but also to mass murder and other large-scale human rights violations, such as ethnic cleansing. The Adviser would work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to collect information on potential or existing situations of threats of genocide and their links to international peace and security.
Still, she stressed that no matter how good the United Nations early warning systems were, they would be of little use unless Member States could summon the political will to act when warning signs appeared. Right now, for example, we have abundant warning that something horrible is going on in the Greater Darfur region of Sudan, she said, recalling that the Secretary-General had earlier said that it was vital for international humanitarian workers and human rights experts be given full access to the region and to the victims, without further delay. Mr. Annan had added that if such access were to be denied, the international community must be prepared to take swift and appropriate action.
While the international community could not undo the past or reverse the crimes that were committed in Rwanda, it could be serious about preventing genocide today and in the future. She said the Secretary-General had said that there would no better legacy he could leave to his successors than a United Nations that was better equipped to prevent genocide and able to act decisively when prevention failed. Helping him achieve that goal was the best way to honour the victims of the Rwanda tragedy, she said.
JACQUELINE MUREKATETE, survivor of the genocide, said she could not help but think that if different decisions had been made here in April 1994, no one would today be commemorating what was now being called the preventable genocide, and many of her loved ones, among them, her parents and numerous other family members, would be alive. She remembered listening to the radio with her parents to the news that their president had been killed, after which, her ethnic group -- the Tutsis -- were called cockroaches and snakes. Rwanda must be cleansed of all Tutsis, was the message of the genocide. The Hutu extremists who had seized the Government were now inciting Hutus everywhere to start killing their Tutsi neighbours.
Soon after, she said, the Tutsis began to be killed by their Hutu neighbours in the most barbaric and merciless ways. She continued to believe that school would start soon and her Hutu neighbours surely would not lift up their machetes against her family. She returned to her grandmothers village to attend school. Their Hutu neighbours found them. She and her grandmother waited to be butchered by a group of Hutu men armed with bloody machetes and clubs, and, after much pleading and bribing, they managed to escape. Her grandmother placed her in an Italian orphanage, where every day, children were traumatized from having seen their parents butchered in front of their eyes by their Hutu neighbours. They saw children come bleeding from machete blows that had been inflicted on their heads, necks, arms and legs.
When the Rwandan Patriotic Front finally stopped the genocide, she said she was one of the few children from the orphanage who had survived the many confrontations with death. But, she would soon learn the news that her grandmother, most of her uncles, aunts, cousins, other relatives, teachers and friends had been killed by their Hutu neighbours. It was not possible to express in words how she felt. The genocide in Rwanda had been one of the worst in history. Even worse was that it had been deemed preventable. It was widely known today that warnings had gone unheeded; the world had, once again, remained silent, while more than a million people lost their lives.
Now 19 years old and a college freshman, she had joined with a Holocaust survivor to educate youths around the world about the Holocaust, the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and other genocides that had taken place as the world watch and remained silent. Hopefully, sharing their experiences and horrors might prevent any other person from ever having to suffer and experience what they had experienced as children -- David Gewirtzman in Poland and her in Rwanda. She asked participants today that they not only acknowledge the merciless deaths, but that they also keep in mind that those deaths could have been prevented. By acknowledging that fact, she asked each and every individual to vow to make sure that events such as those that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 would never occur again, either there or anyplace else in the world.
DAW PENJO (Bhutan), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), said the scale of the Rwanda genocide had left a deep scar on the worlds conscience, causing all to reflect on what could have been done to prevent it. It was clear that every effort should be taken to never allow such events to occur ever again. Indeed, the United Nations and the wider international community must mobilize to that end. The Organizations main bodies -- General Assembly, Security Council and ECOSOC -- must cooperate and coordinate in their efforts to analyse such events, their roots and how to prevent them, he added. If the international community had acted prior to the genocide, the world would be a different place today.
In recent years, ECOSOC had taken a more active role in helping countries emerging from conflict and thus had helped keep situations from deteriorating, he said. Much remained to be done, however, and United Nations organs must work together to develop and enhance their capacity, as well as the capacities of countries in conflict to better respond to such situations. He looked forward to the initial report on the work of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change -- established by the Secretary-General at the first of the year -- to point the way forward for the United Nations and its agencies and funds.
