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SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 1683rd MEETING
Held at the Palais Wilson, Geneva,
on Monday, 28 February 2005, at 3 p.m.
Chairman: Mr. YUTZIS
Thematic discussion on the prevention of genocide
The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.
Thematic discussion on the prevention of genocide
44. Mr. LEVANON (Israel) said that he was speaking as the representative of the Jewish people, whose centuries of persecution had reached their apogee during the Holocaust, which had led to the coining of the term “genocide”. In that connection, he expressed appreciation for the international community’s commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
45. Genocide was an issue that concerned all individuals on a constant basis since it usually occurred when the perpetrators believed that no one was watching or caring about what happened to their “brothers”. The challenge was to prevent conflicts from reaching that stage by intervening effectively when necessary. Experience showed that once the violence began it might be too late.
46. First, in order to prevent genocide it must be recognized that words did matter. Physical violence was usually preceded by a constant verbal assault on, and dehumanization of, the particular group targeted, as in the case of Nazi propaganda. Such propaganda was usually orchestrated by the media, with incitement from the highest levels.
47. Secondly, it was important to report honestly what would invariably become evident: self-respecting States should not request that field reports be toned down. It was necessary to establish international warning mechanisms to report expeditiously on activities that might constitute genocide.
48. Thirdly, forces dispatched to guarantee the safety of endangered civilians must be given the logistical and political support they needed to accomplish their mission. Their commanders must understand that their success would be judged by the way in which atrocities were prevented.
49. Fourthly, the political and military leaders who instigated and supervised genocide must be warned that they would be held responsible for their actions. Lastly, civil society and the international community should strongly condemn the behaviour of the perpetrators in order to raise international awareness.
50. Israel had been concerned at the upsurge in hate speech directed at Jews in recent years and related terrorist attacks. Words led to deeds, and the question was what the international community was prepared to do to ensure the safety of humanity. In any adversarial relationship between States and people there were some lines that should never be crossed.
51. Mr. RAAD (Syrian Arab Republic) said that freedom was a right enshrined in the Syrian Constitution and upheld by the State. Article 7 of the Constitution guaranteed freedom of belief. All citizens were equal and exercised their constitutional rights. Torture and all forms of degrading treatment were prohibited.
52. His country was a party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and international instruments relating to the prevention of apartheid and slavery. Over the centuries Syria had welcomed successive influxes of migrants, as was borne out by its cultural heritage.
53. Syrian law prohibited human rights violations and protected against all forms of discrimination; article 307 of the Penal Code made any act or written or verbal statement inciting to religious or racial intolerance a punishable offence. There was no ethnic, racial or religious discrimination in Syria and there had never been any genocide.
54. It was necessary to strengthen the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in particular article 8. Israel’s practices vis-à-vis Arab citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan, the occupied Palestinian territories and southern Lebanon constituted a violation of the Convention. Such practices amounting to the crime of genocide had always been instigated by a mentality based on the non-observance of fundamental rights.
66. Mr. SALTIEL (United Nations Watch) ...
68. Although recent developments offered new hope for peace in the Middle East, real peace would require an end to what had been described as “an existential or genocidal anti-Semitism”. Propaganda and inflammatory statements from sources that included the Egyptian State media, the official television station of the Palestinian Authority, the charter of the terrorist organization Hamas and former President Rafsanjani of Iran amounted to public advocacy of the destruction of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. A secret archive assembled by African Union monitors in Darfur that had been published by the New York Times had included a document that apparently outlined genocidal policies and encouraged “killing, burning villages and farms, terrorizing people, confiscating property from members of African tribes and forcing them from Darfur”.
69. Since genocide began with words, he proposed three ways of attempting to prevent it: by monitoring the media in zones at risk of genocide; by establishing a “genocide alert committee”; and by showing courage. Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat in Hungary during the Holocaust who had saved more Jews than almost any single Government, had shown not only that one person could make a difference, but that one person could resist and prevail over radical evil.