“Not Safe in Any Part of Your Country”: Eine junge Hazara aus Kabul berichtet von ihrem Alltag in Afghanistan

Alia wurde in Kabul geboren und wuchs dort in einer schiitischen Hazara-Familie auf. Nachdem sie einige Jahre als Hebamme gearbeitet hatte, entschied sie sich, Jura und Politikwissenschaft zu studieren. Als die Taliban im August 2021 Kabul einnahmen, verlor sie nicht nur ihren Job und das Recht, zu studieren: Sie erhielt immer wieder Morddrohungen – weil sie eine Frau und eine Aktivistin ist und der Minderheit der Hazara angehört – und war letztendlich gezwungen, mit ihrer Familie in den Iran zu fliehen.   

„Denying is becoming Part of a Folklore“ – Interview with Srebrenica-Survivor and author Nedžad Avdić

Emma Neuber, Estella Müller & Miriam Schirmer

Doku im rbb: Krieg vor Gericht © Bild: rbb/LOOKSfilm (S2+), honorarfrei, Verwendung in engem redaktionellem Zusammenhang mit der Sendung

Dieses englischsprachige Interview ist Teil einer Interviewreihe und Filmbesprechung von Genocide Alert e.V. zur zweiteiligen Dokumentarreihe „Krieg vor Gericht“, die im Sommer 2021 in der ARD ausgestrahlt wurde. Die Dokumentation gibt detaillierten Einblick in die juristische Aufarbeitung der während der Jugoslawienkriege von 1991 bis 2001 verübten Massenverbrechen. Dabei werden einerseits historische Ereignisse rund um das Jugoslawientribunal detailgenau rekonstruiert. Andererseits geben Berichte von Zeitzeug:innen einen persönlichen Einblick in die geschehenen Massenverbrechen und den Strafprozess. Im nachfolgenden Interview schildert der Überlebende des Völkermordes in Srebrenica Nedžad Avdić was ihn antreibt und wie er auf die bisherige Aufarbeitung der damaligen Massenverbrechen blickt.

„Denying is becoming Part of a Folklore“ – Interview with Srebrenica-Survivor and author Nedžad Avdić

Nedžad Avdić was born in 1978 in a village near Srebrenica into a family of Bosniaks. When he was only 17 years old, he and his male relatives were taken to a killing field during the genocide in Srebrenica. Nedžad was shot three times by Serb soldiers. However, with the help of another survivor he managed to escape and survived the genocide. When the ICTY was established in 1993 he decided to testify as a witness in two cases. Today, Nedžad lives in Potočari, six kilometres away from Srebenica, as one of the few survivors who returned to Srebrenica. Recently, Nedžad not only participated in the documentary series “Krieg vor Gericht – Die Jugoslawien-Prozesse”, but also published the book “The Hague Witness”, in which he tells his story.

Genocide Alert: You do a lot of interviews and talk about your personal experiences publicly, for example in the documentary series on the ICTY. What is your motivation for that? What drives you?

Nedžad Avdić: First of all, the most important motive is the truth. However, to fully understand this, you need to understand the circumstances in Bosnia and the region and know some crucial facts. I never really escaped from the hell of Srebrenica, I did not come from hell to some kind of paradise somewhere in Bosnia where I could keep living peacefully. First, I fought for my life, then I fought for justice as a witness at the ICTY and the Bosnian court as well. And today I fight against those who deny the truth and the international judgements, and all the judgements related to the genocide and the war crimes here in Bosnia.

All this time, since July 1995, what was committed in Srebrenica has been brutally denied. Even some foreign media immediately after the war went with sarcastic headlines, such as “Genocide without corpses?”, alluding to the non-existence of mass graves.

Today, 26 years later, despite very precise evidence and despite numerous verdicts, the denial continues even more aggressively. We are dealing with denial, revisionism, reduction and minimization of crimes, justification of crimes, and glorification of crimes and war criminals. In fact, we have a development of a culture of denial. And denying is becoming part of a folklore here in Bosnia, it is a trend.

All these things drive me. So, do we need a stronger motivation than this? Can we allow lies, mythomania, and propaganda to prevail over the truth? That is my answer to that question.

Genocide Alert: From August 2021 on, the denial of the genocide in Bosnia is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. What do you think about this legislation, especially as you told us that denial is a trend in Bosnia right now?

NA: Much time ago, we needed that. Maybe now it is too late, but from my point of view it is better now than never. But some things cannot be solved by law. The main problem, in my opinion, lies in the Serbian population and also here in Bosnia, especially with the people who deny the genocide and the international judgments. They have a lot of support in Serbia and that is the main problem, because many war criminals – during the war, after the war, and today – find shelter and protection in Serbia or in Serbian entities[1] here in Bosnia. They are protected by official Serbian politics, by Serbian media and institutions. And that is the problem because Serb politicians were never confronted with the bloody past. And that law can maybe help, but they have to be confronted in their society. I hope that catharsis will come one day but for now, nothing happened.

Genocide Alert: How do you perceive the situation in the country today? To what extent do you still feel the effects of the war and the genocide in the society today?

Nedžad Avdić: I returned to Srebrenica around 15 years ago, in 2007. I feel the consequences of the war everywhere, not only physically but in every sense. In fact, the genocide has never stopped. A small community of returnees still struggles against elimination from all segments of life. Of course, the situation is incomparably better than 20 years ago, but we have a frozen conflict. And the denial of the genocide and the missing confrontation cause problems in everyday life, specifically here in Srebrenica, in eastern Bosnia where I live now. We have problems, like the denial of verdicts, the complete deprivation of the right to learn the Bosnian language in schools for our children, in fact the denial of our identity, the dehumanization of Bosniaks in public speech, on a daily basis in the media. For example, very rarely the term “Bosniaks” is being used. The terms “Muslims”, “Muslim soldiers”, “Muslim children”, etc. are preferred instead – but that is not fair and not correct. In that way they want to humiliate us and show us as dirty Muslims. And in fact, such vocabulary was used during the war and such vocabulary brought us the genocide and prepared the Serb population for the extermination of their neighbours.

Genocide Alert: Perpetrator voices are featured next to those of survivors in the documentary you took part in. How important do you think is it to include both perspectives in processes of dealing with the genocide?

Nedžad Avdić: The perpetrator who is featured in the documentary was on the Bosnian side and seemingly he talks about it openly.

In my experience, most of the Serb perpetrators just deny everything that they’ve committed. They do not regret what they did and they do not talk about it except when they deny it. The reason for that is that they find refuge and protection in Serbia and the Republika Srpska. They are protected by Serbian official policy, by Serbian media and institutions etc.

But I have to be honest: I do not like to be together with the perpetrators, the deniers, even in the film. But if someone wants to bring both perspectives together and thinks it is a good idea to have perpetrators and survivors in a documentary, I am happy to take part. But, I will always say that the perpetrators showed what they were able to show when they were committing crimes, and I do not see what they could offer more. We are talking about thousands of destroyed human lives and destinies, and we cannot put perpetrators and survivors on the same level. We did not fight gun to gun, people who were killed with me, were unarmed, defenceless and innocent civilians. Because of that, I do not like to be represented on the same level.