FILIPE CHIDUMO (Mozambique), speaking on behalf of the African Union, said that Rwanda witnessed one of the most brutal forms of cruelty human beings could inflict on others, as the world watched powerlessly while hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians were brutally murdered. That tragedy was a reminder that genocide could happen again. The tragic events of 1994 had left Rwanda in shambles. The violence, brutality and untold losses had made the international community wonder how such an act of evil could have happened unchecked. More importantly, it was asking itself how could that be prevented from ever happening again in the world.
He said that todays commemoration was a sober reminder that the world must not fail in assisting the people of Rwanda in their efforts to heal the wounds inflicted upon them. Urging the international community now to walk alongside the Rwandans, he said assistance was needed to help them rebuild a society that embraced all Rwandans and provided justice, peace and reconciliation for all of them. The genocide in Rwanda had defied the centrality of preventive action, which had been the primary focus of the Organization of African Unity (OAU)/African Union Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution. That had challenged the collective conscience of African leaders, which led an international panel to investigate the 1994 genocide in 1997.
As a result, he continued, important strides had been taken to put in place the necessary structures and mechanisms to ensure that the horrors of the recent past would never again be repeated. With a clear emphasis on prevention, the African leaders took a bold decision in the Constitutive Act of the African Union, which provides, in its article 3 (h), for the right of the Union to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The Union had also stressed that prevention of genocide should be pursued globally. Towards that goal, the Executive Council decided that the commemoration should also serve to reaffirm Africas resolve to prevent and fight genocide on the continent.
He paid tribute to the courageous sons and daughters of Rwanda for their efforts to deal with that most dark period of their recent history. He joined them in their prayers to eradicate, once and for all, the last vestiges of that bitter and painful memory, while pursuing a process of national healing and reconciliation, and of building a society without exclusion. The international community must remain vigilant to ensure that the potential for yet another genocide, which existed in many parts of the world, including in Africa, be dealt with forcefully and decisively before it was too late.
FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA (Uganda), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that genocide was a crime against humanity and, yet, as it was happening in Rwanda the international community watched with indifference bordering on criminal negligence. It was unbelievable to imagine that a human being could descend so low in the scale of human values as to indulge in the most barbaric atrocities humankind had ever witnessed. The genocide in Rwanda had not been spontaneous. It had been preceded by cold, calculated and visible designs, including media propaganda, urging the Hutus to rise up and wipe out the Tutsis. Moderate Hutus and the international community, even when the first salvo was fired and exhortations were followed by horrific deeds, just watched.
He saluted the courage and efforts of some few United Nations peacekeepers who tried to stop the massacres. But, those were overwhelmed by numbers, and they lacked reinforcements. He also thanked those countries, which, in one way or another, tried to help. Today was perhaps not the time to dwell on what went wrong, but rather for the international community to resolve that it would never again stand idly by while a similar situation was repeated elsewhere. It was also time to reflect on measures that should be put in place to prevent a similar occurrence elsewhere.
Such measures should include promotion of the observance of human rights and good governance, both political and economic, he said. The African Group also supported the idea of appointing a special envoy of the Secretary-General on genocide, whose primary responsibility would be to design an effective early warning mechanism that would nip in the bud any nascent signs of genocidal tendencies. That should be backed by the will of the international community to act and not hide behind the cloak of sovereignty and so-called non-interference in the internal affairs of States.
LE LUONG MINH (Viet Nam), speaking on behalf of the Asian Group, said that the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 had clearly called genocide a crime under international law and pledged the international community would prevent it and punish the perpetrators. It was an extremely sad reality that such crimes had continued to be committed. He shared the Secretary-Generals assessment that the genocide in Rwanda had raised serious questions that affected all humankind. Among them were fundamental questions on the authority of the Security Council, the effectiveness of United Nations peacekeeping, the reach of international justice, the roots of violence, and the responsibility of the international community to protect people threatened by genocide.
He said that the Asian countries believed that, in order for such crimes to never happen again, the international community should draw the necessary lessons from the tragedy in Rwanda. The commemorative activities around the world were valuable opportunities for that process. The Asian Group was also seriously concerned that not all persons who committed genocide a decade ago had been brought to justice. He, therefore, hoped that such persons would be arrested promptly and tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and in domestic courts in Rwanda. The past could not be undone.
