The UN Genocide Convention of 1948 appeared 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. The instrument criminalized acts anywhere intended to "destroy in whole or in part members of a racial, national, religious or ethnic group."
Enforcement was initially and remains the major weakness of the measure 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—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. While my focus today is on other events, permit me to congratulate Canadian MPs for finally recognizing in 2004 that what happened in Armenia in 1915-17 was a genocide. For more information on the Ukrainian Famine, you can access a talk that I gave in Kyiv on my website at: david-kilgour.com. All Canadians should be proud of Edmontonians for erecting at our city hall one of the first monuments to the estimated up to ten million victims of Stalin's brutal starvation of rural Ukrainians.
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, to condemn "a bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination" in Germany.
Time today does not permit me to more fully describe the horrors of the Holocaust. 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 Ukraines's famine had gotten out sooner. Many observers-including this one- will say 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 robust political will. Tragically, human dignity was not universalized then or 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 Convention. Some argue, however, that because the convention does not include "political opinions" as part of the offence that it didn't catch his mass murders. Certainly he was protected from any charges or a trial until the end of his life by a number of irresponsible governments, including the one set up in Phnom Penh by the Vietnamese army after it occupied Cambodia ostensibly to stop the bloodbath. 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 was unable to act. The ethnic cleansing that persisted in parts of Bosnia, including the three year brutal siege of Sarajevo, will forever remind the world of the 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.
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 tragedy; my own is available on my website. 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 otherwise uninspiring. Other Canadians acting for NGOs, such as James Orbinski of Medicins sans Frontieres, were outstanding in the 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 from the Canadian government, as events of April-July, 1994 occurred, 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, which made it even more difficult to persuade other governments to donate soldiers.
For perspective, let me give some details of one of the many largely forgotten incidents occurring in South Sudan: 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 award winning book of 2006, 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."
If confronted about this, the Bashir regime in Khartoum would no doubt deny any involvement. The party-state in Beijing might say that it had no idea that its partner government would resort to violence to clear land for oil drilling. It's worth adding that in the Nuba mountains and across South Sudan many of the residents are animist or Christian as well as Africans, which makes them doubly cursed because Bashir considers himself to be Arab and Muslim.
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 on the Darfur catastrophe what Sgt Debbie Bodkin, a police detective with the Waterloo Police Service in Canada, said at a 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 especially brave woman in a displaced persons camp came forward and told her that approximately fifty African Darfuri girls and women in her camp alone had been raped. 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 last week 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."
The government of China is effectively now the master of Sudan's oil development. From the 500,000 barrels of oil produced daily, China imports roughly two thirds. This would amount to more than $7 billion in costs yearly if it were purchased on the open market, but, as Professor Eric Reeves notes, because Beijing controls the two major oil producers in southern Sudan, it pays only slightly more than half of market prices.
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."
Asked about the weapons shipments, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu replied, "In conducting arms sales to African, we carefully consider the local area's situation and development model and stick to the spirit of protecting local peace and stability." By "protecting local peace and stability," she was no doubt, as Eric Reeves has noted, "referring to Darfur's millions of displaced persons and hundreds of thousands of war dead".
For the past five years, the party-state in China has run continuous interference for the racist 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".
Government of China and Falun Gong
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.
As Ross Terrill of Harvard's Fairbank Centre for East Asian Research puts it (in his 2003 book, The New Chinese Empire): "The Fearful State in Beijing had transformed Falun Gong from a harmless, health-promoting lifestyle choice of millions of mostly older Chinese into a menace to the 'stability and unity' of the Red Middle Kingdom. That loyal and quite senior members of the CCP, some in the army, police and air force, were among the Falun Gong membership did not undermine the imperative to stamp out a potential, if unwitting, philosophic challenge to the state."
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 in future.