MADRID–A five day international conference on genocide and crimes against humanity completed its work in a picturesque village located on the outskirts of Madrid. The conference was organized by the Universidad Complutense-Madrid–one of Europe’s oldest universities.
Some two dozen experts from Europe–Latin America and USA convened in the magnificent edifice of the Euroforum Felipe II that sits in the midst of spectacular woods. Among the participants were Prof. Frank Chalk of Concordia University in Montreal–Prof. John D. Klier of the University of London–Prof. Claude Debrulle–Director General of Penal Legislation Concerning Human Rights–Ministry of Justice–Belgium–Deputy of the European Parliament Jos Maria Mendiluce Pereiro–Tashi Phunstok–Representative of the Dalai Lama–and Federico Mayor Zaragoza–former chief of UNESCO. Professor Vahakn Dadrian–Director of Genocide Research at the Zoryan Institute–was the only invitee from the USA. Some 300 students from universities all over Spain attended and received academic credit. Four major genocides of the twentieth century were the main focus of the conference–namely–the Armenian–the Jewish–the Cambodian–and the Rwandan. The instances of Serbia–and East Timor were dealt with tangentially.
Following Dadrian’s lecture–there followed a panel discussion for an additional two hours–during which Dadrian fielded a large number of questions from the students. Most of these dealt with the problem of denial and Dadrian’s theory of genocide–in which he discerns four major components: The history of protracted conflict that is not amenable to a peaceful resolution; disparate power relations–i.e.–a mighty perpetrator and a powerless victim group; the opportunity structure–i.e.–the singular opportunities of a global war; and the resolution of the conflict by resort to massive lethal violence.
Several outlets of the Spanish media–especially television stations–covered the proceedings. The main thrust of the conference was to highlight the pernicious consequences of impunity in cases of crimes against humanity and genocide–and to help create the legal and political mechanisms for timely punishment. In this sense–the conference was a concerted effort to highlight the plight of the victims and to work effectively on their behalf in the name of humanity and universal justice. By all accounts–it was a very successful conference in terms of both scholarship and educational undertaking.