Genocide Alert: Do you feel that in Bosnia today adequate space is given to voices of survivors and the families of victims?

Nedžad Avdić: Definitely not enough space is given to the victims. We were not given any space voluntarily, because someone thought we should be given a platform to talk about our suffering. We had to fight for that space ourselves. We fought for everything, and we still fight.

As for the perpetrators of crimes, in Bosnia, or more specifically in Srebrenica, no space exists in which war criminals were ever given the chance to express any remorse. Also, since Serb officials deny the genocide, they have never actively claimed any such space to confront and process the past.

Genocide Alert: To what extent was the ICTY able to contribute to the reappraisal of the genocide and mass atrocities committed and the reconciliation process in general? In your opinion, what were the most significant outcomes and most important shortcomings of the ICTY?

Nedžad Avdić: In fact, we can ask ourselves the question: What would the situation in Bosnia be like today if we did not have the ICTY? We can only guess. I believe it would be incomparably worse, that’s for sure. Imagine having all those major criminals at large today? I can’t imagine that and I don’t want to imagine that. We, the rare witnesses, I don’t know if we would be alive in such circumstances. If we didn’t have the ICTY, today the war criminals would probably walk around as respectable citizens. That’s the good side of the tribunal.

Of course, the ICTY has many shortcomings: The first is that justice came too late, and many victims and survivors did not receive it. If we had had one quick trial, like in Nuremberg, today the situation in the country would be completely different. I must admit that my expectations were much greater. But as I said, many war criminals were sent to the ICTY very late. Why did that happen? It happened because they found shelter in Serbia. And Serbia waited until the last moment to send them to the ICTY. And that is a huge problem because the international community didn’t put huge pressure on Serbia to send them to the ICTY immediately after the war.

Genocide Alert: You also decided to engage personally in the work of the ICTY by testifying before court. Why did you decide to testify before the court? How was this experience for you?

Nedžad Avdić: First of all, after such a tragedy, the ICTY was the only hope at the time and the only light for us survivors. What I could do, as a survivor, was to testify how such a crime could be represented to the tribunal and later to a broader public.

In the end, it was my moral obligation and the only thing I could do for my killed father, my killed uncles, for my schoolmates, for my friends, for my relatives and neighbours.

My testimonies were difficult, very painful and exhausting because I had to go through the horror again.

For the first time I was faced with so many people who were listening about the horror in details from the first hand. It was pretty stressful for me when I found myself there in the courtroom in the first case for Srebrenica. It was the case against General Radislav Krstić who was convicted for genocide and sentenced to 35 years imprisonment. It was very stressful for me to be in the courtroom because it was the first time for me to talk about what had happened. And so many prosecutors, so many personnel, and the jury, and the lawyers who defended the war criminal were there. It was very difficult for me to talk about that, I was experiencing real horror again. And I remember that I was testifying there, crying all the time. And when they asked me after the trial to come again in the next case, I said: “It is my first and my last case to come to the tribunal.” But later when they called me again I accepted again because, as I said, it was my obligation and the only thing I could do.

Genocide Alert: Some believe that the ICTY has led to justice. In your personal opinion, did it do so?

Nedžad Avdić (Photy by Nedžad Avdić)
Nedžad Avdić (Photy by Nedžad Avdić)

Nedžad Avdić: The ICTY has done part of the job. We have to say that the court was quite objective and did not take sides, but as a survivor I can tell you that justice was at best partially served. Individuals from the top were convicted, but the regime that was established on those crimes still exists, devastation and ethnic cleansing remained, results of the war are still visible everywhere. Srebrenica today is in the hands of those who deny genocide and glorify war criminals. For example, our local mayor denies the genocide. It is important to ask ourselves if such people could have come to power if they had not committed the genocide. The mayor of Srebrenica is a perfect example: after the genocide, probably because of the genocide, he had much more possibilities to take power. Is that justice?

But, I want to express one thing: So, even though great injustice was inflicted, genocide was committed, we as an ethnic group were completely expelled, when all that is taken into account, I can say that the judgments are important in the end, because they bring us the closest to the truth. And just because of that I can say that I feel a certain relief, a certain amount of satisfaction. Because in that way, the ICTY discovered the truth and presented it to public – that is important for me. For me, it doesn’t mean much that some war criminals are in prison, because their imprisonment cannot return my father, my uncles, my relatives. For me the truth is more important than anything else.

Genocide Alert: From the perspective of a survivor: What are the most important learnings for future genocide tribunals? Are there any?

Nedžad Avdić: In Srebrenica and after that when I was loaded on a truck I could only see brutality and bestiality. But following the work of the court, I could see a lot of evidence, a lot of documents, a criminal structure, joint criminal ventures, strategical goals which actually were genocidal intentions. I couldn’t know such things here in Srebrenica, as seventeen-year-old boys we were in total isolation. I found out much about the war, destruction and the enormous scale of the crime from the trials. And maybe the most important thing that I learned from the ICTY and all that, but from the terrain as well: I realized that all conventions were just plain definitions on paper. In reality, they meant nothing. Each one of them was violated. I realized in practice, on the terrain and during the many trials, that we had and have many conventions, but they are not respected at all.

We, as human beings, especially the politicians, should react much faster and much earlier. Before the possibility of a genocide arises. Judgements and tribunals are only reactions that are always too late. If we had stopped the war and saved only one live, it would have been much better than any tribunal later established.

[1] Republika Srpska

GA Interviewreihe „Krieg vor Gericht“

Anlässlich der Veröffentlichung der Dokumentarreihe hat Genocide Alert e.V. zwei Interviews mit Projektbeteiligten geführt: Im ersten Interview mit Genocide Alert gibt Lucio Mollica, der der Regisseur von „Krieg vor Gericht“, einen Einblick in die Entstehung und Hintergründe der Dokumentarreihe.


Krieg vor Gericht – Die Jugoslawien-Prozesse
Das Grauen des Balkankrieges: belagerte Städte, vertriebene Familien, über 130.000 Tote. Der Internationalen Strafgerichtshof für das ehemalige Jugoslawien sollte die Kriegsverbrechen ahnden. Nie zuvor hat ein internationales Gericht Kriegsverbrecher aller Seiten verfolgt – darunter Mladić, Karadžić und Milošević. Der Film erzählt von Opfern, Tätern und Anklägern. – Der ehemalige bosnisch-serbische Politiker Radovan Karadžić vor Gericht am 24. März 2016 in Den Haag.

