Francois Zimeray [through interpreter]: Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, I would very simply and sincerely, say how pleased I am, on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and please don’t ask me which one, because, shall we say, of both, the past and the present, the new one, since yesterday. But I feel very privileged -- especially with the new Minister, and of course Bernard Kouchner, who was out with the government that just resigned yesterday. But to say how proud I am that France is able to welcome this first meeting, this first symposium on prevention of genocide and mass crimes.
And the first question that comes to mind is: why has it been so difficult, why has it taken so much time to get to this point, and to this day? I believe in symbols, and I don’t feel that it is meaningless to underline the fact that the meeting, the symposium is taking place in this venue, this venue which is a living center for memory and, above all, working on a knowledge, rather than the French expression, devoir de mémoire, the duty to remember, because memory can be lost. What is natural to man is forgetting. But knowledge and transmitting that knowledge is something essential and available to us all. And I feel that it is, as we pass on the knowledge of what happened in the past, that we can raise the first ramparts for the prevention of mass crimes and genocide.
And it is in this remarkable venue, not only architecturally, but above all, for all that happens here, and that it is one of the most leading edge, if I may dare say, places in the world, for research on anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and anti-racism. And I just want to say just how proud we are of the fact that this is taking place here. I started by saying I believe in symbols, I believe in the symbol of the place, but I also believe in the symbol of dates, and I don’t think it’s to be glossed over, but this is an anniversary. It is the 50th anniversary of the death of Albert Camus, who wrote that when you do not name things properly, you add to the misfortunes of the world.
And I would, before I hand over to the leading personalities beside me here, I would just like to share some thoughts that come to me, after three years working at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in charge of human rights. At a time when we’re living in an era of technology, and we become increasingly aware of the small global village in which we live, and where, at least in theory, it’s so easy to be informed when the new technologies allow us to be informed at every instant of what’s happening elsewhere around the globe, and nevertheless, nevertheless, despite all these resources that are available to us, in our conscience, in our knowledge, we have this awareness of the tragedies lived out by the people of the world, and therefore, in our response to them, we have a lot of blind spots, still.
These blind spots, these obscure areas, where the press does not go, and that is an important factor in opinion-based-democracies, such as ours. And, in other words, these blind spots, these dark areas where we do not go, they can be both geographical, but they can also be just thematic, and for me, these raise serious questions, to which I would like to bring answers.
And I think, here, we’re touching on issues that I feel are linked to the prevention of genocide, because, if we think of all that has happened since we proclaimed and protested and claimed never again, and we are here to remember that, never again, nevertheless, we’ve had-- that has happened in Cambodia, in Bosnia, in Darfur, and unfortunately examples are many. It happened, of course, in Rwanda, and since the Second World War, it’s also in that Great Lakes area in Africa, where, since the Second World War, we’ve had the largest loss of human life, and people have been massacred for years. And not even, you could say, in indifference, or lack of political response from the international community, but even a total ignorance of a large part of the world. And this is something extremely shocking, which, I think, should be included in our thinking about these issues.
If I come back to France’s two major responses to the question that is put to us: how can we prevent risks of genocide and mass crimes? The two answers that we believe in most, in France, is first of all, international justice, a theme that we have always supported and carried, both as an idea, as an institution, and as a procedure. For example, when it was a question of weakening this or that jurisdiction, France has never accepted such weakening. We support the ICC, we support procedures going through to them and we finance this jurisdiction, which finds itself under crossfire from two different types of criticism, even though it is, I believe, undoubtedly the most shining example of what is universal, over 60 years.
The criticism from those who feel it is not taking things far enough, and going fast enough, and the criticism for those who feel it is going too far, and taking things too far. And to this criticism, our first response is and always will be, to give our trust and our confidence to these international jurisdictions. When I went to the Kampala conference, as the head of the French delegation and meeting there Stephen Rapp and others, I was very pleased to see the large number of people, both from the African civil society and political society, to come and support that jurisdiction, and to say the scandal-- of course we’re all aware that the jurisdiction, as such, is going through a malaise, but the question is not that of what concerns African leaders, the scandal is that people have been massacred in Africa, in such great numbers and for so long, without any response from the international community, and we have this responsibility of providing protection, that the United Nations consecrated in 2005, but for which we still have some new frontiers.
That’s too long, no doubt, for this introduction, but again, I’d just like to insist, and France is very pleased to welcome this event, and wishes to thank you for having taken the time and come from so far, for many of you, to be here. And before, now having the pleasure to hand over to those who are sitting around me, maybe, I don’t know is there any need to introduce Louise Arbour, who today is leading the International Crisis Group, a remarkable organization, which is based in Brussels, and who is, indeed, set on doing away with these black box-- but also is known for high responsibilities as a High Commissioner for Human Rights, in Geneva, and also on the International Criminal Tribunals and also give… to Mr. Piero Fassino, who is going to tell us what’s happening in Burma, and I received a question that Mr. Fassino has mentioned, how, when we’re faced to it, the diplomatic dialogue with the junta, how do we try to convince them to open up the country to more democratic openness, and how, at the same time, given that-- let them believe that, at the end of the road for them, is likely to be a cell. I think it’s a bit complicated to this, but I’m mentioning that, because in our discussions with the junta, it struck me, these people are often in a kind of political and psychological autism, but the one thing that really does weigh on their minds, is the risk of finding themselves one day in front of an international tribunal. And I think this is already an answer to those who criticize that jurisdiction.
And then I’ll be handing over to Mr. Salih Mahmoud Osman, who is from the Human Rights Activists in Sudan, a country that has been and continues to be damaged by actions against human rights, and who will no doubt be involved in discussions in the coming weeks there, and in thinking what’s happening and will be happening in Sudan. So I think I’ve spoken enough, and I’ll hand over now to Louise Arbour.
