In a recent post, I noted that 2013 had distinguished itself in a dismal way, by producing more new episodes of mass killing than any other year since the early 1990s. Now let’s talk about why. Each of these mass killings surely involves some unique and specific local processes, and people who study in depth the societies where mass killings are occurring can say much better than I what those are. As someone who believes local politics is always embedded in a global system, however, I don’t think we can fully understand these situations by considering only those idiosyncratic features, either. Sometimes we see “clusters” where they aren’t, but evidence that we live in a global system leads me to think that isn’t what’s happening here.
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It’s hard to see how the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) would not apply in the case of Syria, where more than 100,000 people have been killed, five million displaced from their homes, two million refugees sent fleeing, and numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity committed, including with chemical weapons, according to independent human rights monitors and the UN. Yet there is one person who has studiously avoided invoking R2P: President Obama.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum today expressed deep alarm over the reports of a major chemical weapons attack on civilians in the outskirts of Damascus this week.
The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, is urging religious and political leaders in the Middle East and North Africa to refrain from rhetoric that could exacerbate the violence in Syria and incite crimes against civilians.
Today, June 20, marks World Refugee Day 2013, an annual United Nations-designated opportunity to raise awareness of the plight of those displaced due to war, conflict, or persecution throughout the world.
On June 13, the White House issued a statement confirming the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, against the opposition.
In June 2012, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum expressed grave concern about the escalating violence in Syria and warned that the increasingly sectarian nature of that violence could, if unchecked, lead to genocide.
As the war between the Assad regime and rebel forces continues, rising sectarian tensions are leading to more actors taking up arms, according to a report released by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The periodic updates from the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria paint a troubling picture of self-defense groups arising within Christian, Alawite Muslim, and other minority groups inside the country. The report describes clashes in areas formerly controlled by the government between rebel groups and armed "Popular Committees." These committees are formed by those minority groups—sometimes with direct government support—who are worried that the rebels will not protect their communities may take reprisal steps against them. In addition, it notes that newly forming rebel factions are increasingly resistant to positioning themselves under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army.
In a New York Times op-ed, Simon Adams, executive director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (external link), discusses the potential for genocide to unfold in Syria. Adams warns that as the current conflict intensifies, the risk increases of a violent backlash against Alawites and other minorities. He calls on governments to take decisive action to prevent further crimes against humanity from being committed, and to put an end to impunity for such crimes by engaging the International Criminal Court to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.
WASHINGTON, DC — The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum today expressed its grave concern for the safety and security of civilians in Syria, and warned of the potential for genocidal acts if nations do not take prompt actions to uphold their responsibility to protect groups and individuals targeted by the Syrian regime.