Padmini Rao, International Press (hereinafter IP) reporter for the United Nations General Assembly- Disarmament and International Security (hereinafter UNGA-DISEC), engages the committee in a short press conference to clarify a few doubts and to give some direction to the council.
IP: Let us discuss the genocide of the Tutsi minority in Rwanda in 1993. UN peacekeepers essentially failed to protect the minority citizens who were the clear targets of the impending massacre, because the troops were asked to withdraw. What is the point of deploying peacekeepers in the first place if they were going to withdraw and not save the lives of eight hundred thousand civilians?
Delegate of Cuba: This is not the first time that the troops were withdrawn after being deployed. This has happened before during the Suez crisis. The host country should accept that they want to maintain peace. There is no point in deploying peacekeepers if the host country doesn’t want them to be there.
IP: The Belgian troops that were deployed were guarding two thousand people from the Tutsi community who were going to be victims. These people were hiding in an abandoned school and they took shelter there particularly because they thought UN peacekeepers were going to protect them, but they were ordered to withdraw. What do you have to say to that?
Delegate of Cuba: In addition to my previous statements, I believe that another reason for the failure of this particular mission is the delay in deploying troops. By the time the peacekeepers reached there, there was nothing left to protect and the situation was out of control.
Delegate of Israel: The main problem is that a few host countries do not allow intervention by the peacekeeping forces in the first place. In other cases, the situation is too much for the peacekeeping forces to handle.
Delegate of the Russian Federation: The problem may also have been a technical glitch. The troops should have been sent with better equipment or more advanced machinery, but they had instead proceeded with light ammunition and because they couldn’t handle the extreme situation, they had tried to save themselves and withdrew from combat.
Delegate of the French Republic: Peacekeeping forces will not intervene in a rift in a particular country or region unless the nation that exerts control over that area seeks intervention from the United Nations, and if they do not want intervention from external agents, they will, essentially, send the peacekeepers away, no matter how honorable their intentions might be.
Delegate of Iran: The peacekeepers were deployed to protect the lives of the Tutsi citizens, who were, like the IP mentioned, taking shelter in an abandoned school, but the troops withdrew to escort white foreigners out of the area, which was turning too violent for the troops to handle.
IP: Gerald Gahima, a representative of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, who was lobbying so that the issue of the Rwandan genocide is recognized by the Security Council and so that steps can be taken to save lives of the minority citizens. Mr. Gahima went on record to say that he didn’t get the impression that the Security Council did not care about the lives of the eight hundred thousand Rwandans whose lives were in grave danger. What does the council have to say about that?
The delegate of the Russian Federation: I just want to reiterate what I have already mentioned in one of my speeches. When you’re fighting, when you are on the battlefield, you may have to face numerous allegations by officials or even people who are sitting in the comfort of their homes, and such allegations are not new to the Security Council. The veto power that the five permanent members have been given exists for a purpose, and what Mr. Gahima said is his point of view, but the Security Council has to consider every issue from a broader perspective, keeping the interests of all the member nations in mind.
The delegate of Cuba: There are different perspectives to every situation. In this case, Mr. Gahima shared his perspective, but the Rwandan Church has agreed that the genocide that happened was their fault.
The delegate of the French Republic: The genocide in Rwanda was a result of infighting between the majority Hutus and the minority Tutsis, because the minority had been responsible for the death a Major General belonging to the majority community. As far as the Security Council is concerned, we did consider the issue we did deploy UN peacekeepers to Rwanda but they could not handle the level of violence and the amount of infighting that was going on. We did not expect the number of citizens that would die to be this high when we sent peacekeeping forces.
IP: Let us move on to Bosnia. In the Bosnian War that went on from 1992 to 1995, there were three major instances of genocide. One was the Ethnic cleansing campaign that was carried out from 1992-1995, the second was the massacre at Srebrenica, and the third was the massacre at Zepa. Only Srebrenica is recognized by the International Court of Justice as a genocide. If the International Court of Justice doesn’t even recognize these events as genocides, how will justice be served to the victims?
The delegate of the French Republic: The definition of genocide needs to be understood by the international community for the International Court of Justice to recognise it as genocide officially. There needs to be substantial evidence and understanding among the international community for these events to be considered ethnic cleansing. Just because only one of these three incidents was recognize by the ICJ does not mean that the other two are not genocide, or that they were not equally harrowing.
The delegate of the Syrian Arab Republic: The ruling of the ICJ stating that only the massacre at Srebrenica is a genocide, might be shocking, but nonetheless it should be respected by the international community. Similarly, if the International Criminal Court decides to try our honorable President Mr. Bashar al Assad, we would cooperate with the esteemed organisation.