Titelbild: © Nedžad Avdić

Beitragsbild: © rbb/LOOKSfilm, honorarfrei – Verwendung gemäß der AGB im engen inhaltlichen, redaktionellen Zusammenhang mit genannter rbb-Sendung bei Nennung „Bild: rbb/LOOKSfilm“ (S2+). rbb Presse & Information, Masurenallee 8-14, 14057 Berlin, Tel: 030/97 99 3-12118, pressefoto@rbb-online.de

Beitragsbild: © Nedžad Avdić

Remembering the Holocaust: Germany’s approach has to change

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. A good opportunity to take a look at the German culture of remembrance. Germany is not the poster child of Holocaust remembrance it is often made out to be. Our victim-centred approach makes us forget that there were perpetrators, too – who participated in, and enabled, the unimaginable crime of the Holocaust. Remembering is always an important part of preventing future mass atrocities. For this, remembrance needs to be future-oriented and must prioritize learning from the past. 

Heute ist der Internationale Holocaust-Gedenktag. Eine gute Gelegenheit, um einen Blick auf die deutsche Erinnerungkultur zu werfen. Deutschland wird gerne als Musterbeispiel erfolgreichen Holocaust-Gedenkens gesehen – kein berechtigter Ruf. Oft wird hier verdrängt, dass es nicht nur Opfer, sondern auch TäterInnen gab, ohne deren Beteiligung das unvorstellbare Verbrechen des Holocausts nie möglich gewesen wäre. Erinnerung its immer auch ein wichtiger Bestandteil der Prävention zukünftiger Verbrechen.  Dafür muss Erinnern zukunftsorientiert sein und aus der Vergangenheit lernen wollen. Deutschlands Vergangenheit, die Erinnerung daran, und die Lehren daraus waren nie eine rein deutsche Angelegenheit. Dieser Blogpost wurde daher bewusst auf Englisch verfasst. 

The assumed “success” of Germany’s politics of remembrance appears questionable

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Why today? On 27 January 1945, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi’s largest extermination and concentration camp, was liberated by Soviet soldiers. Since 1996, January 27th serves as the day to remember the Holocaust in Germany, and is a crucial part of German remembrance culture.The UN General Assembly decided in 2005 to establish January 27th as International Holococaust Rememberance day, not only to uphold the memory of millions of Holocaust victims, but also to encourage states to prevent future genocides and to develop corresponding educational programs. 

From an international perspective, Germany is commonly seen as the prime example of a country successfully acknowledging and dealing with its past. And yet, despite ongoing educational and memorialization efforts, knowledge about the history of the Holocaust is declining. An increasing number of Germans, 37% according to a CNN Study from 2018, know very little to nothing about the Holocaust. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) points at a worrying rise of Holocaust denial and distortion, accelerated by populist political movements and the proliferation of disinformation and conspiracy myths. A German ZDF study conducted in July 2020 supports these findings: Not only do a quarter of all respondents not know what the Holocaust is, 28% are in favour of drawing a line under the Nazi past. While public critique of remembering this history are not new, they have become more frequent and less contested over the last couple of years: AfD (‘Alternative for Germany’) politicians go so far as to speak of a German ‘guilt cult’ that needs to end.  

A moment to argue for the importance of remembrance: ‘Drawing the line’ suggests that “the memory of Auschwitz, like a yoghurt, [has] an expiration date or that the past has already been sufficiently dealt with. The latter has been interpreted in a variety of ways: legal prosecution of perpetrators, reparations to victims, education. In none of these areas have German efforts been exemplary: The majority of National Socialist perpetrators was never criminally prosecuted or convicted for their crimes. There are renewed efforts to prosecute them today, but most witnesses have either passed away or are unable or unwilling to remember, and aged perpetrators are often unfit to stand trial. Institutional reforms and the dismissal of perpetrators were insufficient: To give just one example, in 2010 the publication of the book ‘Das Amt’ revealed the “high degree of personnel continuity within the Foreign Office during the Nazi regime and afterwards. Finally, with some exceptions and improvements over time, many initial reparations were the result of lengthy battles or their amounts not worth mentioning. 

In short, Germany’s dealings with its Nazi past have been severely flawed. In a context of rising oblivion, a right-wing party in the German Bundestag and most Länder parliaments, increased antisemitism, and calls that relativize, distort or deny the genocide of the Jews, the assumed “success” of Germany’s politics of remembrance appears questionable. As Eli Wiesel (1990) said in his work on memory, “I fear forgetfulness as much as hatred and death.”  

Now what? There’s a lot that can be done to improve Germany’s remembrance efforts and to address its current blind spots. Here are some ideas of what that might look like: 

1. Need to recognize complexity and multiple narratives

Memory, remembrance, and commemoration are all highly selective endeavours: Individual eyewitness accounts in particular are highly valuable, and yet by nature selective accounts of what happened. Bearing this in mind, remembrance efforts must aim to include multiple voices. 

This is not to say that ‘anything goes’. There are lines that must never be crossed: Denying, relativizing, trivializing, or distorting the history of the Holocaust or even parts of it is without doubt one of them. Germany’s current presidency of the IHRA in 2021 has thus made combating Holocaust distortion a priority. The challenge is to find a balance: to avoid accepting all narratives unquestioningly, but also to avoid a single narrative.  

To give an example, the need to address complexity and nuance applies to victim groups who have rightly been an important focus of memorial work in Germany and beyond: Not all victims of the Nazi regime and its collaborators have been remembered equally or at the same time. This is where the concept of intersectionality and multiple, overlapping identities comes in: Someone can be Jewish, a socialist, and homosexual all at once. Memorials tend to separate victims along individual identity markers though – markers that were used by the Nazis for categorization. For example, in Berlin there are separate memorials for the murdered Jews, the homosexuals and the communists targeted by the National Socialists. However, as Christiane Wilke, Associate Professor in Law at the University of Carleton, puts it (2013): “[V]iolence and persecution are complex, and so are the people who have been targeted”. We need to recognize that some people are persecuted along several axes. For example, Jewish communists have been found to have suffered some of the worst fates in Nazi Germany. Memorials need to take this intersectionality into account, rather than making artificial distinctions that deny the possibility of complex identities. A positive sign in this regard: In October 2020 the Bundestag agreed to construct a memorial site for all victims of Nazism, including civil victims in Eastern Europe.  

The Holocaust’s complexity must be emphasized in both remembrance and education efforts. Nuanced understandings of the past are a uniquely effective way to challenge narratives that deny, relativize, or distort what happened. Without knowing enough about the complexities of the past, how can we reveal the flaws in the arguments of those trying to question it today?

2. Towards a perpetrator-oriented confrontation with the past

In a national survey conducted in 2017 and 2018 in Germany, half of the respondents said that their ancestors had been victims of the Nazi regime while only 18% admitted that their ancestors were Nazis– a historically questionable figure, given that the NSDAP received 44% of German votes in 1933. What does this mean for remembrance? It shows that there is a distorted view on German victimhood versus perpetration and that we must include perpetrators in our accounts of the past. To be very clear, remembrance does not mean glorification, and the commemoration of the victims of genocides must continue to take precedence – but remembering how ‘normal’ people could become perpetrators must not be forgotten either. It is not about legitimizing or excusing their actions, but about explaining how the Holocaust came to be. The Holocaust did not just ‘happen’, nor was it brought about by abstract entities – people committed it, as the International Military Tribunal of Nuremberg rightly put it. It was not inevitable, either. Willing participation and support for a totalitarian regime, institutionalized anti-Semitism, and the systematic persecution of Jews and other victim groups necessitated popular participation, or at least tacit acceptance.  