Louise Arbour [through interpreter]: Thank you, Monsieur Zimeray. Like my predecessor this morning, if I have to speak in French or in English, I’ll give up my national identity, because if I was truly Canadian, I would, from one paragraph to another, I would be switching constantly from French and English.
[In English] My language is the language of the minority, but really, the language of the majority, and I’ll continue in English. Let me also say, in a manner of introduction, that I’m now the President of International Crisis Group, which, as you know, is a wonderful organization. All the credit for its success belongs to my predecessor, Gareth Evans, who is sitting here, or if, in fact, you have any objection to any of the work of Crisis Group, please take it up with Gareth.
And I will also say, in a form of introduction, that I’ve now taken over from Gareth, just a little over a year ago, and this is the first time in my professional life that I’ve operated without any institutional constraints, both as a judge in Canada, and in my several functions with the United Nations, particularly as the High Commissioner for Human Rights, I championed freedom of expression, but unfortunately I never had the opportunity myself to exercise that right entirely. So ever since I joined Crisis Group, I’ve decided to do my very best to occupy this field of freedom of expression. Unfortunately, I think I’ve been so conditioned to yielding to institutional constraint, that I can’t think of anything truly outrageous to say, even when the subject matter would lend itself to outrageous statements.
So I’m sure you will bear with me, if I still speak with considerable restraint on a topic in which I think we could very easily speak with tremendous passion, and in a very uncompromising fashion. The topic that is assigned to us is called “current threats of mass atrocities”, and I was a bit puzzled as to whether I was supposed to give you the kind of shopping list of prevention targets. I’m sure, after what we’ve heard this morning, you will all agree that if it was that simple, we wouldn’t need to assemble such a group of eminent thinkers to try to think about how to stand up and prevent these kinds of atrocities. So let me just maybe come back to just a few thoughts that were expressed this morning, and then I’ll try to move from the general to the particular, and, of course, my two co-panelists have tremendous expertise in two areas, which I think should be very much a matter of concern to us, and that I’m sure they’ll be able to flesh out in more details.
The first thing I’d like to say is, before I become very critical about how bad we still are at preventing, and even mitigating mass atrocities and genocide, let me put it in context. We are certainly a lot better than we’ve ever been, I think, at any part of our history. Since the Second World War, I think we have been equipped with a series, a set of norms, and institutions that we are now in the process of refining and advancing. But essentially we have a normative and institutional framework that equips us, I think, just to do what actually it seems maybe we are doing already. I think there is less now. There are fewer wars, there are fewer casualties directly associated with war, so I think we have to be, to put that in the current context, when we do what we must do, which is remain extremely critical of our shortcomings.
I think the starting point, if we talk about prevention of genocide or-- and now expanding it to mass atrocities is to start with the Genocide Convention, which articulated this obligation to prevent and to punish. And some 60 years later, the doctrine of the responsibility to protect, I think fleshed out that concept even more, moving it from this kind of strict legal definition into a more broader set of political challenge, looking at prevention and punishment in a broader spectrum of responsibility, as Francis Deng explained this morning, also challenging the notion of state sovereignty as a shield and acknowledging that state sovereignty is, in fact, a responsibility and talking about state and international community responsibility to prevent, to respond, to reconstruct, and-or, to punish, as the case may be. And I think if we think about prevention, it’s critical that we think of that, not in a linear fashion.
We’re not sitting here today, poised to see what there could be out there that could be prevented. The best indicator of, I think, where we should look to prevent is in a circular fashion. Where are we in a circle of prevention, response, and then possibly reconstruction, rebuilding and punishment? And if we fall short on any one of these steps, I think we’re very likely to see the circle fully retriggered, and it’s very much in that context, I think, that it’s critical that we take, collectively, the responsibility to punish very much as a form of prevention. We say it, but I’m not sure that we always fully embrace the fundamental premise that there can be no peace without justice, and that, if we let a perverse narrative stay out there unchallenged, it may take a very long time, but there’s every reason to believe that the seeds of future grievances, unaddressed grievances, will eventually, I think, retrigger this cycle.
So we have every reason, I think, to view the responsibility of accountability and punishment very much as a form of prevention. I think the other thing we should acknowledge is that mass atrocities, and again, we haven’t spent a lot of time this morning defining the scale. What is the order of magnitude that is sufficient to trigger a responsibility on the part of states and on the part of the international community to try to prevent. I think we come at it very intuitively, but I think if we look at the world scene today, we see conflicts -- atrocities are, for the most part, associated with conflicts. Either they trigger further conflict or a situation of armed conflict in particular is a very fertile ground for abuse, abuse of power -- the opportunities multiply themselves.
And I think what we see today is a series of either chronic or acute situations and then frozen conflicts, and each one of those chronic situations, I would say, currently the Democratic Republic of Congo can be viewed as an environment which is kind of chronically fertile for flare-ups, so you have acute episodes, particularly if there’s a flare-up of actual armed activity between armed groups, state or non-state actors. But you’re in a state of non-droit, a state where there’s a kind of chronic possibility of atrocities, what is, at times referred to as, génocide au compte-goutte, so spread over a long period of time, you can have, over time, this kind of chronic with acute flare-ups. And then you have other circumstances, Kyrgyzstan, and I’ll come to that, where apparently out of nowhere, although it’s never out of nowhere for those, the few that are actually experts and attentive to a particular situation, where you have a very, very acute and intense flare-up.
And then, of course you have these frozen conflicts, which can also put us to sleep, in giving us a false sense that the status-quo will become a kind of permanent situation, but where, in fact, the seed for flare-ups are very present and as one example, the conflict frozen for a long time I would suggest that Azerbaijan, for instance, is an environment in which if or should anything blow up, it could be a provoked or unprovoked incident, we could not in good faith, stand up and say, Well, it was not predictable, or the world was taken by surprise. All this, I think is really important when we look at the tools of prevention and what kind of intervention we think is appropriate particularly in these chronic or frozen situations.
