On September 10, the United Nations General Assembly is expected to adopt a resolution (UN Document A/69/L.88) that will designate December 9 as a day to remember and honor all victims of genocide. The adoption by the UN General Assembly of this draft resolution, and its creation of an international day for prevention of genocide and the memorialization of its victims, will send a clear message to the world that the international community is united in its resolve to confront the horrors of past genocides and to take more effective action to prevent it in the future.
The General Assembly is taking this step at the recommendation of the UN Human Rights Council, which called on the GA to designate this international day in a resolution (28/34) introduced by Armenia at its March 2014 session. The full title of the memorial day will be “International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime.”
JBI welcomes the proposal to create an annual occasion for the United Nations to remember all those who have perished in past genocides and to assess the effectiveness of efforts by the UN and its Member States to prevent this crime. We also welcome the attention it will direct to the Genocide Convention, as JBI has long pressed for universal ratification of this important treaty, to which 146 of the UN’s Member States are parties. The proposed commemorative date, December 9, marks the anniversary of the 1948 General Assembly resolution adopting the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Since its founding in 1971, JBI has supported efforts to prohibit the crime of genocide in law and to identify the early warning signs of genocide and has urged the UN and its Member States to take action to prevent genocide and punish perpetrators of the crime. In particular, JBI has long advocated for universal ratification of the Genocide Convention. In 2001, on the eve of the centenary of the birth of Raphael Lemkin, the Polish Jewish legal scholar who coined the term “genocide” and drafted much of the Genocide Convention, JBI published An Epitaph for Raphael Lemkin, a monograph by Dr. William F. Korey. At a launch event held at the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan acknowledged Lemkin, who had never been previously recognized by the UN, as “one of the unsung heroes of the international human rights movement.”
Today, JBI also supports the work of the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, the first UN post to explicitly address and advise UN leadership on genocide-related issues. In 2008, at the request of the Special Adviser, JBI began its Genocide Prevention Project (GPP) aimed at the central goal of deepening the world’s understanding of what it means to “prevent genocide” and when the presence of patterns of human rights violations triggers States’ responsibility to engage in preventive action. JBI’s Manual on Human Rights and the Prevention of Genocide, published in April 2015, is the most recent publication to result from this project. JBI also supports the UN’s Holocaust Remembrance Program and the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day activities carried out at the UN General Assembly and through the UN Department of Public Information.