The United Nations was created mainly to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and to protect the dignity and worth of the human person, he recalled. In that light, the international community and the Organization must help the Rwandan and other people to recover from the brutal crimes of genocide, reconcile and rebuild secure and peaceful countries and societies. The Asian countries welcomed and highly praised the efforts undertaken with the framework of the United Nations system and other relevant international organizations to bring justice to the Rwandan people and other victims.
ROKSANDA NINCIC (Serbia and Montenegro), speaking on behalf of the Eastern European States, said today was marked by a feeling of sadness for the victims, and was imbued with remorse for the failure to respond appropriately to the tragedy. The world must recommit itself to ensuring that nothing like that ever happened again. It must also reinvigorate efforts to ensure a culture of tolerance, freedom and human rights.
She reminded the Assembly that atrocities took place where impunity prevailed. That was why it was important to support the United Nations mechanisms -- chiefly the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia -- aimed at punishing those who committed large-scale war crimes. The international community must spare no effort in that regard. Impunity was not an option and genocide would not be tolerated. She said that the Eastern European States supported all efforts to ensure justice, human rights reconciliation and poverty eradication, serious issues that could contribute to tensions and destabilization in Africa and many other countries and regions.
LAMUEL STANISLAUS (Grenada), speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States, said the Rwanda genocide had been a staggering example of mans inhumanity to man. The tragedy had not only wrecked that country, but had also destabilized the entire Great Lakes region of Africa. The international community must accept culpability for its failure to prevent the tragedy, which had stained the pages of history and remained indelibly etched on the national and international psyche. As the political and ethnic tensions were brewing in Rwanda, the international community should have moved quickly to prevent the tragedy. In their greatest hour of need, the international community failed the people of that country.
He noted that the principles enshrined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, as well as other mechanisms under way or being considered within the United Nations and the wider international community, could serve as bulwarks against such atrocities. He added that only through love and understanding could such horrors be avoided in the future.
ALDO MANTOVANI (Italy), on behalf of the Western European and Other States Group, said that 10 years ago, after many signals had gone unheeded, a ferocious wave of violence was unleashed in Rwanda. In only 100 days, more than 800,000 people had been killed; children, women and the elderly had not been spared. Now was a time to remember the victims, mourn the dead and pay homage to the strength and courage of the survivors. The event also provided an opportunity to reflect on the international communitys failure to prevent those heinous crimes, the mistakes it made, and the measures it must take to ensure that such atrocities were never again perpetrated on any other people.
Ten years later, he said that the international community must stand united in saying never again. The best way to pay tribute to the victims was to forewarn and safeguard the world against any and all future attempts at genocide. It must be recognized that the common culture and civilization, based on respect for human life, could not survive if such heinous crimes were permitted or tolerated. He commended the progress made by the Rwandan people in rebuilding their country following those horrific events.
The role played by the International Criminal Tribunal should also be commended, he said. The international community must continue to provide active and concrete support to the survivors, assisting Rwanda in its quest for national reconciliation. That experience had prompted the international community to react more quickly to crises, such as the one in the Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but more must be done. Preventing new such crimes remained a major concern. Fundamental was improving the collective ability to monitor violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and to identify situations that might lead to genocide.
In closing, the Security Council President, Mr. PLEUGER (Germany), said that todays commemoration had been an impressive and overwhelming statement of regret and remorse, and of hope and renewed commitment to the shared beliefs in the bonds of humankind. He thanked all those who had contributed to making it such a dignified and forward-looking event. While looking back, it was also important to look forward, learning the lessons of the past and readying ourselves to give new, better answers to questions facing the world at todays crucial juncture in history.
He said that the quest for international peace and security depended on those entrusted with the authority and responsibility of the Security Council, the effectiveness of United Nations peacekeeping, the reach of international justice and the roots of violence, and the ability of the international community to protect people threatened by genocide and other grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Those questions went to the core of the identity of the United Nations, itself. Addressing them required a commitment to peace, international law, and to the worth of each and every member of the human family. Todays commemoration had been a compelling starting point to reinvigorate that commitment.
The Assembly President, Mr. HUNTE (Saint Lucia), sincerely thanked all participants and Secretariat staff.
* *** *