The last thing I’d like to say is before I look at current threats of mass atrocities and, frankly, I don’t have anything in a magic box. I think all the cases that we could discuss here today would be very familiar to all of you, but I think it would be useful to come back to two cases that were mentioned this morning… where I think there’s cause to do a little bit of a lessons learned, as to, again, setting up the bar very high in our expectations that we should do better -- we should do our very best to prevent where, frankly, I don’t think we’ve done very well. This is the case of Sri Lanka -- the last three months of the war in Sri Lanka, between January 2009 and May of that year, and then, more recently, in June of this year in Kyrgyzstan. And let me just come back to that briefly.
The government of Sri Lanka, I think, as part of the strategy that it employed to successfully eradicate its enemy, the LTTE -- employed a strategy that certainly, by its standards, was very effective. I think we’ve seen at least for the time being, possibly forever, the eradication of the LTTE, as a result of an extremely robust military operation in Sri Lanka in the last three months of a 20-year-war, where the LTTE, I think, had perpetrated atrocities on its own people, on a very large scale, over a very long period of time. The strategy also employed by the government of Sri Lanka, however, was to keep the world as far away as possible. Very little possibility for intense scrutiny of that military operation. International humanitarian actors were kept at a distance, the international press was kept very far away, but in this day and age, it is not possible for these kinds of operations to be completely sheltered from any kind of scrutiny, as a result of which, we knew quite a bit.
There was satellite imagery coming out of Sri Lanka showing, in the last few months of the war, a very large number, some hundreds of thousands, probably 300,000 people essentially held hostage by the LTTE and shelled on a regular basis by government forces, including in so-called no-fire zones where hospitals were targeted and so on. When we talk about responsibility to prevent, I think, in the very best case scenario, realistically, we talk about a responsibility to mitigate. It’s very rare that the full capacity to intervene diplomatically completely defuses the conflict. Maybe there are some happy stories that some can share, but not very many.
The question, though, is when the knowledge is out that atrocities are in the course of being perpetrated there is then, I think, a genuine capacity to mitigate, to come to the rescue, when humanitarian actors are present, in Darfur for instance. I’m a huge believer in protection by presence, just the deployment of large numbers of humanitarian, unarmed, but ears and eyes of international community present on the grounds are a tremendous form of protection and therefore mitigation of damage. But in the case of Sri Lanka, virtually nothing was done at the time, and then a year later, International Crisis Group published a report, many others, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, several organizations had done work, but we published a report entitled, “War Crimes in Sri Lanka,” and, to this day, it is extremely difficult to mobilize, as I put it before, on the basis that the responsibility to punish, or to call for account, is an integral part of the responsibility to prevent. And I think Sri Lanka, I hope I’m proven wrong, but I firmly believe that, unless the narrative of how the war was won, the narrative of the last chapter of the war, is told credibly and truthfully, to the Tamil population of Sri Lanka, I believe that it would be very unwise to predict that there would be no resurgence of a set of grievances that could give rise to a successor to the LTTE in the future.
So quite apart from the morality of standing up for the victims -- and there were many victims deliberately targeted by both sides -- until and unless this narrative is told credibly, I think we are back in a mixture of a responsibility to punish for the purpose of a responsibility to protect further down the road. I’ll say a few words about Kyrgyzstan. Many things could be said about what happened in Kyrgyzstan. Was it a case of mass atrocities? Well, if we don’t even cross that threshold, maybe that explains why essentially very little was done. And again, I will say critical things in the spirit of setting the bar very high, because I think we have collectively now the means. We can’t say we don’t know, even though most people couldn’t spell Kyrgyzstan, let alone find it on a map, unless they had had a prior association with that country. The reality is that it doesn’t take very long for those who need to know. There’s no need to have a Darfur type mass mobilization to have something done in Kyrgyzstan. The important thing is that those in every state department, in NGOs who work in the region, those who know are those who need to take action.
Well the reality is, after the killings and looting in Kyrgyzstan last June, as we stand here today, all that has happened, apart from a flurry of activities, I don’t want to dismiss that. I’m sure there were a lot of meetings and a lot of coordination task force and meetings, but all we have to show for is 52 unarmed OSCE police officers who have yet to be dispatched and a commission of enquiry, which, after the menu that Semelin referred to this morning, the menu of types of options for these types of enquiry is probably the very, very lowest form of interaction. It’s not a state’s, it’s not an international lease sponsored, not by an international organization. It’s essentially, almost a private initiative, welcomed by President Otunbayeva with wonderful people supporting it, but with no real internationally backed capacity for witness protection, for investigative tools, and so on.
We can only hope that good things will come of it. That’s not a lot to show for when we are here assembled talking about our responsibility and our willingness to prevent such future exactions. Current threats, I think, if again, if I refer to a spectrum of chronic, acute and frozen conflicts, I think the areas in which we are all engaged very attentive, the Sudan, and I’ll let my co-panelists talk a little bit more about the details of Sudan, but I think we have every reason to be very engaged and very concerned about certainly the period leading to the referendum. That period is getting shorter, but we can only hope that there will be no delay in that process, and if there has to be some short technical delay, that this will be managed extremely responsibly by all parties concerned.
And if and when the referendum takes place, and we have to collectively look at the birth of a new country, it’s just not an option to witness the birth of a failed state. There will be a lot of concern about North-South violence, South-South violence, North-North violence. The reality, I think, in Sudan is that the appearance of unity that the drive to secession produces is for southern parties and is very likely to disappear after the gain is established. And then I think a different political reality in the South will probably emerge. In the North, when the president -- an indicted war criminal who will have lost a big chunk of his country -- stands up to negotiate the Darfur peace agreement, I think he will be in a political position that is not conducive, necessarily, to yielding very positive results -- not only vis-à-vis Darfur, but vis-à-vis other areas: Kordofan and Blue Nile and Abyei, which is unlikely to be resolved before then.
