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Major rethink needed for the prevention of mass atrocities
by Pablo de Greiff, Adama Dieng
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
May 2018
To effectively prevent mass atrocities before they occur, transitional justice is an indispensable means to contribute to sustainable peace and security, and is paramount to break cycles of violence.
“Prevention is not a form of crisis response. It goes much further than early warning efforts,” Special Rapporteur on transitional justice, Pablo de Greiff told the Human Rights Council. “Anything capable of triggering an early warning system suggests that early and structural prevention work has either not taken place, or has failed.”
A joint study presented to the Human Rights Council by de Greiff and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng, showed that the preventive potential of transitional justice has not been sufficiently recognized. This is mainly due to the tendency to regard transitional justice as a past-oriented policy only, de Greiff said.
“This neglect is surprising, as the promise of ‘never again’ has always been an important motivation for implementing transitional justice measures,” he said.
Transitional justice contributes to sustainable peace and security by helping to break cycles of violence and atrocities, the study states. In doing this, it delivers a sense of justice to victims, and prompts examinations of deficiencies in State institutions that may have enabled, if not promoted, those cycles, the study continues.
The study highlights some of the major reasons why prevention work has failed so far: failure to take early and timely action in the face of increasing patterns of systematic and widespread human rights violations; lack of genuine political commitment; lack of long-term, and sustained financial investment; and the fragmentation of knowledge and expertise.
The study also demonstrates civil society’s enormous potential in contributing to prevention. Both UN experts agreed that civil society could have an increasing importance beyond their common roles of monitoring, reporting and advocacy to help push further use of transitional justice methods.
The United Nations is in a privileged position to facilitate the elaboration of a comprehensive prevention framework. Yet, it is crucial to add substance and meaningful content, nudging on the links between prevention and human rights, de Greiff persistently argued.
The joint study represents the final official presentation of de Greiff, who was appointed as Special Rapporteur in 2012. During his tenure, he has addressed urgent challenges in political transitions through a deep and continuing engagement with governments, civil society and particularly victims. He echoed to the highest authorities the suffering of the victims seeking truth, justice and reparation for the blatant violation of their rights.
He has assisted a number of governments in devising strategies to address the past and prevent the well-known tendency of ‘turn taking’ in politics. The former Special Rapporteur has written several reports on the topic of prevention, and has consistently called for a comprehensive and strategic prevention framework.

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Rwanda is the fourth largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations
by United Nations News, agencies
May 2018
Today Rwanda is one of the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping, contributing troops and police to United Nations operations to help save lives and advance peace-keeping efforts around the world.
Beginning with a modest contribution in May 2005 with the deployment of one military observer to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), Rwanda is currently the fourth largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations.
After suffering its own genocide, Rwanda now contributes many personnel to missions that have protection-of-civilian mandates. There are nearly 6,550 Rwandan uniformed personnel currently serving with the UN, the majority of them in hot spots such as South Sudan, the Darfur region of Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR).
“Peacekeeping is a noble, necessary but dangerous mission. The sacrifice and risk peacekeepers endure is always at the forefront of my thoughts,” Secretary-General António Guterres said last month during the commemoration at UN Headquarters of the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
“It is particularly commendable that a nation that has endured the worst atrocities should risk its soldiers to help ensure those atrocities do not happen elsewhere,” he added.
The UN chief’s remarks were particularly poignant coming as they did just days after the killing of a Rwandan peacekeeper and the wounding of eight others during an exchange of fire with armed elements in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). Overall, 53 Rwandans have lost their lives while serving with UN peacekeeping operations.
Adama Dieng, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, noted that it is because the tragedy experienced on its soil that Rwanda moved quickly to send troops to places such as CAR and Darfur, where civilians were under threat.
“I can say that Rwanda knows exactly what genocide means,” Mr. Dieng told UN News in a recent interview. “That is why when I sounded the alarm in Central African Republic, in November 2013, Rwanda moved and sent troops to protect the population there.
For Inspector of Police Maurice Nyierema, who serves with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda has played an important part in his decision to serve as a peacekeeper.
“What happened in Rwanda makes my conviction stronger that we cannot allow something like that to happen ever again, in any place of the world,” he said.
Mr. Nyierema was among the 183 Rwandan police officers, including 30 women, who received the UN service medal in South Sudan in February of this year. The officers, based in the capital, Juba, carry out tasks such as city patrols and public order management in the UN Mission’s protection sites for civilians seeking shelter from violence.
A huge amount is at stake. Since conflict broke out in 2013, thousands of civilians in South Sudan have been killed in targeted attacks, women raped, homes and means of livelihoods destroyed. More than 1.5 million South Sudanese are living as refugees in neighbouring countries and more than 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are living under the protection of the UN Mission in Protection of Civilians (POC) sites across the country.
“People should learn to live together and to love each other, love their country and avoid divisions among themselves,” said Lt. Col. Kabera Simon, a Rwandan peacekeeper who served with UNMISS last year. “They should ignore what makes them different from each other and look at what brings them together and build their homes and nation.”
“This is my message: after war, after conflict, after misunderstanding, there is hope for the future if people are willing.”

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