The quest to congregate global revulsion against the commission of mass murders, forced enslavement and some of the worst crimes conceivable, received a big boost with the convocation of the 1st International Colloquium on Genocides, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, on Friday, March 1st, 2013 at the McDonough Hall of Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC. The Colloquium was co-sponsored by the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and the Human Rights Association-Amnesty International, both of Georgetown University and organized by Eze Eluchie (Georgetown LL.M. ’13).
The Colloquium’s theme was, “The Forgotten Genocides,” and had three core objectives:
Establish a platform where peoples who have been, and or are likely to be victims of or perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity (particularly genocides) can share experiences and ideas of preventing such dastardly acts.
Identify early warning signals and locations where similar crimes are likely to be committed across the world with a view to focusing global attention at such areas and preventing the commission of such crimes.
Explore avenues to ameliorate the adverse impact (psychological, physiological, developmental and otherwise) of war crimes and crimes against humanity on the victims and perpetrators alike.
The convergence of speakers and participants from across the world at the Colloquium, particularly representatives of nationalities which had experienced genocides, war crimes and other crimes against humanity in their history, indicated a willingness of peoples from diverse countries and continents to strive towards a better understanding of the causative factors of these vile crimes with a view to forestalling repeats.
The Colloquium commenced with a Panel on ‘The Politics of Genocide’ that delved into the role States and leadership play in fostering genocides and other crimes against humanity. The three panelists, His Excellency, Srdjan Darmanovic, the Ambassador of Montenegro to the United States, José Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch (Americas Division) and Kate Nahapetian, Government Affairs Director, Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) presented varying perspectives on how leadership and State actors have a great influence in determining the course of genocides. Inept leadership was identified as a factor that could exacerbate volatile situations.
The second panel featured testimonials from persons who had survived harrowing episodes of genocides in their respective countries of birth: Tung Yap (Cambodia), Kanayo K. Odeluga (Biafra/Nigeria), Adrian Ventura (Guatemala), Jacqueline Birn (Jewish holocaust), and Niemath Ahmadi (Darfur/Sudan). The similarity in the tales of human sufferings and harrowing experiences recounted by the Speakers, despite the fact that the diverse episodes of efforts at annihilation of populations took place in difference continents and over a wide period of time, is indicative of the need to congregate global resources at ensuring that humanity is spared a reoccurrence of genocides.
The third and final session, which featured Professor Gregory Stanton President of Genocide Watch and Professor Gregg Bloche of Georgetown University, focused on psychological and physiological dispositions and the culture of impunity, which allowed genocides and other crimes against humanity to flourish and how to address these faults.
Amongst other precursors of genocides and other crimes against humanity, the Colloquium identified inept political leadership within contending ethnic nationalities, particularly in environments beset with economic challenges, as one of the signs, which should flag off global concern. Other identified warning signals of impending genocidal attacks include massive armament of the civil population, forced classification of populations along religious or ethnocentric divides, emergence of policies/laws which dehumanize identifiable sub-sets of populations, and when extremist elements amongst subsets of populations become more vocal and attain leadership positions.
The Colloquium underscored the need for more studies into the impact prior acts of genocides and other crimes against humanity had on not only the victims of such acts but also the perpetrators and their respective descendants. The need to strengthen available international transitional justice mechanisms to provide succor and a sense of justice in the face of impunity was also identified as a key ingredient for addressing the adverse psychological impact occasioned by these crimes and to dissuade the likelihood of future occurrences.
A common theme which resonated through the course of the Colloquium was the unanimity in the desire of the speakers and participants for the establishment of an international platform where issues of genocides, war crimes and crimes against humanity would be addressed particularly with a view to identifying early indicators of a likelihood of the occurrence of genocides and advising on appropriate remedial and restorative mechanisms to prevent recurrence of these scourges.
Georgetown Law’s coverage of this event and accompanying webcast can be found at https://www.law.georgetown.edu/news/.
The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.