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Preventing Genocide


Tourists are reflected on the glass frame of portraits of victims killed in the former Khmer Rouge regime's S-21 security prison, presently known as Tuol Sleng genocide museum, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (File)

The twentieth century has suffered more than its share of genocide.

The twentieth century has suffered more than its share of genocide: the murder of six million Jews by Nazis; the slaughter of nearly two million Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge; and the massacre of 800,000 Rwandans, among other atrocities.

Preventing mass atrocities and genocide, said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is a core national security interest as well as a moral responsibility. So, if a government cannot or will not protect its own citizens, then the United States and likeminded partners must act, she said. Force remains a last resort, and in most cases, other tools will be more appropriate.

In her speech, Secretary Clinton discussed the development of such tools, one of which is ensuring that U.S. foreign service officers serving in at-risk countries are trained to understand the warning signs, to provide accurate assessments of emerging crises, to take the first mitigating step. Another tool is technology, as it can help transmit information about pending violence almost instantaneously.

The United States is also improving its capacity to detect and defuse impending atrocities by enhancing its Civilian Response Corp, which has already been deployed to countries such as South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sri Lanka. .

Women are often the first to know when their communities are in danger. The U.S. is therefore working with women where they live to make sure there are early-warning systems responsive to sexual and gender-based violence.

Another tool to thwart governments that would perpetrate mass crimes against civilians is sanctions. These have been targeted against groups using information technology to further human rights abuses as the international community has done in Iran and Syria. Moreover, denial of entry visas to those responsible for mass atrocities ensures that they will not find safe haven in the United States. The United States will also continue to work to ensure that those who commit these crimes will be held accountable.

No single country can prevent atrocities on its own. As Secretary Clinton said, “If one were to look at the great sweep of history, one has to believe that we can together overcome these challenges, that there will slowly but inexorably be progress. And at the root of that must be our resolve, and that resolve must never fail so that we can say and mean it, “never again.”

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