Worldwide Network Would Help Prevent Mass Atrocities
A worldwide network of countries and organizations could be the latest tool to improve prevention of genocide and other mass atrocities, according to the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights.
The Center’s co-chair, Walter White, explains the urgency of the Center’s work toward a mass atrocity prevention network, and why they must keep moving toward that goal.
“Days make a difference,” says White. “It could be thousands of lives lost every day. If [nation] states sit around for months to determine whether there is a problem – think of the cost.”
CHR director Michael Pates says that while the term “genocide” was established after the Holocaust to identify the worst possible kind of crime, the word’s definition in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide often has been used by governments “to explain why mass violence in their countries or others is not genocide,” and thereby avoid taking action to stop them.
White and Pates were recently in Paris for an international conference that brought together stakeholders in the human rights arena, for the purpose of developing a mass atrocity prevention network. The Center for Human Rights, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, will help move this project forward from one stage to the next.
White said that one of the goals of this kind of network would be quick response. He noted that there are “…challenges that make it awkward for member states of the United Nations to develop rapid response in places where the fundamental indicators of potential genocide are beginning to display themselves.”
Among those challenges are perceptions of “meddling” in another country’s internal affairs in violation of its national sovereignty, explains Pates. Some of the elements of a rapid response program would include:
- How to identify and generate a response from non-government organizations, or pressure the local governments in a region, so that the identified potential mass atrocity does not proceed to the next level.
- How to make the global community aware of what is happening in the identified region in question.
- How to coordinate a response among the various organizations involved in the response network.
- How to educate persons acting on behalf of various governmental bodies.
Pates believes that a prevention and rapid response network holds real promise.
“Ultimately, tyrants want to stay in power. If there is a credible consequence to their use of mass violence, they will be less likely to use it,” said Pates.
CHR members are now working with various NGOs, state actors, the United Nations and both international and domestic bar associations to identify and coordinate strengths and skills that will best serve the prevention/response network.
In particular, CHR co-chair Michael Greco stressed the role that lawyers can play.
“We realized after the sacking of the judges in Pakistan [in 2007]…that the legal profession is not a separate profession in each country. It’s a worldwide profession – a linked network of defenders of the justice system,” said Greco.
When it comes to human rights, he said, we are similarly “connected through humanity. When one is harmed somewhere, we are all harmed.”