Rosenthal: preventing atrocities a priority

‘The situation in Syria is a daily reminder that we were unable to prevent this tragedy. The global community simply has to do more to prevent crimes against humanity.’ This was foreign minister Uri Rosenthal’s message during a meeting on the Responsibility to Protect at the United Nations. The event, co-hosted by the Netherlands together with ministers from Botswana, Brazil and Denmark, was attended by the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN and 14 other ministers. 

‘Preventing mass atrocities means the state taking responsibility to protect its citizens. And citizens need to be protected against the state. In the long term, good governance, human rights and equality before the law are essential for the prevention of genocide and other crimes. This has all been laid down in international conventions. We now need to encourage countries to sign and implement them,’ Mr Rosenthal said.

The international community is sometimes faced with situations of extreme violence, as recently happened in Libya and is now happening in Syria. ‘The international community needs to be much quicker to send a strong message. It is not a choice between doing nothing and military intervention. There are many alternatives, including mediation, sanctions, committees of inquiry and referral to the ICC. We need to make more effective use of these instruments, and ensure sufficient staffing levels,’ Mr Rosenthal added.

Mr Rosenthal believes that trying the perpetrators of crimes against humanity in their own country or in The Hague is an important part of preventing such crimes in the future. The Responsibility to Protect both begins and ends with stopping impunity. ‘The world has to make it clear that it will not tolerate atrocities such as those taking place in Syria.’