The DRC, I think, continues to be very problematic -- a country that has to move to national presidential and legislative elections and eventually regional elections. We know, again, from experience, that elections in unstable environments are very often a trigger of instability, if not actual flare-ups of violence. I think we need to be concerned about the future of Afghanistan, if there is a rush to an exit strategy, we’ll see a region that I think will show a lot of signs of internal tensions and possibly a resumption of conflict. Central Asia, I mentioned Kyrgyzstan, but I think throughout central Asia, there’s lots of signals of ethnic tension with extremely weak governance and then -- at the other extreme -- we have Burma, we have North Korea, so we have the two extremely weak governments or extremely authoritarian governments, which, in both cases, I think provide an environment in which the likelihood of conflict, of armed conflict, and then of atrocities within that are very high.
I think we also have to keep in mind other areas that are often mentioned: Somalia, Yemen, I think Lebanon is going through a very fragile period in its history, where, again, things could degenerate very quickly. Last thought, maybe, that I should mention is when is it too early for early warning? At Crisis Group, we published two reports, for instance, on Cameroon, We are a conflict prevention organization. The suggestion was not that we see an imminent likelihood of conflict in Cameroon, but there are many environments in which a transition, and I’m not talking only about North Korea, where a likely transition from regimes that have been in place for a very long time, and which regimes that can suppress, at least the appearance of dissent, that the transition itself, unless it’s properly accompanied, including by international actors, is very problematic.
I don’t want to take much more time. I’ll just say another thing about early warning. We often ask ourselves, how much do we know, and do we need to collect more information? We know a huge amount of information. In the work that Francis Deng is doing, for instance, with all kinds of indicators of possible mass atrocities or genocide, there’s an enormous amount of information in the United Nations Human Rights system, for instance, coming out of the treaty bodies -- the special rapporteurs, now the universal periodic reviews, in which case, virtually every country on earth is subject to a certain amount of scrutiny of things that are very often indicators: the treatment of minorities, intolerance, discrimination, racism, violations of property rights, all these indicators are there. There’s an enormous amount of documentation.
I think one of the issues that causes me considerable concern, is the increased tolerance that we have for blurring the distinction between facts and opinion. It’s not that we don’t know, it’s that we purport to know just what we believe, and I think, in the transformation of mass media, I’m always struck by -- I forget the exact statistics but in the United States, for instance, the very large number of people who believe that their President was not born in the country. That’s not a matter of opinion, it’s not a question of what you believe, it’s a demonstrable reality, and if, in a country as sophisticated as the United States, you could carry a large segment of public opinion that believes -- and consequently is prepared to act accordingly on a fact that it disputes, not to mention the dispute about the scientific basis for climate change, and all kinds of other considerably more complex set of information. So I think the transformation of knowledge, which particularly in environments such as prevention of mass atrocities, is information that is conveyed in intensely political environments. It’s the room for manipulation and obscuring reality is very strong.
And my last comment in concluding is: it seems to me that, as we are now engaged in this very sophisticated experience in capacity to further prevent mass atrocities, it’s absolutely critical to engage what we are now referring to as the emerging powers. And I’ll leave you with this thought, that there are four new members of the Security Council, South Africa, India, Brazil, and Germany, who have publicly expressed their desire to occupy a permanent seat in the council. This is a unique opportunity -- it seems to me -- to examine, to probe how they view their responsibility as permanent members. I think the biggest obstacles to the almost the total eradication of mass violence is the combination of very old fashioned views of state sovereignty, with also, very old fashioned views that international affairs and foreign affairs agenda should be governed everywhere by the pursuit of national self-interest. I mean, the combination of these two factors, which is still the case -- I think including in the Security Council -- I think are lethal for the collective mobilization to prevent atrocities. If we can advocate the emergence of a genuine public interest, where some actors undertake the responsibility to stand up for that interest, I think we would increase considerably our possibility of turning prevention into a reality. Thank you.
Francois Zimeray [through interpreter]: Thank you very much, Louise. I will give the floor immediately to Piero Fassino.
Piero Fassino [through interpreter]: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, thank you to the Shoah Memorial. They have done me the honor or inviting me here to this locus of history, and I think that this venue is extremely appropriate for discussing the subject that is the focus of our symposium today.
Two days ago, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was freed. This is an extraordinary event. This courageous woman succeeded in fighting for freedom, never gave up, never resigned herself to her isolation. She never gave up fighting for the freedom of her people and today, out in the field, as we have seen in the first hours of her freedom, she is a focal point for the entire population of Burma. She can play a key role in the delicate evolution of the country. I think of it -- and in my brief talk, I will use this expression. I will talk about this brief experience I had in Myanmar, because the Myanmar case poses many questions -- questions that apply, actually not only to Burma. In fact, this country is an excellent test case on such issues as how to resolve the problem of respect for human rights and the development of more appropriate and effective policies.
Now I will simplify as follows: First point, I think that if we wish to properly and effectively deal with the issue of human rights, and the respect thereof, the compliance therewith, we need to avoid a kind of cultural relativism, which has conditioned us to this day. In principle, it is said that all men and women have the same rights. This is true, but if we check the attitudes and choices and the ways in which we manage our relationship with different countries in the world, we see that there are some major contradictions, and we’re not very consistent with these principles. Afghanistan today is a country where young women can go to school. When this country was managed by the Taliban, a young woman was prevented from going to school. However, the Taliban managed this country for several years, and we never considered it scandalous that young women in Afghanistan were unable to go to school. And if anyone were to say, “Well, it’s a Muslim country.” As if by saying that, we quieted our consciences for several years and considered this a closed issue.
