By James Reinl, United Nations Correspondent of Abu Dhabi's “The National”
Obama gets guidelines on genocide
A new report focused on preventing genocide can guide the incoming Obama administration on tackling mass atrocities in such trouble spots as Darfur and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), former senior US officials say.
A document compiled by a group that includes Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state, urges Barack Obama, the president-elect, to establish a genocide early warning system and not to shirk from using military force to prevent atrocities.
?There are a broad range of foreign policy options between standing aside and ordering in the marines,? Ms Albright told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.
?The more diligent we are in detecting and addressing potential problems the more favourable our options will be.?
The report draws from experiences gained in Rwanda and Bosnia, where atrocities occurred while Ms Albright served under Bill Clinton, while pointing towards current crises in Darfur and the DRC.
Omar al Bashir, Sudan?s president, faces allegations of instructing his forces to wipe out ethnic groups in the western Darfur region, where 300,000 people have died since Feb 2003.
Mr Obama?s transitional team has welcomed the 147-page report, titled ?Preventing Genocide: A Blueprint for US Policymakers?. The president-elect has already spoken of ?setting up a no-fly zone at relatively little cost? to prevent Sudan?s air force from bombing villages.
Several Obama appointees have taken hardline positions on Darfur, including Susan Rice, the UN ambassador-designate, and Hillary Clinton, who has been nominated as secretary of state.
Ms Albright was joined by her colleague from the Genocide Prevention Task Force, William Cohen, the US defence secretary under Mr Clinton, to launch the report on the 60th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The anniversary was also marked by a public letter addressed to world leaders and signed by 24 survivors of the Holocaust and mass-slaughters in Armenia, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Sudan.
The letter was co-ordinated by the Genocide Prevention Project and was released alongside a watch list of countries at risk of atrocities.
?The best way to stop genocide is to prevent it from happening,? said Jill Savitt, the project?s executive director. ?We need a new framework, one focused on working, aggressively and proactively, to avert mass atrocities at the earliest stages ? before the killing on a mass scale begins.?
The list highlights 33 nations where ethnic cleansing, genocide and other war crimes are taking place or likely to occur. Those at greatest risk are Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The UN has asked for a European Union ?bridging force? to bolster the struggling 17,000-strong blue helmet deployment, but EU ministers are split about how to respond.
The UN and major nations were widely criticised for failing to act when ethnic rivalries spilt over into bloodshed in Rwanda in 1994 and Kosovo the following year.
Ms Albright said failure in Rwanda ?weighs very heavily? on the conscience of contemporary statesmen, but added that poor data about a rapidly emerging crisis impeded decision-makers.
She recommends that Mr Obama establish a task force to meet regularly and monitor potential genocide hot spots in advance of bloodletting. The report also recommends that Congress provide US$250 million (Dh918m), ?less than a dollar for every American each year?, for rapid use to deter genocide anywhere in the world.
Navi Pillay, the UN?s High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she supported ?systematic approaches and plans to prevent genocide? while scouring for ?early warning signs? to predict violent outbreaks.
Mr Cohen warned that mankind was witnessing an ?era of great disorder? and advised the US and friendly powers to tackle genocide and other atrocities that spawn failed states and terrorist breeding grounds.
But military chiefs remain loath to commit troops to tackle overseas atrocities unless they can ensure the mission is ?well-defined, achievable, desirable? and, most importantly, has an exit strategy?, he said.
Source: “The National”, Abu Dhabi, 10 December 2008