“New Proposals for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” - Dr. William Soto Santiago
INTERNATIONAL JUDICIAL FORUM
"New Proposals for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide"
Benjamin Herrera Auditorium
Monday, September 22, 2014
Dr. William Soto Santiago
"New Proposals for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide"
Honorable panel members, honorable magistrates, prosecutors, and other officials of the national and international judiciary, members of the Army of Colombia and the National Police, distinguished national and international guests, ladies and gentlemen:
World War II left unforgettable consequences for humanity. The gravest human rights violations were committed during this war, through attacks that threatened the existence of groups of people, and the life and integrity of the human family in general.
The atrocities committed throughout this period in human history serve as evidence of the need to classify genocide as an autonomous crime under international law. In fact, most historians and scholars of international criminal law agree that the Holocaust, or Shoah, is the paradigm of genocide. This is what gave rise to a treaty of international law in 1948 called the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The obligation of states to prevent genocide is extremely important, and it requires the responsibility to respond diligently in the face of potential catalysts that may trigger this international crime.
In the context of the prevention of the crime of genocide, it is necessary for states to identify when they are facing the conditions that occur prior to this crime, in other words, the warning signs that indicate the possibility that a genocide will be committed, which must be identified and countered in a timely and effective manner.
And while the classification of genocide is a basic obligation of states, this alone is not enough. It is necessary and crucial to promote respect for the right of human beings to exist as members of a particular group, through an education that allows people to reflect, become aware, and have the opportunity to participate, for example, in forums such as these International Judicial Forums, which seek to prevent racism and discrimination and provide greater opportunities to discuss the scope and potential amendment of international instruments regarding the protection of human rights.
In addition to educating about the political, economic and social context that led to the Holocaust being the paradigm of genocide, we must also combat racism and all forms of discrimination to prevent them from happening again.
States indicative of a multiethnic and intercultural population, characterized by an anthropocentric way of thought, as upholders of human dignity, must establish and implement affirmative actions against discrimination as an essential requirement to ensure the right to equality, and thus prevent acts that are degrading to the human condition, which can lead to the potential commission of genocide and other grave crimes that are a threat to human rights.
In the development of this genocide prevention policy, it is necessary to establish permanent observatories in countries where they have not already been implemented in order to monitor exclusion and racial, political, religious, cultural, and gender discrimination, or any other kind of discrimination.
For this reason, the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace insists on the need to create permanent observatories to monitor any kind of exclusion or discrimination in countries where these observatories have not yet been implemented. And for countries that already have these observatories, the proposal is that these be established in all states, provinces, regions, and major cities within their national territory.
Article I of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide calls for the punishment of acts of genocide.
Article V is dedicated to the commitment of the contracting states to adopt any legislative measures necessary, within the framework of their constitutions, to implement the Convention and have effective criminal punishments.
Based on these ideas, and because the classification of genocide is an obligation of all states, I call on the congresses and legislative assemblies of the countries that have not yet classified the crime of genocide, so that out of respect for human dignity, and acknowledging the sovereignty and autonomy of peoples, their Criminal Code be modified to classify as a crime what the international community has recognized as the crime of crimes, which is genocide; in addition to ecocide, another international crime against peace which has not yet been classified, but is no less destructive, as it is a serious attack on the planet Earth.
To achieve this objective of the classification and punishment of the crime of genocide and other international crimes, through its Project Development Council, the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace is drafting relevant law proposals which will be submitted to congresses for their consideration.
It is precisely through these forums that the discussion of these legislative initiatives are promoted, which seek the classification of genocide in certain Latin American countries for the prevention and punishment of this crime.
The Convention also expresses states’ obligation to make significant efforts to strengthen or make changes to their judicial system and law enforcement agencies in order to investigate, prosecute, try, and punish this crime through national and international courts competent in the matter.
According to Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, this crime is defined by any of the following acts:
1. Killing members of the group;
2. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,
4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
In order to identify whether a genocide has been committed, it is necessary to identify the victim group. Indeed, the classification of genocide seeks to protect ethnic, racial, religious, or national groups of people. The approval of these subjects of protection has resulted in discussions that are still deliberated today.
At the time, the Convention was a necessary response to the genocidal violence, but times and societies have changed.
Due to these changes, the Convention now has a narrow definition of genocide because it excludes political and economic groups from its scope of protection as victims of genocide. It only classifies genocide as physical violence, thus marginalizing cultural genocide (or ethnocide), among others, from the scope of the Convention. Furthermore, it only considers the forcible transfer of children to be genocide, leaving out the forcible transfer of adults from one group to another.
We must fill these gaps in the Convention of 1948 and the Rome Statute of 1998, because they are opportunities that may well be taken advantage of by those with genocidal instincts.
When the Rome Statute was approved in 1998, the international crime of genocide was classified by the exact same terms. By this, I mean that the international community lost a great opportunity to update its legislature when it issued the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court, because they limited themselves to using the same terms in 1998 as they did in 1948, fifty years earlier, in the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Unfortunately, nothing new was said about the crime of genocide in the Rome Statute of 1998 regarding what was established fifty years ago.
My proposal as Global Ambassador of Peace is to review, amend, and seek the fulfilment of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Rome Statute. I believe that given the rise of a globalized society that is constantly active and changing, these instruments of international law currently have a limited scope.
In the 21st century, in the face of overflowing evidence of discrimination, intolerance and violence against certain groups, it is necessary to promote the amendment of the Convention and the Rome Statute to include political and economic groups as potential passive subjects of genocide, and to define cultural genocide (or ethnocide) and the forcible transfer of adults as crimes, given that all of these acts are perpetrated with the intent to destroy groups in whole or in part.
The project of the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace to amend the Genocide Convention includes the provision that none of the five permanent members of the Security Council be able to exercise their right of veto regarding measures taken by the UN for the prevention, counteraction or punishment of genocide; and if their right of veto is to remain, when it comes to measures taken against genocide, that it at least be required for a veto to be declared by the majority of the five permanent member countries of the United Nations Security Council.
It is imprudent and undemocratic that when it comes to the prevention or counteraction of genocide, the capital crime, one country alone be able to veto decisions adopted by the majority of representatives of the United Nations. Any such possible veto would not only be unjust, but a threat to democracy, disregarding human dignity, as well as people’s right to exist as members of a group; it is a form of discrimination against member countries of the international community.
Moreover, this project promotes the inclusion of at least one state in Latin America and the Caribbean, and another in Europe, as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
In order to move forward with this proposal of the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace, I need your support, honorable magistrates of the Supreme Courts of Justice, judges, prosecutors, attorneys, legislators, scholars, treatise writers and students. As legal professionals, you decide the doctrinal and jurisprudential criteria that set the standards for the reach, interpretation, and enforcement of regulations. As interpreters of the law, it is you who identify the gaps in regulations.
I am aware that a project of this magnitude, which seeks to amend the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Rome Statute, can only be accomplished with the support of everyone responsible for interpreting and enforcing the law both nationally and internationally.
It is necessary for the international judicial power to have the appropriate legal instruments to administer justice in all cases where an international crime, such as genocide, has been committed.
Respect for human dignity, in the interest of common good, is a constitutional responsibility under the rule of law. Truth is a requirement of justice, justice brings peace, and peace is our right as a human family; it is the preamble of happiness.
Thank you very much.
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