Dallaire: Syrian crisis repeat of Rwandan mass slaughter

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By Michael Knigge

The head of the ill-fated UN peacekeeping force that couldn’t prevent the Rwandan genocide, Romeo Dallaire, tells DW why Syria’s crisis is reminiscent of events back then. He also explains what Germany has done right.

DW: Does the continuing carnage in Syria which has led to the exodus of millions of people and the international community’s reaction remind you of what happened in Rwanda 21 years ago?

Romeo Dallaire: What reminds me is not only the scale – I ended up with more than 4 million people, refugees and internally displaced persons in less than 100 days – but also in the incredible apathy we have had from the internationally community apart from pure survival and humanitarian efforts in the periphery. So it was like a repeat performance in a way.

What do you make of the fact that Bavaria’s capital Munich alone has taken in more Syrian refugees in one week than the United States and Canada have pledged to accept over the next few years?

There is a paranoia which we have seen governments successfully instill in our societies in regard to the Muslim community. And it is coming so much to the fore as in previous atrocities and movements of mass populations where it wasn’t the case of Muslims we have seen extraordinary efforts done by governments to ease the trauma and to assist these people. But because of the last years and what we seem to perceive as overriding security factors we have completely subjugated the human dimension to that even though the threat is to be proven within those refugees. I would not like to be an ISIS person caught up among Syrian refugees. I truly don’t think that would be a safe place to be.

What’s your reaction then to the stance of countries like Germany, Austria and Sweden, who are exceptions and have taken in large numbers of Syrian refugees?

I think they have done a much more realistic assessment of the situation. Of course one could argue that these are still drops in the bucket when you consider that we are talking about 12 million people. But it is absolutely incredible that only a few countries have recognized that the Syrian population is an educated middle-class population. These are assets to our nations. Yes, there is a transitional period, but that transition can be supported by governments and with community structures. But that is a temporary set of circumstances. These people can become effective members of our society. So I think they have got it right and we have got it dead wrong.

How many Syrian refugees should Canada and the US accept?

We have been bouncing around a lot of different numbers. My comment is I don’t know what the upper limit can be because we have not done a real assessment of what we can absorb and how much we really want to commit to this humanitarian crisis. We are talking about millions of people and a nation like ours of 35 million people with an incredible infrastructure and a desire for growth. So it is moot to put limits on these numbers. It is far more sensible to say

Genocide Prevention Seminar Takes Place in Ottawa

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uOttawa hosts 3rd Professional Training Program on the Prevention of Mass Atrocities

By: Paul Molpeceres

A Concordia-based research institute held a three-day seminar on genocide prevention geared towards professionals, diplomats, students and the military last week.

The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) gave presentations on topics ranging from violence prevention technology, such as aerial drones and translation apps, to the child soldier crisis in Africa, to the mass atrocity crimes committed in Darfur and Syria.

Kyle Matthews, deputy director at the institute, led the training program with the likes of Rom

UN Peacekeeper Immunity Challenged

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By: Joe DeCapua

A new initiative has been launched to block U.N. peacekeepers from being granted immunity when accused of sexual exploitation and abuse. At least 50 such alleged incidents occurred last year, but Code Blue Campaign supporters say the actual number is probably much higher.

The U.N. has admitted that sexual abuse by peacekeepers is a problem and that it has a zero tolerance policy toward it. But Paula Donovan, Co-director of AIDS-Free World, said that policy is not enough.

Stephen Lewis, Romeo Dallaire Call For End To Sex Abuse By UN Employees

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By: |Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – An international coalition that includes the former Canadian UN ambassador Stephen Lewis and retired general and senator Romeo Dallaire launched a campaign Wednesday to end sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers and international employees.

The coalition, which calls itself Code Blue, wants UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon to lift the diplomatic immunity that protects UN employees from being held to account when abuse complaints arise.

The campaign has added relevance because of the scandal that erupted last month in Central African Republic with child sex abuse allegations against French soldiers involving boys, some as young as age nine.

Lewis said Ban’s inaction makes a mockery of his annual pledge of zero tolerance towards abuse.

“Time and time again, on an annual basis, the secretary general reiterates the goal of zero tolerance, and time and time again, on an annual basis, the evidence that the secretary general himself presents makes a mockery of the phrase.”

Lewis said sexual violence is more prevalent among the non-military international players

Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire supports Omar Khadr

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By: Catherine Griwkowsky

Omar Khadr is a victim.

That’s what retired Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire and the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative executive director Shelly Whitman have said in a statement following the release of Khadr, 28, on bail on Thursday.

In the statement Dallaire and Whitman said he was a child soldier, not a terrorist.

“Recruited at 13 years old, then shot and taken prisoner two years later, the story of Omar Khadr has been nothing if not infuriating,” the statement reads.

“As a child, Khadr was forced to move to Afghanistan and join al-Qaeda by his father. It is believed that during a raid on Khadr’s compound, the 15-year-old threw a grenade, killing Sergeant Christopher Speer, a Delta Force strategic forces soldier and medic. Eight years later, he pleaded guilty under duress. But over the past decade, Khadr’s rights have been violated time and again. From the very beginning, he has been denied the right to due process and a fair trial, the right to protection from torture and — perhaps most appallingly — the rights stemming from the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

The letter says Khadr deserves a chance “to be educated, to be loved, and to be forgiven,” saying he deserves the same Canadian-government-funded rehabilitation as other child soldiers.

On Thursday, in his first interview since being released from custody, Khadr said he was “very happy” to be free and that he wants to prove to Canadians that he is better than how the authorities have portrayed him.

Alberta’s highest court released the former Guantanamo Bay detainee on bail pending the appeal of his convictions in the United States.

The judge rejected an application by the federal government for a stay of Khadr’s release until it can appeal his earlier bail decision.

Khadr had been behind bars for nearly 13 years. As part of his bail conditions, he must reside at defence lawyer Dennis Edney’s west Edmonton home, where he will remain under strict restrictions including wearing an electronic tracking bracelet.

Edney criticized the federal government for allowing a Canadian boy to be tortured in Guantanamo Bay and accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of being a “bigot,” saying Harper “doesn’t like Muslims.”

Khadr was ordered released on bail by a lower court judge on April 24, however the federal government applied for a stay of the ruling until they can appeal it. An appeal hearing is likely to be heard in the fall.

Khadr was serving an eight-year prison sentence in Bowden Institution as a result of a 2012 international transfer agreement with the United States, but was seeking release pending the determination of an appeal of his U.S. convictions by a military commission.

Khadr, originally from Toronto, pleaded guilty in the U.S. in 2010 to murder and four counts related to terrorism and spying. The charges came as a result of the role Khadr played in the 2002 killing of a U.S. special forces medic during a firefight in Afghanistan when he was 15. He spent a decade at Guantanamo Bay before his trial.