The aim here is to improve prevention efforts: The lack of information on perpetrators in museums or at memorial sites allows for the perpetuation of myths, such as the depiction of all National Socialists as inherently evil psychopaths. However, such myths do not help to avoid such evils in the future. Browning’s 1992 book on ‘Ordinary men’ clearly debunks the myth that all National Socialists were inherently violent and sadistic people. He argues that the majority of them were ‘ordinary men’ and women. Therefore, it is essential to understand how such people could become complicit in a crime as unimaginable as the Holocaust: both as ‘active’ perpetrators and as ‘bystanders’. Clearly, there is a fine line to be drawn when it comes to portraying perpetrators: On the one hand, one must avoid demonizing them and portraying them as psychopaths whose acts are of course per se incomprehensible and abnormal. This is to remind us that ordinary citizens did this, that there’s no guarantee of non-recurrence  and that we should be wary of a sense of complacency. On the other hand, one must be careful not to create misplaced empathy for perpetrators or fuel  sympathy for their actions, as nothing could ever excuse or legitimize their crimes.  

3. Need for personal reflection and future-oriented remembrance

Finally, memorials and historical sites should be places of (personal) reflection and active learning in addition to remembrance. Reflecting on consequences and implications for the present and future helps advance the prevention agenda. German Foreign Minister Maas (2019) convincingly argues that “young people shouldn’t leave memorials with their heads bowed, but with their heads full of new things they learned.” For instance, the House of the Wannsee Conference not only provides information about the Holocaust and its origins. Amongst other things, it educates civil servants about the dangers of becoming an indirect perpetrator by demonstrating how their predecessors during the Nazi era contributed to Nazi crimes. Such memorials link the past to the present and the future and encourage visitors to become active and help prevent such evils from recurring. Primo Levi’s (1986) well-known quote comes to mind: “It happened, therefore it can happen again.” Holocaust memorials should point to current developments, such as the rise of anti-Semitism, and show ways for visitors to get involved in combating such developments. A promising example is ‘Jugend erinnert’ (Young people remember), a federal program initiated in 2019 that aims to facilitate young people’s critical engagement with Germany’s Nazi history.

Where to go from here? 

Germany’s role as the country the Holocaust originated in is unique, and its memorialization and remembrance efforts should be as well. What happened in the 1930s and 40s is a complex story about the harmfulness of extremist ideologies, the fragility of democratic institutions and civil responsibilities and the industrialization of mass murder. Such lessons remain as relevant today as they were then. Days like today remind us to learn from them. Rather than ‘drawing the line’, it is time to improve remembrance efforts so that the passing of the last eyewitnesses of the Holocaust does not go hand in hand with a significant loss of memory. Germany’s remembrance efforts should make room for complexity and intersectionality, without thereby relativizing what happened. Today’s Holocaust Remembrance Day is about remembrance but it is also about prevention. In order to prevent what happened from recurring, an unabashed, extensive, and critical commemorative culture is needed.   

Author: Noémi Blome

Open Letter of Concern to Governments on Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide Against Uyghurs in China

We, the undersigned human rights and genocide prevention organizations, and individual practitioners, are deeply concerned over mounting evidence that Chinese government policies targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim-majority peoples in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China strongly suggests that crimes against humanity and genocide are taking place.

The international community has the responsibility to respond to these crimes and protect Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples through diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means. The atrocities being perpetrated are no less egregious if they are found to constitute one international crime or another.

Under the guise of curbing religious and political extremism, the Chinese government has intensified widespread and systematic policies to repress Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples on the basis of their religious and ethnic identities. The atrocities include arbitrary detention of between 1 and 1.8 million people in internment camps, a widespread program of political indoctrination, enforced disappearances, destruction of cultural sites, forced labour, disproportionate rates of prison incarceration, and coercive birth prevention campaigns and policies.

UN human rights experts have raised serious concerns about “increasing practices of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, absence of judicial oversight and procedural safeguards within an increasingly securitized environment, particularly for designated minorities, notably Uyghurs” and that “these centers, due to their coercive character, amount to detention centers.”

Observers have referred to “a notable trend of enforced disappearances of Uyghurs,” the widespread destruction of Uyghur mosques, graveyards and other cultural sites, and the subjection of at least 80,000 Uyghurs to conditions that strongly indicate forced labour since 2017.

Most recently, reports have documented Chinese government policies intending to reduce birth rates among Uyghurs including involuntary abortions and sterilizations. In 2018, 80 percent of all IUD placements in China were performed on women in the Uyghur Region, despite the region making up only about 1.8 percent of China’s total population. The forced separation of an unknown number of Uyghur children from their parents has also been documented by human rights groups since 2018.

These measures meet the threshold of acts constitutive of genocide, core international crimes under the Genocide Convention, which prohibits “imposing measures intended to prevent births” among an ethnic or religious group. We also believe that the Chinese government may be perpetrating the following acts prohibited under the Genocide Convention: causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

These measures are also consistent with crimes against humanity, an international crime under the Rome Statute, including the persecution against an identifiable group on racial, ethnic, and religious grounds, forced population transfers, enforced disappearances, and deprivation of liberty in violation of international law

Signatories of this letter urge states to:

  1. Convene a special session at the UN Human Rights Council to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights violations taking place in the Uyghur Region and develop strategies to end these violations.
  2. Implement commitments on atrocity and genocide prevention through bilateral and multilateral diplomacy efforts.
  3. Independently investigate and make appropriate legal determinations regarding the treatment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim-majority peoples in China.It is our collective responsibility to protect populations from mass atrocities, including crimes against humanity and genocide. We must act now to prevent further atrocities against this long-persecuted group.

