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15 January 2014 - Special event on “Understanding early warning of mass atrocities twenty years after the genocide in Rwanda” - Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

I fully support what my predecessors said. I would like to make two points.

The first point on Syria to insist that yes, we have learnt some lessons from what happened in Rwanda. But the Syrian crisis is the proof that we are still powerless in front of massive crimes against humanity, which are committed by all parties, but mainly by the regime, which is shelling civilian neighborhoods with every type of weapon.

Second point, I want to confirm the commitment of France to go forward with its initiative on a collective code of conduct of the 5 permanent members of the Security Council not to use the veto when it would prevent the protection of civilians from genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It is really an initiative in flux, which means that we are asking comments from member states but also the civil societies, NGOs. We are all working on this initiative and there are a lot of questions which have to be answered. We have to try to answer these questions together: what is a mass crime? What are mass atrocities? What definition should we give, which entity is going to trigger the code of conduct? It is quite a difficult initiative and we need the support of all of you.

Last point, I would like to take the Central African Republic as an example. On one side you can say that the international community has reacted very quickly. The Special advisor on genocide prevention Adama Dieng and also UN agencies on the ground have not shied away from using the word genocide. The ICC Prosecutor has recalled her readiness to exercise jurisdiction. The African Union and my country have reacted. The Security Council has acted. We are facing incredible challenges on the ground right now and there are a lot of questions which are raised for the future. In the Central African Republic, we maybe had underestimated the hatred and the resentment between communities. And on the ground now, the African soldiers and the French soldiers are facing a situation where we are between two communities which want to kill each other. What to do? How to act? How to prevent them from doing it? During the day, there is a sort of peace in Bangui, but at night you have Muslim militia men who are killing Christians and Christian militia men who are killing Muslims. It is nearly an impossible situation for the African and French soldiers.

So, with the military, we also have to think in terms of tactics. What to do in very practical terms to be effective, to prevent people from killing each other when they desperately want to? Because we have to take into account that genocides are committed by individuals. How to prevent these individuals from doing what they want? This is what we are trying to do in Bangui. We have no reason to be satisfied because there are people still being killed because of their ethnicity or because of their religion. We are doing our best with our African friends but I think we will also have to draw the lessons of what happened. How has such hatred suddenly appeared? In the Central African Republic, religion has never really been a case of opposition between communities and suddenly there is this hatred. We knew there was some inter-sectarian violence but we did not forecast such a deep ingrained hatred. We nearly need to work with psychologists or ethnologists: how did it appear? And now how to try to cool down the situation? We are working with the religious leaders but obviously their calls are not heard. I think that we could have new lessons and maybe new recipes for the future stemming from this awful crisis. Thank you very much

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU