The UN Genocide Convention of 1948 was refreshingly clear on the nature of the new international crime-- perhaps unsurprisingly since its enactment followed Germany's Nuremberg trials and the Holocaust by only a few years. It criminalized acts anywhere intended to "destroy in whole or in part members of a racial, national, religious or ethnic group."
Enforcement has continued since 1948 to be the major weakness of the convention to the degree that no actions appear to have been launched under its provisions against anyone for most of the ensuing six decades. The World Court in The Hague decided—surprisingly to many observers—only in 2007 and almost unanimously that the government of Serbia did not commit genocide in Bosnia in the 1990s.
Some jurists argue that the Convention is retroactive because it merely codifies pre-existing principles of international law. If so, it should apply to the Armenian Genocide of 1915, the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33 and the Nazi Holocaust until 1945.
In December, 1942, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had his first notice of the Holocaust when he learned from Jan Karsky of the Polish resistance that thousands of Jews were being rounded up and sent in cattle cars to the death camp at Belzec in eastern Poland. Churchill used Karsky's report to persuade the Allies, including the Russians still under Stalin's tyranny, to condemn "a bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination" in Germany.
Time does not permit me tonight to describe even some of the horrors of the Holocaust and Ukrainian Famine. Let me only say that the world will never know how many lives might have been saved if the hideous details of both the Holocaust and Famine had gotten out sooner to more persons of principle. Many observers insist that enough was known soon enough about both catastrophes, but, as in the later cases of Rwanda and Darfur, the problem was the absence of political will among the normally responsible members of the international community. Tragically, human dignity was universalized neither then nor now.
Pol Pot of Cambodia, being responsible for the deaths of two-three million fellow Cambodians in the 1975-79 period after he seized power, would certainly appear to have violated the Genocide Convention. Certainly he was protected from any charges or a trial for the rest of his life by a number of national governments. Only two Khmer Rouge leaders served time in prison and the trial of approximately five others has yet to be completed virtually three decades later.
Like approximately sixty other governments, Canada deployed peacekeepers to both parts of the former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s under the NATO banner when the UN Security Council, which shrieks for reform, was unable to act. The ethnic cleansing that persisted in parts of Bosnia, including the three year brutal siege of Sarajevo, should forever remind the world of the consequences of a lack of political will among European governments and the UN Security Council during those years. Rape was also a terrible instrument of this oppression. Srebrenica, where 7,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered, must never be forgotten either.
Many of the major catastrophes in Rwanda are described in Romeo Dallaire's book Shake Hands with the Devil. Last April at the new Canada War Museum in Ottawa, a number of speeches were made to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the catastrophe; my own is available on my website (david-kilgour.com). Suffice it to say here that--beyond the heroic roles played by Dallaire, Major Brent Beardsley and the locally-engaged staff at the Canadian mission in Kigali--the performance of Canada's officials was reprehensible.
Other Canadians acting for NGOs, such as James Orbinski of Medicins sans Frontieres, were outstanding in the very best traditions of our country. For example, one Rwandan nun told me in 1997 that her life was saved when a Canadian priest confronted a mob armed with machetes in rural Rwanda and persuaded them to leave.
No-one else to my knowledge from the Canadian government, as the events of April-July, 1994 took place, can claim any credit for leadership. Dallaire points out in his book, for instance, that as the UN Force commander he was expected to take peacekeepers from Canada with him, but he could obtain none in Ottawa, which made it even more difficult to persuade other governments to donate soldiers.
Rwandan Genocide Deniers
Permit me to add a word here on the recent campaign by some persons—hopefully a very small group—to deny that the Rwandan Genocide even took place. I suppose it should not surprise the world since Holocaust Deniers are still in business, both in our own and other countries. Both groups are thoroughly un-Canadian. They are also unhelpful to the world cause in this new century of getting this crime against humanity into the ashcan of history for good.
Like many of you, I've been to a number of the locations of mass killings across Rwanda and have seen thousands upon thousands of human skulls in church premises and at the school near Butare in the Zone Tourqoise, where the bodies of children and their parents were left where they died in the premises. At the Genocide Memorial near Kigali, opened in 2004 at the time of the international commemoration, visitors are told that approximately 250,000 Rwandans are buried in its vault alone.
What are the deniers really trying to accomplish in the face of so much overwhelming evidence? To attack President Paul Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Front? The remaining Tutsi community across Rwanda? Romeo Dallaire? All three? What an unspeakable insult to the memory of all the victims of the Genocide!
On February 26, 2002, the town of Nahibloiu in central Sudan was wiped out to make way for a Chinese oil well that now operates in nearby Leal. According to James Kynge's book, China Shakes the World, sourcing Peter Goodman of the Washington Post, "Mortar shells landed at dawn, followed by helicopter gun ships directing fire at the huts where the people lived. Antonov aeroplanes dropped bombs and roughly 7000 (Sudanese) government troops with pro- government militias then swept through the area with rifles and more then twenty tanks, according to Goodman's report, which was based on numerous local sources. 'The Chinese want to drill for oil; that is why we are being pushed out', Goodman quoted a local, Rusthal Yackok, as saying. Yackok added that his wife and six children were killed in the operation. The chief of Leal, Tanguar Kuiyguong, told Goodman that around 3000 of the town's ten thousand inhabitants were killed and every home was burned to the ground."