Yours sincerely,

Aegis Trust
Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Atrocity Forecasting Project
Coalition for Genocide Response
Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Keene State College
European Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Genocide Alert
Genocide Watch
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
Institute for the Study of Genocide
Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention (I-GMAP), Binghamton University
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
The Jo Cox Foundation
Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies
Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights
Remembering Srebrenica
René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights
Society for Threatened Peoples
Protection Approaches
Uyghur Human Rights Project
Waging Peace
World Without Genocide
Mehnaz M. Afridi, Director, Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center, Manhattan College
Daniel Feierstein, Director, Center for Studies on Genocide, National University of Tres de Febrero
Jocelyn Getgen, Director, Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic
Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, Associate Professor, Department of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Keene State College
Zachary D. Kaufman, Associate Professor of Law and Political Science, University of Houston Law Center
Peter McBride, Director, The Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Keene State College
Christoph Meyer, Professor of European & International Politics, King’s College London
Maxim A. Pensky, Co-Director, Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention, Binghamton University
Nadia M. Rubaii, Co-Director, Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention, Binghamton University
David Simon, Director, Yale Genocide Studies Program Karen E. Smith, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science
Gregory Stanton, President, Genocide Watch
John Sturtz, Associate Professor, Education & Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Keene State College
Ernesto Verdeja, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame
James E. Waller, Cohen Professor of Holocaust & Genocide Studies, Keene State College
Andrew Woolford, Former President, International Association of Genocide Scholars

Joint NGO Statement on Iraq to Commemorate International Day for Victims of Acts of Violence Basedon Religion or Belief, 22 August 2020

On this day set aside to commemorate victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief around the world, we stand together as civil society actors to honour those who have been persecuted and killed in Iraq for their religion or beliefs. Since the 2003 US-led invasion, Iraq has suffered internecine conflict and state collapse, degrading a once rich cradle of ancient ethno-religions and cultures. The Christian population, including ethnic Assyrians, which numbered around 1.5 million at the start of this century, has been reduced to a mere 200,000 today. Other minority communities such as Yazidis, Sabean-Mandaeans, Turkmen, Kak’ais, and Shabaks have faced existential threats in recent years.

ISIS exploited the concomitant deterioration of religious freedoms as part of their genocidal campaign against ethno-religious minorities across the Sinjar region and the Nineveh plains. The targeted violence sought to erase the presence of religious minorities in Iraq altogether, and particularly of the Yazidis, decried by ISIS as devilworshippers. ISIS executed those who refused religious conversion, and destroyed countless shrines, churches, temples, and other cultural sites. The effects of religious discrimination against minorities are widespread and intergenerational, as many of the displaced are reluctant to return to their ancestral lands for fear of religious persecution. This situation is compounded by the presence of militia groups in the Sinjar region and Nineveh plains and failures to meaningfully address governance concerns.

We welcome the efforts already taken to safeguard religious freedom and to counter narratives of violent extremism in Iraq, such as the Interfaith Statement on the Victims of ISIL endorsed by religious leaders from the Christian, Sunni, Shia and Yazidi communities, and supported by the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) and the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. However, without justice and accountability for past atrocities, religious communities will continue to face persecution and the threat of repeated violence. Improving religious freedom is linked to holding perpetrators of genocide accountable, to providing secure conditions of return for minority communities, and to supporting those who have experienced the trauma of religious violence that drove them from their homeland.

We urge the Government of Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government, the United Nations, and the wider international community to take the following steps:

  1. To adopt legislation that ensures reparations for survivors and delivers justice for victims of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
  2. To empower groups working towards social cohesion such as the Yazidi Survivor Network and the Iraq Religious Freedom Roundtable to advocate for their own interests.
  3. To promote religious education across Iraq by means of cultural events and activities that inform the population about minority communities; integrate education about religious minorities in the Iraqi school curriculum to combat misinformation.
  4. To implement innovative approaches to promote religious and cultural diversity, including community-based approaches using art and virtual reality technology, such as the Nobody’s Listening exhibition.
  5. For UNITAD and the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect to facilitate a follow-up conference to broaden the endorsement for the Interfaith Statement by other religious communities. The international community should expand its support for the investigative activities of UNITAD.


1. Aegis Trust (Rwanda/United Kingdom)
2. Air Bridge Iraq – Luftbrücke Irak (Germany)
3. AlRafidain Peace Organization (Iraq)
4. American Islamic Congress (United States of America)
5. Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (Australia)
6. Assyrian Policy Institute (United States of America)
7. AdvanceUSA (United States of America)
8. Central Council of Yazidi in Germany – Zentralrats der Êzîden in Deutschland (Germany)
9. Citizen Power Initiatives for China (United States of America)
10. CSW (United Kingdom)
11. Coalition for Genocide Response (United Kingdom)
12. Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience (France)
13. Défense sans frontière Avocats solidaires (France)
14. European Interreligious Forum For Religious Freedom (France)
15. Eyzidi Organization for Documentation (Iraq)
16. Ezidis Worldwide – Eziden Weltweit e.V (Germany)
17. Genocide Alert (Germany)
18. Ghasin Alzaiton Organization for Youth (Iraq)
19. Global Jothoor Foundation (United States of America)
20. International Christian Foundation for Democracy (United States of America)
21. International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (United States of America)
22. International Dialogue Research and Awareness Centre (Pakistan)
23. International Organization to Preserve Human Rights (United States of America)
24. Institute for Global Engagement (United States of America)
25. Iraq Religious Freedom Religious Roundtable (Iraq)
26. Iraqi National Center for Counter Hatred (Iraq)
27. Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights (Germany/Iraq)
28. Jubilee Campaign (United States of America)
29. Masarat (Iraq)
30. Minority Rights Group International (United Kingdom)
31. Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (Canada)
32. Nadia’s Initiative (Iraq/United States of America)
33. Nineveh Center for Minority Rights (Iraq)
34. Nuhanovic Foundation (The Netherlands)
35. Operation Hope (Australia)
36. Panaga Organization for Education (Iraq)
37. Project Abraham (Canada)
38. RASHID International e.V.
39. Refcemi (United Kingdom)
40. Religious Freedom Coalition (United States of America)
41. Religious Freedom Institute (United States of America)
42. Roads of Success (United States of America)
43. Shlomo Organization for Documentation (Iraq)
44. Sunrise Organization for Civil Society Development (Iraq)
45. TAJDID Iraq Foundation for Economic Development (Iraq)
46. Trauma Treatment International (United Kingdom)
47. World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy (United States of America)
48. Voice Of Ezidis (France)
49. Yazda (Iraq/United States of America)
50. Yazidi Legal Network (The Netherlands)
51. Yezidi Emergency Support (United Kingdom)
52. Youth Bridge Development Organization (Iraq)
53. Zarok e. V. (Germany/Iraq)


Internationaler Tag der Gerechtigkeit: Without Justice and Recognition the Genocide by ISIS Continues

Anlässlich des heutigen Internationalen Tages für Gerechtigkeit, auch bekannt als International Justice Day, ruft Genocide Alert gemeinsam mit 36 weiteren Organisationen zur Anerkennung, Aufarbeitung und Bestrafung des vom sogenannten Islamischen Staat an den Jesiden durchgeführten Völkermordes sowie zur Unterstützung von JesidInnen auf. Der International Justice Day markiert den Jahrestag der Annahme des Römischen Statuts am 17. Juli 1998. Das Statut bildet die vertragliche Grundlage des Internationalen Strafgerichtshofs (IStGH), dessen Zuständigkeit Völkermord, Verbrechen gegen die Menschlichkeit, Kriegsverbrechen und Verbrechen der Aggression umfasst. Der IStGH ist komplementär zu nationalem Recht. Nur wenn das nationale Recht eines Staates nicht greift, wird ein Fall an den Den Haager Gerichtshof überstellt.