Now, the universality of rights, on the one hand, and cultural specificity, on the other, are two different things. We have to respect people’s cultural religious, ethnic identities, those of each people, of each community, but some rights are universal. Some rights, no matter, where you are, no matter what country you’re in, must be recognized to each man, to each woman. The right to life, the right to education, the right to health, the right to freedom of opinion and so forth. And this is a problem because we have this tendency, which is that we would like rights to be respected everywhere, but we’re not consistent in our approach vis-à-vis the countries where these rights, in fact, are not respected and there’s a cultural aspect in our approach here. We need to free ourselves of all forms of cultural relativism, which is dangerous and which leads us to justify or accept things that are not justifiable and that are not acceptable.
Now, if we take this as a basis, if we speak in different words, say this in different words, we live in a global world, where each dimension of our life is increasingly becoming global, we have to consider that globalization cannot just be the globalization of the market, of currencies, etcetera, it must also be a globalization of people’s rights. There are universal rights which must be recognized everywhere. There is no reason for any state, either religious or of sovereignty, to justify the non-respect of these basic rights.
Now if we adopt this approach, there are several issues that one would have to look at, in the case of an actual country, a concrete country, where rights are not respected, where they are repressed. First question, first issue, do we isolate this country, or do we remain involved? Is it better to exclude the country or, on the contrary, to include the country. It’s a big question. There is no general rule, of course, we have to look at each crisis, each concrete situation. But generally speaking, my experience leads me to say that it is better to include than to exclude. It is better to remain involved than to isolate. Isolation strengthens the power in place. Countries where human rights are not respected, are authoritarian or dictatorial countries. If we isolate them, experience shows that, in fact, their power is strengthened by isolation, and not weakened.
I’m speaking for Burma, for instance. These generals, who are very bad, are not afraid of isolation, because in isolation you can build up your power. You remember that during the hurricane in 2008, they would not even accept the presence of medical teams. We’re not selling soldiers over there, we’re sending in doctors and they would not accept the doctors, because they were afraid that any type of contact would create a risk. And therefore, it’s important to see that, even if it is difficult, even if it is complicated, maintaining contact, staying involved, maintaining relations, including the country is better than exclusion. Exclusion weakens the forces fighting for human rights, and inclusion gives them more strength.
In the past few years, I met many men and women who live in Burma, and who participate in different activities of civil society or of the opposition -- and never did they encourage us to isolate the country. Every single person I spoke with asked, on the contrary, to intensify our relations, because in isolation they are weaker. And that is the first issue. I think that, generally speaking, as concerns any strategy of involvement, of engagement, of inclusion can be much more effective than the strategy of exclusion for any country where human rights are downtrodden.
Now what can be implemented? Including means to have a commitment, the aim of which is to obtain a respect for human rights and an opening. It doesn’t mean accepting, it doesn’t mean justification. So what can be done, hands-on? There have been a number of discussions around economic sanctions or economic conditions. Contrary to what I said up until now, I am not favorable to sanctions. I am for conditioning economic relations. Sanctions are an instrument that have moral and political value, but very little effectiveness. In a global economy, it is very easy to avoid sanctions. Sanctions were effective in a protectionist economy, but we’re no longer in a protectionist economy, so once again, the Burmese example, 85 percent of imports and exports from and into Burma take place with Asian countries. Asian countries did not use sanctions, vis-à-vis, Burma. Only the European Union, the United States and Canada have sanctioned Burma economically. So that means almost zero efficacy. I also met some entrepreneurs here in Paris -- French, German, Italian entrepreneurs, British entrepreneurs, who have economic relations with Burma, and I said to them, What about the sanctions? And the answer was clear. We have the same merchandise, and we pay 20 percent extra to Taiwanese intermediaries and that’s it. So what we do is -- we are weakening the population and enriching intermediaries.
Another thing is to adopt conditionality in economic relations. In other words, we do not isolate the country, we keep up our economic relations, but we set certain conditions that are active, that are positive, that could lead to some opening, that could lead to some results. So I think it’s important to have some means of pressure. We cannot be without any power at all, have no leverage, but we have to have more effective leverage, and that, I believe, is placing conditions, setting conditions, much better than sanctions.
Third, every time we deal with any country where human rights are ignored or downtrodden, where the countries are led by a dictatorial or authoritarian government, the question that arises is, how can we deal with the issue of sovereignty and non-interference? It’s a very delicate problem, especially in Asia. In Asia, there are two sacred principles. The one is sovereignty, and the second one is non-interference. Every time I meet someone in Asia, and to deal with the Burmese issue, I’m always told, warning, you’re a representative of the European Union, you are a man who lives on a different continent, in a different country. Here, we are in Asia, and here we have the principle of sovereignty, which is completely sacred, and non-interference, it’s complicated, complicated.
So how do we resolve this issue of the obligation to protect, which is repressed because of rights? How do we reconcile that with the principle of sovereignty and non-interference? There is a rights issue here, a legal issue and a governance issue. In principle, and, as concerns rights, the international community recognizes the right to humanitarian intervention, the right to protect. I’d like to know, do you know any examples where, concretely speaking, this principle is followed up upon? I remember when, after the repression in Burma in 2007, Mr. Kouchner, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, put the question to the Security Council regarding this right to protection, and the discussion ended in 24 hours, because nobody knew how to adopt concrete policies that would constitute a follow up on these principles that are recognized by the entire international community.
So there’s a question here which I believe leads us to something which is more political than legal in nature. It is difficult to resolve this issue if we don’t talk about sovereignty in a globalized world. The problem of governance, political government in a global world. We live in a world where everything is global, consumption, transfer of goods, free circulation, cultural exchange -- we live in a world of globalization. This world is now part of our everyday life. But there’s one area where globalization is very low, weak, and that is sovereignty. We live in a planet which is global on every aspect, but it something still managed through national sovereignties, and through the relationships between national sovereignties. Multilateral institutions are weak, regional cooperation institutions are weak, and either multilateral institutions, whether global or regional, very often do not have the human or financial resources and the possibility of intervening, and that is a key question. If we are not aware of the fact that we must give much more power to multilateral institutions, whether global, whether regional. Without doing that, it is difficult to implement policies that can ensure a respect for human rights, fight against genocide, avoid massacres, and so forth.
