Event « Why have we failed in preventing genocides and how to change that?” (01/21/2015)
Statement by Mr. Alexis Lamek, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. - ECOSOC - 21 January 2015
I thank Ambassador Winid for organizing this meeting today on such an important issue for us at the United Nations.
2015 will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and of the liberation of the extermination camps. The Holocaust, the systematic murder of six millions Jews by the Nazi regime will forever be a stain on human history. Seventy years ago Rafael Lemkin called for international cooperation to free humankind from an odious scourge whose anomic, immoral and inhumane nature shocks the conscience of humanity.
So what have we done in this regard? Some progresses have been made in the prevention of genocide. Let’s face it and I would like to give three encouraging examples.
First, we now have better tools for early warning. One of example is the work done by Adama Dieng and the establishment of the Office of the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide. As mark Lyall Grant (UK Ambassador) said earlier, the briefings of Mr. Dieng in the Security Council on the Central African Republic for instance last year have contributed in raising the awareness of the international community and allowed us to act urgently and prevent perpetration of crimes.
Second element, we are better prepared to act. In 2005, the Heads of State and Government have adopted the concept of Responsibility to Protect. Now when a Government cannot or does not want to fulfill its responsibility to protect, the international community must fulfill that responsibility, including by taking resolute and timely action. When talking about R2P we should not talk about risks but about costs; the cost of inaction: human costs, costs for the loss of lives and for the lasting destruction of societies. It is this responsibility that has led France to intervene in the Central African Republic last year at the request of the Central African authorities. Thanks to the timely and decisive intervention of the international community, genocide has been prevented in CAR. Even though the security situation is still fragile, things are now improving on the ground.
The third element I want to mention is justice. Adopted in 1948, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was a precursor to the International Criminal Court. Fifty years later, we finally adopted the Rome Statute. Justice is key for reconciliation processes and to avert the cycle of reprisals. The International Criminal Court is permanent and operational. When atrocities are committed, as they are today in Syria, there is no excuse for inaction. The Council can and must refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.
I mentioned a few steps in the right direction. But in spite of such progress, tragic situations, such as Syria, recall the ongoing need to further improvement. Tragic situations do arise despite early warning and preventive action. Crimes against humanity or war crimes are perpetrated before our eyes, while the Security Council remains paralyzed by the abusive use of the veto.
On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the World Summit, there is a need to strengthen our commitments to prevent genocide. That is why France is working on a voluntary code of conduct for the five permanent members to limit the use of veto when such crimes are committed.
The use of veto cannot be a privilege. It implies duties and responsibilities. We think it should be used responsibly, and when mass atrocities are perpetrated, the Permanent members should refrain from using it.
A seminar on the use of veto in the face of mass atrocities and genocide has been held today in Paris, at the request of the Minister Laurent Fabius, with scholars and civil society. Our initiative is a pragmatic way to improve the way the Security Council work, without resorting to amending the Charter.
At this stage, we continue our consultations with the other permanent members of the Council to address their concerns. But the next steps for us are clear: through discussions with the other permanent members and agreeing together on a text on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of creation of the United Nations for us never to be paralyzed in the face of genocide. It is our strong determination to move forward.