Die gemeinsame Erlärung (auch als PDF auf Englisch und Arabisch verfügbar):


Without Justice and Recognition the Genocide by ISIS Continues

Joint NGO Statement to Commemorate International Justice Day, 17 July 2020

Following its capture of Mosul on 10 June 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) began to target northern Iraq’s ethno-religious minorities, as well as members of the Sunni community who stood in opposition or were perceived to be insufficiently supportive of ISIS and its ideology. In August 2014 ISIS swept across Sinjar and the Nineveh Plains, attacking indigenous Yazidis, Christians (including ethnic Assyrians), Turkmen and other ethno-religious minorities. ISIS went to considerable lengths to eliminate the Yazidi people, killing the men and adolescent boys, and abducting thousands of women and children. Young boys were indoctrinated and forced to fight for ISIS, while women and girls as young as nine were enslaved and sold as chattel to ISIS fighters.

Those held captive suffered sustained sexual violence under an organized system of sexual enslavement, were beaten, and forced to labour. ISIS had long been explicit about its intention to wipe out the Yazidi community, which it reviled as infidels and idol-worshippers. This intent, visible in the violations and public utterances of ISIS, is also evident in the group’s systematic destruction of Yazidi religious and cultural heritage sites. As determined by a United Nations Commission of Inquiry, ISIS committed genocide in its multi-faceted attacks on the Yazidis, whose suffering is ongoing.

Communal cohesion has been significantly undermined, and there is a considerable risk that cultural heritage and religious traditions may disappear forever. Countless temples, churches, and holy sites have been destroyed, tens of thousands of civilians remain in squalid IDP camps across northern Iraq, too fearful to return to their ancestral lands. Nearly 3,000 women and children remain missing, with many believed to be in captivity. Recent attacks by residual elements of ISIS highlight the grave threat faced by civilians in Iraq today.

It is the legal and moral responsibility of all governments to act in accordance with the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The new Iraqi Government and the international community must work together to bring ISIS to justice. This includes supporting and working closely with UNITAD in fulfilling its mandate to investigate the atrocities and empowering survivor groups such as the Yazidi Survivor Network. In addition, all governments should undertake the necessary legal analysis to recognize the genocide and prosecute their citizens who joined ISIS and perpetrated atrocity crimes in Iraq and Syria. The prosecution of perpetrators – as in the trial of Taha A.J. in Frankfurt, Germany – and the formal recognition of the genocide are key measures in preventing future atrocity crimes and in countering violent extremism.

International Justice Day should serve as a warning to all perpetrators that they will face their time in court and be brought to justice for their heinous crimes. ISIS cannot be considered a defeated enemy whilst it continues to escape justice. Now is the time to put an end to impunity.

List of signatories:

  1. Air Bridge Iraq – Luftbrücke Irak (Germany)
  2. Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (Australia)
  3. Assyrian Policy Institute (United States of America)
  4. Center for Justice and Accountability (United States of America)
  5. Central Council of Yazidi in Germany – Zentralrats der Êzîden in Deutschland (Germany)
  6. Coalition for Genocide Response (United Kingdom)
  7. Défense Sans Frontière Avocats Solidaires (France)
  8. European Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (United Kingdom)
  9. Eyzidi Organization for Documentation (Iraq)
  10. Families of the Missing (United States of America)
  11. Free Yezidi Foundation (Iraq/The Netherlands)
  12. Genocide Alert (Germany)
  13. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect  (United States)
  14. HAWAR.help (Germany)
  15. Hope Makers Organization for Woman (Iraq)
  16. International Council for Diplomacy and Dialogue (France)
  17. Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights (Iraq)
  18. Minority Rights Group International (United Kingdom)
  19. Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (Canada)
  20. Nadia’s Initiative (Iraq/United States of America)
  21. Nineveh Center for Minority Rights (Iraq)
  22. Nuhanovic Foundation (The Netherlands)
  23. Project Abraham (Canada)
  24. Rainbow Organization for Child Protection (Iraq)
  25. Road to Peace (United Kingdom)
  26. Sanabl Al Mostakbal (Iraq)
  27. Society for Threatened Peoples – Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker-International (Germany)
  28. Shlomo Organization for Documentation (Iraq)
  29. STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities (United States of America)
  30. Sunrise Organization for Civil Society Development (Iraq)
  31. Trauma Treatment International (United Kingdom)
  32. Women’s Refugee Commission (United States of America)
  33. Voice Of Ezidis (France)
  34. Yazda (Iraq/United States of America)
  35. Yazidi Legal Network (The Netherlands)
  36. YES- Yezidi Emergency Support (UK)
  37. Youth Bridge Development Organization (Iraq)


UN Security Council: Germany’s Priority for Prevention

In 2018, Germany campaigned for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council for the period of 2019/2020 with a platform for conflict prevention and resolution amongst four other priorities. This article analyzes what happened to the German ‘Priority for Prevention’ during its 2019 membership on the Council and what lessons could be carried over to the final presidency month of July 2020.

Germany worked hard on defending multilateralism and on long-standing conflicts like Sudan and Libya, protecting the rule of law, as well as resolution 2467 on Women, Peace and Security, yet no concrete resolution or agenda item was achieved on prevention. The initial ‘Priority for Prevention’ was consequently transformed into a general leitmotif for 2020. However, presented with the 2020 ‘European Spring’ and the German twin presidencies of the EU and the Security Council in July, much could still be achieved to improve the Council’s working methods and tools to make it better suited to preserve peace and avert emerging crises.

Germany should continue to advocate for a comprehensive prevention approach in the Council, as well as for the establishment of a working group on prevention and a transparent and scientific mechanism for early warning that is consistently available to all its Members. Additionally, Germany should continue to empower the sharing of best practices on prevention by UN experts, as well as civil society briefers and national Responsibility to Protect focal points. Critical is also the continued empowerment of women and affected civil society representatives, to increase the body’s accountability to the civilians it intends to serve.

The German Priority for Prevention Agenda 

“Prevention is, for us, an end in itself. It should never be seen as the instrument of any other political agenda. First and foremost, it saves lives and protects people from harm.  But prevention also makes economic sense. The recent United Nations-World Bank study, Pathways for Peace, concluded that prevention would save some $34 billion in damage in countries that avoid war.  These benefits are compounded over time to reach over $140 billion after 15 years.”
UN Secretary-General Guterres   

During the 22 May 2018 United Nations (UN) Security Council quarterly debate on civilian protection, the  German Permanent Representative to the UN, Christoph Heusgen, emphasized the need to bridge the gap between words and actions: If Germany were elected to the Council, it would try to place conflict prevention very high on the Council’s agenda. Regarding the fate of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, he said much of their suffering could have been prevented had the Council paid attention to that situation earlier. “We saw it coming,” he recalled, calling urgently upon the Government of Myanmar to start a structured dialogue with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence.