In Sudan's Darfur province, since April, 2003 an estimated 400,000- 450,000 additional African civilians have been murdered by bombs, bullets or swords of the Bashir military regime in Khartoum, or died of related causes, such as starvation and disease. The killing, raping and burning pattern in Darfur is essentially the same one used by Khartoum earlier in the Nuba Mountains and across South Sudan.
Consider what Sgt Debbie Bodkin, a police detective with the Waterloo Police Service in Canada, said at a fairly recent conference on Darfur. Bodkin investigated victims in former Yugoslavia in 2000, Chad in 2004, and for the UN Commission of Inquiry on Darfur in 2004-2005. She described some of what she heard during her victim interviews for the UN inquiry, including testimony from a 10-year-old Darfuri girl who was gang-raped by the Janjaweed. One of the racist insults used by the perpetrators was, "Slave, get out of my country". Bodkin told us that she continues to suffer post-traumatic stress in part because the "killers are still running rampant".
The respected New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, wrote several weeks ago in a piece headed "China's Genocide Olympics": "Just a few days ago, Sudan appointed Musa Hilal, a founding leader of the Arab militia known as the janjaweed, to a position in the central government. This is the man who was once quoted as having expressed gratitude for "the necessary weapons and ammunition to exterminate the African tribes in Darfur."
Kristof again: "The central problem is that in exchange for access to Sudanese oil, Beijing is financing, diplomatically protecting and supplying the arms for the first genocide of the 21st century. China is the largest arms supplier to Sudan, officially selling $83 million in weapons, aircraft and spare parts to Sudan in 2005, according to Amnesty International USA. That is the latest year for which figures are available. China provided Sudan with A-5 Fantan bomber aircraft, helicopter gunships, and K-8 military training/attack aircraft and light weapons used in Sudan's proxy invasion of Chad last year. China also uses the threat of its veto on the Security Council to block U.N. action against Sudan so that there is a growing risk of a catastrophic humiliation for the U.N. itself."
For the past five years, the party-state in China has run continuous interference for the Bashir regime at the U.N. Dependable support from a permanent member of the Security Council allowed Khartoum to defy a host of U.N. demands and continue with what one UN official earlier termed "Rwanda in slow motion".
Falun Gong in China
David Matas, and I concluded to our horror following our independent investigation that since the end of 2000 the party-state of China and its agencies have killed thousands of Falun Gong practitioners, mostly without any form of prior trial, and then sold their vital organs for large sums of money, often to 'organ tourists' from wealthy countries (Our report is available in nineteen languages at www.organharvestinvestigation.net).
Neither of us are Falun Gong practitioners. My own experience with Falun Gong in the numerous national capitals Matas and I have now visited, seeking to raise public awareness in order to bring these crimes against humanity to a halt, has been overwhelmingly positive. Falun Gong practitioners really do attempt to live their core principles of "truth, compassion and tolerance", which are shared by virtually all of the world's spiritual communities.
Matas and I have spoken in various countries to a small number of Falun Gong practitioners sent to labour camps since 1999, who managed later to leave both the camps and China itself. They told us of working in appalling conditions for up to sixteen hours daily with no pay and little food, making export products, ranging from garments to chopsticks to Christmas decorations for multinational companies. This clearly constitutes corporate irresponsibility of an egregious kind.
The propaganda phase of the persecution begun in mid-1999 against a then estimated 70-100 million Falun Gong practitioners across China demonized, vilified and dehumanized them in Party-controlled media. Many Chinese were thus persuaded to think of the community tragically as even somehow less than human. The phenomenon recalls a similar media campaign unleashed by another party-state in Rwanda against its minority Tutsi community prior to the genocide there between April and June, 1994.
There has been no independently reported instance of a Falun Gong practitioner using force to respond to police attacks on them since July, 1999. The former UN Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Novak, concluded following his own visit to China a year or so ago that two thirds of the persons being tortured across the country were Falun Gong practitioners.
The Chinese Medical Association agreed with the World Medical Association quite recently that 'organ tourists' will obtain no more transplants in China. Whether this is anything more than public relations cant intended to benefit the Beijing Olympiad remains to be seen. Another worry is that organs seized from unwilling "donors" across China will now go to wealthy Chinese patients, with the grotesque commerce thus continuing in the same volume. You can find an open letter to the World Medical Association under "Organ Pillaging and Falun Gong" at david-kilgour.com
None of these deaths would be occurring if the Chinese people as a whole enjoyed the rule of law and their government believed in the intrinsic worth and dignity of each one of them. Human lives generally across China appear to have no more value to those in power than does the natural environment, work safety, health care and social programs for all Chinese, or Buddhist monks in Tibet and Burma. It is the toxic combination of totalitarian governance and 'Anything Goes' or 'Carnivore' capitalism that allows this new form of evil in the world to continue.
In short, in all these terrible tragedies indifference from the international community is also one of the main culprits. Human dignity on our shrunken planet becomes more indivisible by the day. We must do better—much much better-- in future.