The world has begun slowly to step up its efforts to halt genocide and other war crimes, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a message to be delivered to a gathering of holocaust survivors in Rwanda this weekend.
"Painfully and belatedly, the international community is trying to do more to prevent and punish genocide and crimes against humanity," Mr. Annan says in a prepared message, released today, to Sunday's International Conference of Survivors of Holocaust and Genocide. He notes that tribunals are hard at work convicting at least some war criminals, while the Statute of the International Criminal Court is gaining more ratifications. "At last, the world is seeking an end to the culture of impunity," he says.
In the past decade, in Rwanda and the Balkans, "we have witnessed mass killings, ethnic cleansing, the systematic use of rape as a weapon of warfare, and other atrocities visited upon men, women and children solely because of the ethnic, religious or national group to which they belonged," the Secretary-General recalls.
Rwanda, he notes, "has much to show the world about confronting the challenge of recovery." The country is working hard to tackle the legacy of the past, "demonstrating that it is possible to reach beyond tragedy and rekindle hope."
Mr. Annan also points out that genocide shaped the UN's founding. "The men and women who drafted the Charter did so as the world was learning the full horror of the Holocaust perpetrated against Jews and others by the Nazi regime, giving added urgency to the task of building an institution intended not only to preserve world peace, but above all to protect human dignity."
Noting that Conference participants would aim to transform trauma into action to prevent a recurrence of war crimes, he pledges that the UN “will continue to be your close partner in this vital effort.”