Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian participated in the international conference on the prevention of genocide titled “The Responsibility to Defend.” The event was organized by the Belgian ministry of Foreign Affairs on the 20th anniversary of the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda.
The conference was attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland, heads of a number of other international organizations, Foreign Ministers from about 30 countries, other high-level delegations, prominent scholars.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian’s speech is provided below:
“Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders for organizing this important conference dedicated to Genocide Prevention on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. I would also like to thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland, the High Representative Cathy Ashton, for their personal engagement in supporting this event.
As Rwanda Genocide survivor Esther Mujawayo mentioned at the Human Rights Council High Level Panel Discussion dedicated to the Genocide Convention in Geneva four weeks ago, “Today is the fourth generation of Armenians who are still waiting”. Not only Armenians, for almost a 100 years the whole international community has been waiting for Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide. In fact next year it would be the Centenary of this tragedy. As a nation that survived the first genocide of the 20th century, we feel a strong moral responsibility to bring our contribution to international efforts in prevention of crimes against humanity.
Since the adoption of the 1948 Genocide Convention efforts were put for the elimination of the consequences of the Holocaust. The ensuing history of 60 years, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and other tragedies demonstrated that all good-will is not enough to exclude crimes against humanity from happening again and again.
When we talk about impunity and absence of condemnation as a solid ground for recurrence of genocides, many refer to Hitler’s quotation from 1939 August when he rhetorically asked “Who today still speaks of the massacre of Armenians?” But even before coming to power, in one of his interviews to a German newspaper in June, 1931 Hitler contemptuously referred to the massacres of Armenians as a possible option for repetition with other peoples. Understandably one of the core causes of genocide recurrence or new attempts to crimes against humanity is the absence of an adequate united international response to it. Genocide prevention is a burden that should be shared. This requires political commitments by governments to stop genocide from happening anywhere in the world without subordinating that noble humanitarian cause to any geopolitical calculations.
I share the opinion that an important dimension of the prevention of genocide is the prevention of maturing genocidal atmosphere. It is necessary not to ignore and root out such genocidal expressions, as hatred and hostility propagated on national, ethnic, racial and religious grounds. It is true that exact prediction seems not always possible but it is possible to identify danger zones and cases approaching the brink of genocide. The international community should evaluate the origins of genocidal atmosphere leading to this heinous crime and prevent it before it becomes too late. Genocide is an unthinkable crime for a society which is founded on tolerance and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms.
The right of people to their memory, their right to knowledge of the history of past tragedies through education and remembrance has pivotal roles on the way to preventing and condemning genocide.
Such knowledge is extremely useful because grave experience shows that perpetrators of genocide in different geographical areas and different historical periods have been quick to identify the tactics of their murderous predecessors and learn from them. The Young Turk’s Committee of Union and Progress in Turkey, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party in Germany, the Hutu National Revolutionary Movement for Democracy in Rwanda all used special paramilitary organizations as the main perpetrators of mass killings. These were Teskilat Mahsusa, the Schutzstaffel, Interahamwe. There were several similarities in the genocidal processes as treatment of victims, expropriation of their properties, ways of extermination in these as well as other crimes against humanity.
The remembrance days of the victims of genocides, Mets Yeghern, Shoah, remembrance days in Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and other genocides 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 denial is a continuation of genocide.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To conclude, I would like to mention the resolution on Prevention of Genocide initiated by Armenia and adopted by consensus by the Human Rights Council last year, which aims at the prevention of the future repetition of genocides through joint efforts of the international community. The key mechanisms envisaged in this resolution are the further development of the international capacities in early prevention. It is encouraging that the international bodies specialized in human rights protection have made the early warning and genocide prevention one of their priority tasks.”