I’ll give you a clear example. When we signed the Dayton Peace Convention in Yugoslavia, the international community decided to send 60,000 armed men from NATO to maintain peace, and avoid the peace process being upset again and destroyed through inter-ethnic wars and so forth. With 60,000 men in the Balkan countries, we maintained the peace. Do you know how many United Nations forces were sent to Yugoslavia throughout the four years of war? Six thousand. So we want to stop the war with 6,000, but to maintain peace, we sent in 60,000. This is very contradictory, but why did the Secretary General of the United Nations send only 6,000 soldiers? Because that’s all he had. Because the member countries did not give neither the money nor the resources to send in more. If we had been able to send in 60,000 soldiers, the Muslims in Srebrenica might still be alive today.
So when I read in the papers about the failure of the United Nations, I am irritated every time, because we see the consequences, we do not see the facts. The reason for the weakness of the United Nations is not the United Nations itself. The reason for the weakness of international institutions is not the weakness of institutions themselves. Their weakness is the consequence of a jealousy of national nation states, of national governments. And the actionists, the actors, those who are active in the society of nations are the countries. If they do not give the money, then obviously the head of the organization cannot do anything and that is the issue for NATO, it’s the issue for the International Labor Organization, there are several-- seven conventions that are recognized by all countries for the respect of labor, but the ILO does not have the instruments that will enable it to implement these principles wherever they are downtrodden.
When I was Minister, I was in the panel of ministers who negotiated the entry of China in the World Trade Organization. You know that the lack of respect for labor laws in China, I mean, this is a social dumping area, which is having a major impact on competition and globalization. So there should be some training for Chinese employees to learn the rules of the International Labor Organization. Mr. Ligero, who was the Director General at the time, said, Stop. He said, Stop, because with the budget I have, I can train one Chinese per year. If you talk about the head of the World Health Organization, you’re going to find the same problems. This is true globally. The regional problem, there’s another issue, which is that we live in the European Union, this is an area where the development of sovereignty, of new sovereignty, comes on top of national sovereignty. This is not true elsewhere. It’s one of the weaknesses of Burma. In Asia, there is very little regional cooperation, but ASEAN is very weak. If we don’t talk about this issue of strengthening the sovereignty of multilateral global and regional organizations, then it becomes difficult to talk about respect for human rights, because the principle of noninterference and of sovereignty becomes an obstacle.
Last point, very delicate. How to punish and when? Who represses a people, for what crimes? We have instruments, we have ad hoc tribunals, we have the International Criminal Court, etc. We have to continue. We have to develop a legal architecture that will allow us to do everything possible to make sure people uphold rights and to sanction people who do not. Delicate moment comes up. There is the time of politics and the timeline of politics, the timeline of human rights, of legal rights. There was a suggestion to set up a court of justice to deal with the Burmese generals who are guilty of terrible crimes, at the same time, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, yesterday suggested that a dialogue be established with the authorities in power, and we support this request, so you can see, there are two different timelines here. So I think that we sent Milosevic to court, but after having signed with him the peace agreement in Dayton, not before then. He was there. He was charged, yes, before, but he was not sent before the court, there was no trial. There’s a big difference, you know, the timing. In Rambouillet, he was there to guarantee the peace. I’m just saying that this is not an easy issue, not an easy problem. The time required for politics, the time for the legal issues, the time it takes to sanction, the time it takes for those responsible for the crime to come to court is very complex to handle this, and we have to be aware of these differences, and thank you very much for your attention.
Francois Zimeray [through interpreter]: Thank you very much Minister, sir, your conclusion is the best possible introduction for the issue of Sudan, and I want to immediately give the floor to -- not Mr. Bashir -- but Mr. Mahmoud Osman. And then, if you’ll allow, we will try to keep a little time for questions.
Salih Mahmoud Osman: Good afternoon. I thank very much the Shoah Memorial, the United States Holocaust Museum for this unique opportunity, because this time, for me, as a human rights lawyer from Darfur, practicing there, it’s an opportunity to bring back again the story of Darfur -- that’s going to the dark corner every day. And this is a real challenge when Darfur has been marked and defined as genocide for seven years now, and nevertheless, genocide is continuing there, and victims and survivors don’t see real sufficient acts to stop the genocide in Darfur.
It’s even more serious today, when the perpetrators, I mean, the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed are even more emboldened to go and continue committing atrocities, and mass atrocities on a daily basis. Some of you may know about the recent waves of attacks and aerial bombardment around the area of Jebel Mara, and then arrests and detentions of human rights defenders and deliberate calculated campaign to intimidate UN and other international NGOs not to provide humanitarian relief to the… million people who are confined for seven years in the camps, and this is the situation today. Hundreds of people, and thousands left their homes just recently, where we are talking today, I’m sure aerial bombardment by helicopter gunships and anti… craft are continuing to target populated areas in Darfur.
Then the question would be whether doctrines like responsibility to protect or early warning mechanism mean anything to the victims in Darfur. I think the contrary is true, and even more than this is a big disappointment in Darfur, when sometimes victims learn about the numerous UN Security Council resolutions, all of them, that have been adopted under Chapter Seven, the UN Charter, are not sufficiently or effectively implemented. So they remain as just promises which are promises that provoked a kind of expectation from the victims. But if they are not implemented, I think you can feel how the victims feel bad about it.