Indeed, Germany campaigned and won in June 2018 a non-permanent seat on the Security Council of the UN for the 2019/2020 period centered on (i) conflict resolution and conflict prevention amongst the four other priorities; (ii) climate change and security policy, (iii) Women, Peace and Security, (iiii) strengthening the system of international humanitarian law and (iv) disarmament.

After its election, Germany further emphasized the self-professed primacy of politics and “Priority for Prevention” for its 2019/2020 Security Council membership agenda. Additionally, the federal government proclaimed itself committed to further developing the UN and its specialized agencies’ crises and conflict prevention instruments, as part of the Sustaining Peace concept of the Security Council and the General Assembly, and by supporting the modernization and enhancing the efficiency of UN Peacekeeping.

Germany applies a comprehensive definition of prevention. It defines prevention as identifying and defusing conflicts before they flare up, with a clear emphasis on civilian instruments, whether it be mediation, dealing with the past, or humanitarian assistance. Germany emphasizes a close coordination of development, foreign, policy and security efforts to try to prevent crises and conflicts from erupting. Combat missions remain the last resort for the German government.

François Delattre (left), Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations and President of the Security Council for the month of March and Christoph Heusgen (right), Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations and President of the Security Council for the month of April, hold a joint press briefing on the upcoming programme of work for the Security Council. (Source: UN Photo #799601 )

François Delattre (left), Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations and President of the Security Council for the month of March and Christoph Heusgen (right), Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations and President of the Security Council for the month of April, hold a joint press briefing on the upcoming programme of work for the Security Council. (Source: UN Photo #799601 )

Not surprisingly, the German foreign policy Priority for Prevention is coupled with an emphasis on the UN, as a critical component to the government’s long-standing commitment to multilateralism, as well as European integration. Germany conducted its first turn of the 2019 presidency of the Security Council, as a joint presidency with France (called Jumelage), a permanent member, during March and April of 2019 with the expressed hope that this coordination will be the means for making greater progress with respect to substantive issues before the Security Council and its working methods.

The role of women in conflict situations was the Jumelage’s shared priority, with a focus on women’s protection and their empowerment. The strengthening of humanitarian law was another shared goal in regard to protecting international humanitarian personnel. However, there was no longer an explicit mention of conflict resolution nor prevention for the shared presidencies. Given the lack of concrete agenda items for the initial conflict resolution and conflict prevention focus of the German presidency and lack of policy outcomes in terms of sponsored resolutions in the declared focus area, the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) policy initiative provides only an indirect effect on the initial prevention priority. 20 years ago, the Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) already highlighted the disproportionately severe impact of armed conflicts on women and linked gender equality to the maintenance of international peace and security.

In August 2019, Christoph Heusgen, stressed again the important role of the Security Council and wanted to ensure that the body gets involved when a crisis is still developing rather than when it has fully manifested itself, changing effectively the reactive nature of the body up to now.

In January 2020, while taking stock of its presidency, the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reemphasized that the Council should be more of a crisis prevention body than a crisis reaction panel. Therefore, Germany would double down on its prevention approach in the Council for the new year 2020. However, as Germany takes the presidency for a final turn in July 2020 not much has materialized out of the Priority for Prevention agenda.

What went wrong?

The proclaimed prevention priority is deeply connected to the German reason of state with a self-assigned duty to advocate for crisis prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding all over the world out of a moral obligation, as well as for the sake of Germany’s own interests. As a signatory of the General Assembly’s  2005 World Summit Outcome document, Germany developed its own national “Federal Government’s Guidelines on Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace”, which informs its foreign policy goals, is properly staffed and funded in the Foreign Ministry and hence there was no lack of national political backing from Berlin for the Security Council team.

Germany’s presidency of the Council started with the symbolic full opening of the Council meeting room’s curtains. Rather open and transparent was also the tone set by Representative Heusgen, deviating from the norm of endless prepared speeches for an open discussion in the Council, which was met with momentary goodwill.

During the first Jumelage presidency of  the month of April, the programme of work for the Council highlighted several German efforts, especially with regard to the thematic sessions of the Council: The strengthening and promotion of the rule of law was debated in a briefing, followed by a briefing on non-proliferation on the 2nd of April, highlighting the importance of non-traditional threats to security. An open debate on the 11th of April discussed women in peacekeeping and another open debate on Women, Peace and Security was held on the 23rd of April with an emphasis on sexual violence in conflict. 

However, the prevention agenda was met with little enthusiasm alongside a steady decline of human rights activism in the Council. The United States (US), the country with one of the most advanced national prevention frameworks and who had previously sent an expert on genocide prevention to the Council, with former Ambassador Samantha Power, has steadily retreated from multilateral efforts, treaties and institutions like the Human Rights Council under the America First doctrine. Just as Germany’s  last membership in 2011/12 was overshadowed by strong disagreement with its traditional ally the US over the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya, the increasing multitude of conflicts with US diplomats became apparent especially over the German WPS agenda.

Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, addresses the Security Council meeting on women and peace and security, with a focus on sexual violence in conflict. 23 April 2019 (Source: UN Photo #805125)

Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, addresses the Security Council meeting on women and peace and security, with a focus on sexual violence in conflict.
23 April 2019 (Source: UN Photo #805125)

Celebrating the 20 year anniversary of resolution 1325 (2000) a reinforced resolution on accountability, was supposed to be the crowning achievement of the German 2019 presidency. As the United Nations summarized the atmosphere in the Security Council situation in 2019, China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States – the Council’s five permanent members – found themselves particularly at odds over questions of State sovereignty, trading sporadic accusations of interference in domestic affairs. Alongside Russia and China, the US defended a narrow concept of security. The Trump administration advocated for an exclusion of reproductive and sexual rights from any resolutions or programs, hence rolling back previous achievements.

Despite the announced opposition to reproductive rights and abortion in particular, Germany co-chaired the Security Council Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security, inviting the Libyan civil society representative Inas Miloud, alongside Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. The German initiative was actively supported at the highest level by Foreign Minister Maas and Minister of State Michelle Müntefering with a thematic focus on the rights of survivors of sexual violence. The German sponsored resolution 2467 passed on 23. April in 2019 with 13 of the 15 votes and two abstentions by Russia and China, with watered down language on reproductive rights.

In 2015, UN Women coordinated the Global Study on the Implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325, which already noted that the majority of the Security Council’s work on Women, Peace and Security has focused on protection of women and girls rather than prevention or effective participation.

Given the shortcomings of the highly anticipated resolution, Germany vowed to again focus on the issue of sexual violence in conflict during its July 2020 presidency. The goal is to institute accountability for the implementation of passed resolutions, as well as to continue to engage and empower female civil society representation in the Security Council, as well as at the German Foreign Office for the implementation of agenda 1325.

The WPS resolution represents the most concrete result of the German presidency in 2019. Yet, this most celebrated victory by the German Foreign Minister falls short on delivering comprehensively and systematically on the Priority for Prevention. There were and are no items on the programme of work for conflict prevention. Despite having dropped the Priority for Prevention as an outright agenda item, given the prescribed stalemates in the Security Council, rejection of an expansive security concept and the daily grind of addressing long standing conflicts like Afghanistan, the summary of Germany’s actions in the Security Council, like the WPS resolution that brings accountability to the perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict, have contributed to conflict prevention indirectly.

