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Edward Nalbandian: Armenian people feel moral responsibility to contribute to the prevention of genocide

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian made a statement at the high level panel discussion dedicated to the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

“Mr. President of the Human Rights Council,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First I would like to thank Madam Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office for holding this High Level Panel Discussion dedicated to the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

I would like also to thank all panelists for their willingness to shape result oriented discussion on genocide prevention. I want to particularly thank Madam Esther Mujawayo, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, the 20th anniversary of which will be marked in an international conference in Brussels in three weeks.

Armenian people, as a nation that survived the first genocide of the 20th century, feels a strong moral responsibility to bring its contribution to international efforts in prevention of crimes against humanity. I should acknowledge the readiness with which many member states lent their support to our various initiatives for this noble goal. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all co-sponsors of the Human Rights Council Resolution on Genocide Prevention that was adopted by this august body last year.

Through its various actors, the United Nations plays a central role in Genocide Prevention. I would like to mention the personal involvement of Mr. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, who gives guidance to this ongoing cooperation. We are encouraged to see the determined work of the Human Rights Council, and other UN bodies together with the member states. I would like to stress the valuable contribution of Mr. Adama Dieng, Special Advisor to the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide, who is with us today.

Despite the fact that the Genocide Prevention Convention was adopted in 1948, unfortunately, new genocides, new crimes against humanity have been committed over the ensuing decades, including recent years. From Cambodia to Rwanda to Darfur the terrible phenomenon of genocide has continued seeming unabated.

This means that we need not only debates, resolutions, declarations, conventions, but effective mechanisms and actions to prevent their recurrence.

Genocide is a complex phenomenon and does not occur according to a single model. Prevention must be based on an accurate understanding of the history of genocides. This includes a thorough analysis of all modern cases. We must understand not only what happened in each case, but also the causes. We must be ready to learn from past failures and be open to new ideas.

Genocide prevention requires the development of both enforcement and preventive measures. If genocide is committed, the perpetrators should not stay in doubt that they will definitely be held responsible. On May 24th, 1915 in a special declaration the Allied Powers – Russia, France and Great Britain, warned the perpetrators of the atrocities against the Armenian people that they would be held personally responsible for “these new crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization,” from which the modern concept of Crimes against Humanity entered the international legal system.

The prehistory of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is related to the most tragic page in the history of the Armenian people. Raphael Lemkin, the author of the term “genocide,” while defining the crime of genocide, referred to the very policy of mass extermination perpetrated against Armenians. Lemkin dedicated his life to the study of crimes against humanity, which, among others, paved the way for the adoption of the 1948 Convention.

The measures foreseen in the Human Rights Council Resolution of 22nd of March 2013 envisages the necessary preventive measures. We are all unanimous on three pillars of genocide prevention: early warning, human rights protection, and public campaign of education and awareness.

First, in order for the international community to react promptly, we must be aware of the risk of genocide as early as possible and make the necessary preventive steps. Usually perpetrators of genocide try to hide their intentions as long as possible. The international community should evaluate the origins of genocidal atmosphere leading to this heinous crime and prevent it as early as possible.

Over the course of the past decade, both the United Nations and the regional bodies have made much progress in improving early warning and assessment systems. We should do our utmost to ensure that these advances continue in the years ahead. Early identification and warning by themselves will not be effective unless they are followed by concrete forms of deterrence.

Second, genocide prevention is a part of the complex international mechanisms of the human rights protection. Moral values stand on the most important defense line against these horrible crimes. Genocide is an unthinkable crime for a society which is founded on the protection of human rights, on the values of mutual respect, tolerance and non-violence.

Third, one of our goals is to reinforce in the public these values through education and remembrance. Generations should get knowledge of the history of past tragedies, past genocides. The acknowledgement and condemnation of committed genocides are one of the most effective tools for their prevention in the future. Unacknowledged or preferred ignorance of genocide, which is otherwise called denial, along with impunity pave the way for the repetition of new crimes against humanity. Independent of geopolitical or other interests, the international community should stand together in the recognition, condemnation and punishment of past genocides, especially in light of the 1968 Convention on the Non-applicability of Statutory Limitations, in their efforts towards its prevention in the future.

The remembrance days of the victims of genocides, Mets Yeghern, Shoah, remembrance days in Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and other genocides should be days of mourning not only for the descendents of victims, but for the descendents of the perpetrators. These days should be approached with willingness to move towards recognition and reconciliation. True reconciliation does not mean forgetting the past or feeding younger generations with tales of denial.

The civilized world resolutely rejects the incitement of hatred, racism, dissemination of intolerance, the denial of genocide, crimes against humanity under the guise of freedom of expression. The prevailing opinion of the international genocide scholars is that denial itself is a continuation of genocide.

Ladies and gentlemen,

While commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide we understand that the effectiveness of each treaty should be evaluated based on its implementation. This panel discussion is a good opportunity for sharing best practices in the implementation of this Convention.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to call upon those states that have not yet acceded to the Convention, to do so in the nearest future and to wish every success to those who spare no effort in genocide prevention.

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