Now the current situation today in Sudan is a real threat, and we can define it as one of the current threats that will definitely pose a danger to lives of millions of people. This is true, because we are talking about the upcoming referendum in the South and… area, and we have more than a million southern people in the North Sudan. And we have heard most of the government officials making statements, very, very adverse statements that will definitely affect the fate of these million people in the North, when openly they make open statements saying that people from the South, after the referendum will never enjoy any kind of services or they will be deprived of their nationality. This is a real threat, and still this is a pending issue, that, whether there will be a possibility of dual nationality for the southerners in the South, the same applies to those northern in the South. So I think here we can talk about early warning mechanisms. What’s the international community doing to address a situation when we are talking about the fate of millions in the North.
Number two, one of the threats also is the fact that the three million people in Darfur who are confined in the camps are deprived of any humanitarian services since the decision of the government to expel the international NGOs two years ago. The people who are very much related to the work of the international agencies know about the huge gap that has been created by the expulsion of these NGOs. Today, in all the camps, you will see that, how it affected the lives of children and women, and you must know that you can position of the population when all the camps of Darfur, is that 85 percent of the population are women and children. They’re denied of health services, food and water today. And people are dying, really. We don’t know about it, because we don’t read reports from Darfur anymore. Even the UNAMID there in Darfur cannot release its reports about atrocities and incidents that occur on a daily basis. Everybody is intimidated by the government. If not intimidated, they are after concessions with this government and this is really serious, because concessions and understandings are always at the expense of the victims who are listening about concessions between the government and the UN agencies, and again, of individual member states of the UN members. And I think these concessions should stop when it affects the fate of millions of people, or when it’s mean to tell us please to keep a blind eye, deaf ear, of what is going on in Darfur.
And today, this government has been rewarded by telling the international community that we’ll allow the referendum on the 9th of January, but don’t ask about what is happening in Darfur. This is just like this, simply like this. This is why we don’t listen to more information about the atrocities. This government has a policy to eliminate anything in Darfur before the referendum, and then they’ll be free to deal with the South after the referendum. This is what’s happening. So many people from the western countries and in America don’t know this.
Today, you can see in Khartoum, how the government is getting back to old methods like capturing young people from the streets for compulsory military service. There are camps around Khartoum, and there, campaigns for war in the South. There are indications. So this is why they are using aerial bombardment to get rid of everything in Darfur, therefore they will be in a better position should the situation need that they go to the South again to repeat the war that caused miseries, and it’s sufficient that the war in the South left, as Louise Arbour said, more than two million people dead. And unfortunately there was no accountability; nobody is talking about the people who died in the South. We don’t see any attempts to bring perpetrators to justice. Today, the issue of justice in Darfur is also very much mixed by a new notion that justice against peace, and people of Darfur say, “We don’t see peace, why do you ask us to forget about justice?”
Then, another important area in this situation in Sudan in general is that if the international community continues to be soft and side with this government of Sudan that incentives/disincentives talk, I think, these people are very smart. They rule that country for 20 years the same way with other people always making empty promises, and I’m afraid that after that referendum this will be in a position to say sorry about the fact that we believed that this government is credible.
I conclude with the remark that sometimes we say there’s legal and moral responsibility from the international community to protect the people of Sudan. But sometimes the AU, that is, I’m really sorry, my elder brother, Francis Deng, my countryman, that the EU, head of state were always letting down the people of our continent when they talk about justice. They will always concentrate the focus on saying, we cannot allow a sitting president to stand on trial, but they don’t talk about millions of victims who are being mistreated by their own government. They don’t talk about the people of the continent; they’d rather talk about the sitting presidents. This is shameful, and we don’t see acts from them, and sometimes they are also saying, we cannot allow intervention with our sovereignty, when it comes to justice. But you know, as I know that we don’t have courts or justice mechanisms in our continent. In Sudan, for example, as you know, international serious crimes, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity has only been included in our penal code last year, when we were in the parliament. This is why we say our judicial systems are incompetent and not willing to provide justice. So I think this responsibility is not only -- we talk very much about the US policy, but we have also to talk about the EU, European Union, which is very much divided on the issues of genocide in Darfur. I leave it here, and maybe if there are questions, maybe we can respond to some of them. Thank you.
Francois Zimeray [through interpreter]: That’s a question for you, Mr. Osman.
Salih Mahoud Osman: It’s a question that’s very important for the victims. The deployment of some of these troops from our brothers and sisters from the continent, and then later on we have UNAMID forces that is the AU and the UN. The fact is that their performance is not to the satisfaction of so many people. Victims are really losing trust in the performance of these troops. At the beginning there was a lot of argument that they didn’t have the proper or appropriate mandate, but today they have it. There were incidents where atrocities occurred in front of their eyes, and killings, rapes and so on. But usually they don’t intervene to protect the lives of the people. Even they don’t protect themselves properly and this is questionable. This is why people are saying, “Why are the performers not being reviewed?” Because these troops is the largest in its kind and it’s very expensive. A lot of money is spent there in Darfur. But it doesn’t help the people of Darfur anymore. You can see even inside the camps and let alone the targeted areas they don’t. They don’t. Sometimes they will tell you, “We don’t go there because this area is controlled by the rebel groups,” which is not true. So I think the problem is that the UN Security Council Resolution has been very much diluted by the government of Sudan when they say “We cannot allow the deployment of any of forces from outside the continent.” That is from Europe for example or elsewhere. And they said, “We will only allow African troops to come.” And then this is what is happening today. With due respect and we are sad about the loses of our brothers from Nigeria and Rwanda, but I think their performance needs a kind of review.
Francois Zimeray [through interpreter]: In fact this remark is… to what Mr. Fassino was saying earlier about the Burmese example. The refusal of the Burmese authorities when the cyclone came to have international authorities and then… accepted proving they came through Asian ports and therefore became Asian ethnic. And here the refusal of the Sudanese authorities to accept international troops and then only providing they were African is the notion of universality which is being weakened through such approaches. Mr. Fassino, you were emphasizing very much engagement with regimes and Louise Arbour was talking emphasizing very much about the need for accountability. And I wonder if perhaps all three of you panelists could comment on the tension a little bit more -- about the tension between justice and an engagement in peace, in particular in relation to the end of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan. How much should the ICC indictments, for example, be emphasized by advocates?
