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Friday, October 12, 2007

Global Conference on the Prevention of Genocide in Montreal

A Genocide Conference is currently taking place in Montreal, having been organised by the McGill Law Faculty. It has drawn together some of the foremost experts and minds in International Criminal Law from all over the world to try and tackle the issue of how Genocide can be prevented. How do we stop "Never again" becoming "Ever again"? (A cute turn of phrase that doesn't really make sense.)

I encourage you to look at the website of the conference. It is available in Francais or English.

I attended the opening ceremony last night, which featured four temoinages by four genocide survivors (holocaust - jewish, holocaust - gypsie, cambodian killing fields, Rwandan genocide). The temoinages were very moving for different reasons. Some were obviously still dealing with the pain for on a daily basis, whilst others were able to move past anger and to talk about why genocide happened. The cambodian survivor, Youk Chhang, was particularly moving, talking about the process of moving from anger to wanting to constructively do something about preventing genocide. He talked about the liberation that comes with no longer defining his personal identity through genocide. He finished by saying, "Now, I don't want to be known as a genocide survivor. Please call me Youk Chhang."

The ceremony also featured a panal of respondants including General Romeo Delaire. The General spoke very briefly and succintly about the crux of the prevention dilemma. He asked simply, what is that special formula that we (those trying to justify international action/intervention) can emply in order to convince government leaders to have the courage to rise above domestic reelection, public opinion and to act in the interests of the planet, in the interests of humanity.

This for me is the crux of international criminal law's modern challenge. There can be benevolent international government intent, and pretty slogans of "never again", and a functioning international legal apparatus, but if governments are not willing to implement available strategies provided by international law, then what effective practical impact can international law have in preventing genocide?

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