Montreal, 16 October 2007 (FH) - The Global Conference on the Prevention of Genocide which ended Saturday, with events in Darfur taking center stage, was the occasion to point out the failures of the United Nations.

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"We should all be sorry that such a conference is taken place because it means that the mechanisms in place to prevent genocide do not work", declared to the Hirondelle Agency Juan Mendez, former special adviser to Kofi Annan on the prevention of genocide.
The Argentine, which held that position for four years, could not prevent the massacres that continue to be committed in Darfur. According to a Sudanese lawyer present at the conference, more than 600 000 people have already died. Salih Mahmoud Osman, applauded on several occasions during the debates, accused the international community of "neglecting its responsibilities in an area where hundreds of thousands of people have already been killed".
According to René Provost, Director of the Center for Human Rights and the Legal Pluralism of McGill University, the lack of listening that Mr. Mendez was confronted with, and that currently his successor Francis Deng also faces, proves "to what point the special adviser is isolated, to what point he seems to have little power inside the UN system for the need to massively invest in prevention".
During the closing ceremonies, the former commander of the United Nations force in Rwanda, Romeo Dallaire, expressed the same sentiments: "We always worked to manage crises but not to prevent them".
Another UN barrier: the Convention on Genocide, adopted in December 1948. "It is insufficient because it is too restrictive: it is necessary that there be a "targeted group" and we have to prove intent... improvable things ", explained to the Hirondelle Agency the French historian Gérard Prunier, director of the French Center of Ethiopian Studies in Addis Ababa.
He has surveyed East Africa for nearly 40 years and thinks that this is a "too narrow" definition that makes it possible for governments to support that there is no genocide, but rather ethnic fighting. "At the time of the Rwandan genocide, there were even people who said that the Hutus were defending themselves from the Tutsis and that after all it was ethnic clashes".
Mr. Prunier argues thus for a change to the convention of 1948, for a broader definition of "genocide". The extension to "genocide policies" would make it possible to take into account "the policies which aim at controlling populations by violence".
This need for change did not convince all the lecturers present. For René Provost, international law already condemns these kinds of atrocities by comprising them among "crimes against humanity". "To change the definition would go in the direction of a hierarchization of these kinds of crimes, which does not need to happen", he concluded.

© Hirondelle News Agency