By Noam Schimmel
A report released by the Task Force on the EU Prevention of Mass Atrocities calls for far greater attention to be paid by EU policies and programs to the need to prevent genocide and other mass atrocities.
This is a timely, commendable and important report, and it challenges many of the all too self-congratulatory tendencies within EU member states and the EU as a whole that champion the EU’s purported commitment to human rights which is often more a matter of rhetoric than reality.
It calls for greater EU attention to the way trade policies can impact the likelihood of mass atrocities, in particular the arms trade, which it calls to constrain in situations in which arms are likely to be diverted for use against civilians in violation of international law.
It also calls for improved intelligence gathering to create an early warning framework to try to prevent mass atrocities from breaking out and demands that the EU commit itself to preventing mass atrocities and creates a framework for making such a commitment actionable.
The full report with all its policy recommendations can be found at a link provided by the London School of Economics:
There are other issues the report does not address, however, which merit attention:
How should the EU deal with member states who are complicit in genocide and other mass atrocities, for example?
The most notable case is that of France, which was extensively involved in the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsi in 1994.
The French government provided military, diplomatic, and economic support to Rwanda’s genocidal regime before, during and after the genocide.
This has been well documented with evidence presented by various scholars such as Daniela Kroslak in The Role of France in the Rwandan Genocide and Andrew Wallis in Silent Accomplice: The Untold Story of France’s Role in the Rwandan Genocide.
Human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues have also provided similar evidence for France’s role in the Rwandan genocide in particular and the complicity of other European countries as well, as has the investigative journalist Linda Melvern.
Moreover, given that the EU has failed to develop and implement a human rights policy aiming to prevent and stop genocide and other mass atrocities the EU needs to consider the moral obligations that stem from this failure.
The EU must ask itself what are its moral and legal obligations post-genocide and other mass atrocities to help individuals and communities seeking to rebuild their lives and realize their human rights following extreme human rights violations.
What should the role of European countries and the EU be in response to other failures to act to prevent mass atrocities in countries such as Syria, Sri Lanka, Congo, and Sudan?
These are questions of law, ethics, and public policy that need to be examined and answered, subject to public debate and democratic accountability.
Given the extensive role of EU national aid agencies in funding development aid programs careful consideration must be given to the responsibilities of national and multi-national EU aid projects to support survivors of genocide and mass atrocities and to enable them to realize their human rights in accordance with the UN Basic Principles on the Right to Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law.
These principles create a framework for restorative justice which defines obligations to provide restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition to survivors of mass atrocities.
In this regard, Britain, through the Department for International Development has been exemplary in its substantial commitment to funding development projects for survivors of the Rwandan genocide, and a model that other European national aid agencies should emulate.
Hundreds of perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide have shamefully found shelter in the EU and many EU member states refuse to prosecute them, France and Britain amongst them.
In too many EU states prosecution efforts are minimal, hopelessly lethargic, and marred by a lack of political and legal will.
This is utterly immoral, inexcusable, and must come to an end.
It imposes a further injustice on survivors of the Rwandan genocide and makes a mockery of EU commitments to international human rights law and the principle that violators of human rights – particularly the most egregious ones – need to be held accountable.
As the 19th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide approaches in April, this report by the Task Force on the EU Prevention of Mass Atrocities has been issued at a critical time.
Survivors of the Rwandan genocide who were failed enormously by the EU are demanding and deserve redress as an urgent matter of justice which has gone unaddressed for far too long.
They are currently campaigning for a program of restorative justice that recognizes their human rights in accordance with the UN Basic Principles.
Prevention and stopping genocide are paramount goals.
But in a world in which genocide and mass atrocities all too often are allowed to take place with little interference aside from hollow statements of diplomatic pseudo-solidarity with victims – and when the EU and its member states remain indifferent to the suffering and cries of distant others who are not EU nationals – action plans for providing assistance to survivors of genocide and other mass atrocities in their aftermath are equally essential.
Restorative justice for survivors of genocide and mass atrocities must complement the efforts to prevent and stop genocide advocated by the Task Force on the EU Prevention of Mass Atrocities.