At our core, the Never Again Coalition wants the world to truly be able to say "never again" and mean it. So why is it that instead we - along with so much of the world - have to say "again and again"?
Post-World War II, we have seen numerous examples of genocides. Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sudan, the Rohingya of Burma, the Yazidis of Iraq and now in South Sudan. Serious crimes against humanity are being perpetrated in Syria, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, just to name a few.
In 1943, Raphael Lemkin created the word “genocide.” As a student, Lemkin learned of the slaughter of Armenians. He later used that knowledge to try to warn Europe of the approaching Holocaust. He is the man behind the U.N.’s first treaty on human rights: The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
In a 1949 CBS interview Lemkin said, “I became interested in genocide because it happened so many times. First to the Armenians, and after the Armenians, Hitler took action.” Lemkin saw a pattern that unfortunately has proven to be true. Without serious consequences, governments can and will commit genocide and mass atrocities with impunity.
South Sudan is the latest country that has fallen victim to genocide. Just last week, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights returned from a ten-day visit to South Sudan. “The stage is being set for a repeat of what happened in Rwanda and the international community is under an obligation to prevent it,” said the chairperson of the Commission, Yasmin Sooka. “There is already a steady process of ethnic cleansing underway in several areas of South Sudan using starvation, gang rape and the burning of villages; everywhere we went across this country we heard villagers saying they are ready to shed blood to get their land back,” said Ms. Sooka. “Many told us it’s already reached a point of no return.” The Commission is scheduled to report on their trip in March. Sadly, experts believe that the situation in South Sudan will escalate greatly in the coming days and weeks.
The situation in Syria is not a genocide but serious crimes against humanity are taking place and they warrant our attention. As the offensive to retake rebel-held areas of Allepo has intensified, leaflets with these words were dropped for civilians:
Adolf Hitler was quoted as saying, “. . . I have placed my death-head formations in readiness—for the present only in the East—with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
To go back to Lemkin and his mention of the connection between the Armenian genocide and Hitler’s decision to take action, it couldn’t be more clear that without consequences, world leaders feel that they can get away with committing mass atrocities. The U.N. has thus far failed to prevent genocide. As Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. has noted, “The U.S. helped draft the 1948 Genocide Convention, which embodied the moral and popular consensus in the United States and the rest of the world that genocide should 'never again' be perpetrated while outsiders stand idly by.” President Obama has gone as far as an executive action to permanently establish an Atrocities Prevention Board. But just as easily as the world can condemn genocide and other crimes against humanity, we have somehow not found the will to actually prevent it.
Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, a professor of genocide studies and prevention has said this about genocide: "But those who say we cannot abolish this curse upon mankind are no more right than those who said slavery could not be defeated. It is a matter of human will. And we make that human will."
So here’s your chance! Not your only chance, but three small ways that you can help speak out for those who don’t have a voice:
- The Ceasar Syria Civilian Protection Act passed the House on November 15 but now it needs to pass the Senate. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled its last meeting on the bill for this Tuesday, December 6. Call your senators today and ask them to support the bill. Don't worry if you didn't make the call by December 6, there's still time to have your voice heard. The bill still has to come before the full Senate for a vote. Call today!
- A U.S. led draft resolution on South Sudan in the U.N. Security Council is being blocked but we can still try to get legislation passed in the U.S. for an arms embargo and targeted sanctions in South Sudan. Send your representative a message HERE.
- Democratic Republic of Congo's President Kabila is trying to cling to power even though his term ends this year. Call on National Security Advisor Susan Rice to hold corrupt Congolese officials and their international facilitators responsible. Act HERE.
Yasmin Sooka, the chair of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights said on South Sudan, “. . .Many of the warning signals of impending genocide are already there – an existing conflict, resort to polarized ethnic identities, dehumanization, a culture of denial, displacement based on ethnicity and in some places indications of systematic violations and planning – but the important thing is there is still time to prevent it.”