Germany’s positive impact on working methods

Despite the often-mentioned bureaucracy, gridlock and long standing agenda slots for discussions on continued crises such as Syria, Yemen and Libya, Germany successfully advocated for civil society briefings, also referred to as Arria-Formula-Meetings, by affected populations, such as women’s rights activists from Syria, to advance accountability in the Council. According to Representative Heusgen, April 2019 had the highest number of civilians briefing the Security Council to date.

Despite the lack of results on prevention, a critical benefit of a Germany’s membership in the Security Council was and is its willingness to cooperate and coordinate with other permanent and non-permanent members, like Sweden, who shares the emphasis on prevention. The German willingness to pass on lessons learned to upcoming fellow European members, such as Ireland that also advocate for a stronger prevention role of the Council, offers a strategic and long-term opportunity to advance the Council’s prevention capabilities. 2020 offers the unique diplomatic advantage of a “European Spring”, with fellow EU member states Belgium, Estonia, France and Germany all holding the SC presidency. Through the 2019 Jumelage, Germany has shown how the working methods of the Security Council can be enriched for the benefit of the Council and it continues to strengthen the institution and its capabilities, while it is increasingly under attack from within.

In the face of the Corona pandemic, the Council was unable to reach a call for a global cease fire until July 2020, mainly due to Chinese and American antagonism during the Covid-19 crisis, further highlighting the fault lines in the Council along a comprehensive security concept. The unprecedented opportunity of having the twin presidency of the Security Council and the EU Council in July 2020 should be capitalized upon to advance prevention holistically and strategically for the future, with as many allies as possible, given the stalemates in the Security Council and amongst the P5.

Inas Miloud, co-founder and chairperson of Tamazight Women's Movement, addresses the Security Council meeting on women and peace and security, with a focus on sexual violence in conflict. (Source: UN Photo #805200)

Inas Miloud, co-founder and chairperson of Tamazight Women’s Movement, addresses the Security Council meeting on women and peace and security, with a focus on sexual violence in conflict. (Source: UN Photo #805200)

Informal briefings like the Horizon-Scanning of potential conflicts with the Secretariat should be further institutionalized into a Working Group on Prevention. Establishing a systematic, constant and transparent Early Warning Mechanism for the Council, for example based on the Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes by the Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, would be to the benefit of the Council’s role to preserve peace and avert emerging crises. Germany should not only advocate for consistency, but also increased diversity of Security Council briefings with a clear aim of bringing a gender expertise from UN and civilian conflict prevention experts, as well as to increase lessons learned and share good practices from for example national R2P focal points. Implementing resolution 2467, Germany should continue championing expert participation by female civil society representatives and affected communities, as women are again suffering disproportionally more from crises, like the current Covid-19 pandemic, further hindering an empowered role in prevention.

A more comprehensive and multilateral approach

In this 75th UN anniversary year, the German Foreign Office maintains its campaign for a reform of the Security Council, having also been one of the strong political and financial supporters of Secretary-General Guterres UN reforms over the last years for a more nimble, accountable and transparent organization. During its presidency, Germany increasingly found itself defending the rule based international order, including the legally binding nature of Security Council resolutions and their enforcement. In particular, the German Mission to the UN was vocal in its support of the International Criminal Court as “a lynchpins of our int’l justice system & a central institution in the fight against impunity”, against the most recent US Executive Order 11 attack on its staff. During the General Assembly high level meetings in fall 2019, Germany founded the Alliance for Multilateralism, an important proactive action to uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter of which international justice is an indispensable pillar.

Germany has also hinted at supporting the creation of a post in the Secretariat focused on climate change and security, while advocating for the recognition of climate change, as a major risk to peace and security for its July agenda. Additionally, Germany wants to put human rights related to peace operations on the agenda and place human rights at the heart of UN peace operations. Both would have positive impacts on conflict prevention, in terms of identifying conflict risks and strengthening human rights. Despite the lack of concrete results during its 2019 presidency, Germany vows that conflict prevention and resolution will be the leitmotif for Germany’s second Council Presidency. The leitmotif is justified by holding open debates on the above-mentioned subjects alone, examining the links between security and health, climate change or human rights. The shift in the German approach to prevention from a clear priority during its SC campaign and run up to its first presidency month to a general leitmotif in its final presidency month of July, is a noticeable decline.

China, Russia and nowadays the US are willing to defund human rights posts, as well as withhold annual membership payments (assessments), reflected by increasingly tense Fifth Committee budget negotiations and the so-called UN cash flow crisis of 2019, largely due to delayed payment of annual assessments by the US, amongst others. Last year has also shown the need to strengthen the protection of human rights defenders when they address the UN, with increasing online harassment of female UN diplomats, as well as visa issues for civil society organization representatives and simple UN building access challenges. These trends require Germany to robustly strengthen human rights funding and programmes, especially the often-overlooked maintenance and expansion of UN prevention capabilities. During 2020, Germany has the unique privilege of being an elected member of both the Human Rights Council, as well as the Security Council.

As Germany proclaimed in its federal prevention guidelines, “international engagement for crisis prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding is a lengthy and laborious task. However, perseverance and a long-term approach will pay off in the long run”. As we commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Responsibility to Protect, it is important that as a strong advocate for prevention, Germany keeps pushing against the decline of human rights inside the Council and for an expansive and comprehensive definition of security that focuses on civil society engagement and strengthening women’s role in all aspects of crises prevention.

Author: Anna-Marie Hetterich

Rohingya and the ICC – The Rights of the Rohingya?

The “preliminary probe” announced by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in response to the exodus of the Rohingya opens the door to further international legal inquiry into the accusations of systemic ethnic violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority. But the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court is facing serious challenges in fulfilling the raised expectations.

Article by Robert Menzies


Ein niedergebranntes Haus in einem Rohingya-Dorf im nördlichen Rakhine State, August 2017 (Wikimedia/Moe Zaw (VOA))

The Plight of the Rohingya – Responsibility to prevent ethnic cleansing?

Given the ongoing violence in Myanmar against and forced displacement of the Rohingya, the seeming inability of the international community to either condemn or prevent what arguably could be described as text book ethnic cleansing raises the question of what the responsibility to protect means in practice. The threat to their safety and violation of […]

The Responsibility to Protect and Germany’s 2013 Elections

Genocide Alert Policy Brief, September 2013

The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) or ‚Schutzverantwortung‘ has made significant inroads in terms of cementing itself on the German domestic political scene. With the elections just ten days away, how do the major parties plan to deal with the principle? How does it figure, if at all, in their policy platforms? What can we expect from the major parties regarding their support for RtoP for 2013 and beyond? This policy brief provides answers to these questions for an English-speaking audience.

» Genocide Alert Policy Brief, September 2013