Noting the crisis in Syria, the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Janša, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, called on the international community to develop a new strategy to prevent genocide and other mass atrocities.
“It shocks our conscience that we have been unable to stop bloodshed,” he told the 67th Assembly’s General Debate, taking place at UN Headquarters in New York, on Thursday. “In my view, the situation is critical. It speaks for the urgent need to consider strengthening the preventive capacities of the UN, its member states and regional organisations. Concerted efforts to avert mass atrocities are needed.”
More than 18,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since the uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began 18 months ago. The UN estimates that a further 2.5 million Syrians urgently need humanitarian aid.
The Prime Minister noted that, after World War II, more than 80 countries have witnessed mass atrocities, with at least 53 million lives lost.
“Behind these numbers there are still traumatised families and the distorted creative potential of the affected societies. Bearing this in mind, we should be able to set at least basic limits to the human behaviour and stop mass atrocities,” he added. “I therefore urge the Member States of the United Nations, regional and sub-regional organisations and the UN system, to develop a new strategy to prevent genocide and other mass atrocities.”
Noting comments from the US President, Barack Obama, and the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, on the responsibility of the international community to prevent and stop mass atrocities, Prime Minister Janša said that, to his regret, a “common understanding on the modalities of such actions” has not yet been achieved – making particular reference to the principle of the responsibility to protect.
Sometimes known as ‘R2P,’ the principle of the responsibility to protect holds States responsible for shielding their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and related crimes against humanity and requires the international community to step in if this obligation is not met.
“Moreover,” the Prime Minister said, “an intergovernmental forum of like-minded countries should be formed to propose a UN resolution that would set a clear mandate for preparation and adoption of an appropriate legal mechanism; a legal mechanism that would provide the responsibility to protect concept with new tools; a legal mechanism that will enforce the prevention of the crime; a mechanism to enable a more rapid and effective response to acts of genocide and other mass atrocities.”
He added that Slovenia “stands ready to start a dialogue to this end” and will convene, with the support of the current Assembly session, the first meeting on the initiative in the coming months.
Slovenia’s Prime Minister was one of scores of world leaders and other high-level officials presenting their views and comments on issues of individual, national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends on Monday.