Piero Fassino [through interpreter]: Well, how to say, I am a politician. I am not a judicial person but I think obviously our aim in Burma is to facilitate political protest and we have Mr. Quintana, who is a representative of the United Nations there to favor that process. And it’s obvious that everything that neglects justice and in particular those who are responsible for massacres and genocide, must be judged. There’s, I think, no doubt about that.
I think that we need to strengthen the international community instruments. We already have some experience with the special tribunal for Rwanda, special tribunal for Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court that was created and set up a few years ago. And these instruments need to be strengthened more and more. We must have the instruments that will sanction those who do not respect the law so there is no doubt about that. Obviously we need to verify each time the actual conditions of these implementation of these processes of these political processes. How is the transition moving towards democracy? And defining this process, this spirit of transition between the time of based on the time of justice.
For example, in Burma today, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has been freed and this is a first step towards a new step but there are other objectives. There are 2,000 political prisoners in the Burmese prisons that need to be freed. And there is an attitude of oppression in respect to ethnic communities by the authorities that needs to be stopped. And Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi said yesterday in her first speech yesterday with a lot of wisdom and intelligence that she was willing to dialogue with the authorities to negotiate the transition but the authorities need to accept the meaning of this dialogue and accept it in terms of substance… And all of this is a political process that is going to take time. And I believe at the same time that the international community must give itself instruments and procedures for applying international justice and the difficulty of having to manage this on a case-by-case basis. In other words defining the useful time, the useful lapse of interval between the time of peace and time of justice and this has to be approached on a case-by-case basis. Louise Arbour?
Louise Arbour: I think it’s not possible to do justice to this question in the very little time we have, but we have created an environment in international criminal justice particularly with the Rome Treaty creating the International Criminal Court, which intermingles juridical or judicial considerations and political ones with the possibility of a referral of a case by the Security Council, as in the case of Sudan, deferral of indictments again by the Security Council. So we have created an environment in which political and just considerations are fully intermingled. It’s not the way I would have done it but then again, it wasn’t my idea. This is the environment in which we have to live.
I think we will be served better over the horizon, a long time into the future when we have a little bit more experience with that if we can untangle these two tracks and let them proceed more as parallel tracks each pursuing its own agenda and the players sort of accommodating each other but without this kind of direct interference. The problem I think with the system that we have today is of course if there is a kind of sequencing… Justice will always be made subservient to peace initiatives. And as someone just pointed out: talk to people in Sudan about from their point of view. They’re getting neither peace nor justice. But the argument will always be that injustice, which to me is the same thing as lack of justice but others may see it differently, could be a fair price to pay for peace but war would never be a fair price to pay for justice. So as long as you have the two intermingles, justice will always lose. I think we have to try to move to an environment in which we can disentangle these two tracks. But for the time being there is- you’ll have to do it on a case-by-case basis. There is no correct answer.
Francois Zimeray [through interpreter]: My question is for Mr. Mahmoud Osman. In particularly concerning Darfur, how are the people -- in particular those in charge of their human rights -- how do they interpret the almost automatic solidarity of the African heads of state, in particular those of the African Union against this head of state [Sudanese President Bashir], against whom there is an international mandate, including those states that have sent troops there. It seems to me that there is a concern which goes against justice. In other words you send troops to Darfur and at the same time you do nothing about the one who is perpetrating those crimes. Thank you.
Salih Mahmoud Osman: …as a victim myself I’ve been also detained and arrested as a result of the conflict in Darfur and for also taking cases and defending victims and so on. So you can see how the feelings of the victims when justice is denied. I have an experience. When we were taking cases, hundreds of cases in front of the courts and because of our laws the judicial system were not able at all to get a conviction. Nevertheless victims continued to come to our office asking us to. When we asked them, they say, “We know you cannot win that case.” But it gives us satisfaction that our suffering has been recorded. That criminals have been put on the record; this when how you can see now the importance of justice.
When it comes from the head of the states of Africa saying that -- where again is justice? It is when they say, “No, we don’t see a point of taking perpetrators to justice because it would jeopardize peace process.” This is absolutely ridiculous and this is not acceptable. And this why people are feeling that our head of the states in Africa instead of siding with the victims, the poor and the week, they are siding with the stronger the head of states their colleagues. This is why people are losing this kind of trust in our African institutions and this is very serious. We need to restore that. We need to work together again to see that rule of law and justice are values that we cannot at all dispense with, and say that we can make compromises about it because you can see according to this attitude on policy our continent is-- all around the continent you can see how conflicts and killings, government killings its own people and so on because there is no accountability and justice. This is why we say that justice can be a mechanism of… to stop potential perpetrators if they know that they will be held accountable for their acts.
Francois Zimeray [through interpreter]: Last two questions maybe, or three or four last questions. Let’s try and group them. And as we’ve already exceeded our time could you please be as brief as possible and we’ll try and give you each answer.
M1: -with the Documentation Center of German… As you can imagine I’d like to address the problem of the European Roma which are subject the last years more and more to discrimination and depriving of human rights. And to even as we have all witnessed in the last years are subject to more and more racial motivated violence even murder and these murders especially in Hungary were fueled by a political party that is gaining more and more success. Just a short question to… I’m feeling very uneasy about the matter: a “too early warning” -- is that possible? Is in this case don’t we have to better ask can we afford just to neglect these forms of anti… as well as the rising anti-Semitism in Europe, not perpetrated by the States in this case, but by groups in society which actually gain support and political extremists. Thank you.
M2: I almost don’t want to take so much time away from the Roma issue, but I just wanted to congratulate Louise Arbour to mentioning Sri Lanka. I think especially the Sri Lanka cases is one