BRUSSELS—The Foreign Minister of Armenia, Edward Nalbandian, participated in an international conference on the prevention of genocide hosted in Brussels, Belgium, where he spoke on the prevention of genocide. Organized by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the conference was titled “The Responsibility to Defend,” and marked the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide.
The conference was attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland, heads of a number of other international organizations, Foreign Ministers from more than 30 countries, other high-level delegates, and prominent scholars.
In his speech, Nalbandian emphasized that failing to punish an act of genocide effectively lays the ground for its recurrence in the future.
“Since the adoption of the 1948 Genocide Convention, efforts were put for the elimination of the consequences of the Holocaust,” Nalbandian said in his speech. “The ensuing history of 60 years — Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and other tragedies — demonstrated that all good will is not enough to prevent crimes against humanity from happening again and again.”
“When we talk about impunity and absence of condemnation as a solid ground for recurrence of genocides, many refer to Hitler’s quotation from 1939 August when he rhetorically asked ‘Who today still speaks of the massacre of Armenians?’ But even before coming to power, in one of his interviews to a German newspaper in June, 1931, Hitler contemptuously referred to the massacres of Armenians as a possible option for repetition with other peoples,” Nalbandian recalled.
Nalbandian continued by stressing that the cause of recurrent genocides is the absence of an adequate, united international response to genocide when one takes place, and, moreover, the international community’s failure to retroactively punish genocide after it has occurred.
“Genocide prevention is a burden that should be shared,” Nalbandian said. “This requires political commitments by governments to stop genocide from happening anywhere in the world without subordinating that noble humanitarian cause to any geopolitical calculations.”
Nalbandian also argued that genocide prevention must include constant vigilance and detection of an impending human rights crisis well ahead of time. The international community must keep track of anti-human rights trends, such as hate speech, ethnic violence, and government propaganda, in order to act in time to prevent genocide.
Nalbandian also stressed that education about past genocides must be encouraged and its restriction in any country should be admonished by the international community.
“Such knowledge is extremely useful because grave experience shows that perpetrators of genocide in different geographical areas and different historical periods have been quick to identify the tactics of their murderous predecessors and learn from them,” Nalbandian said.
“The Young Turk’s Committee of Union and Progress in Turkey, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party in Germany, the Hutu National Revolutionary Movement for Democracy in Rwanda all used special paramilitary organizations as the main perpetrators of mass killings. These were Teskilat Mahsusa, the Schutzstaffel, Interahamwe. There were several similarities in the genocidal processes as treatment of victims, expropriation of their properties, ways of extermination in these as well as other crimes against humanity.”
“The remembrance days of the victims of genocides, Mets Yeghern, Shoah, remembrance days in Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and other genocides should be approached with willingness to move towards recognition and reconciliation. True reconciliation does not mean forgetting the past or feeding younger generations with tales of denial. The civilized world resolutely rejects the incitement of hatred, racism, dissemination of intolerance, the denial of genocide, crimes against humanity under the guise of freedom of expression. Denial is a continuation of genocide,” Nalbandian concluded.