The Genocide Convention at 70: Lessons Learned And Yet To Be Learned.70th Anniversary Of The Genocide Convention Recalled in Mr.Speaker’s House, November 27th 2018. Government Answers To Questions Tabled on the Discovery of Mass Graves and the Failure to Bring Perpetrators to Justice, Read Ewelina Ochab on the Anniversaries of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention.

Nov 28, 2018 | Uncategorized


70th Anniversary Of The Genocide Convention Recalled in Mr.Speaker’s House, November 27th 2018.

The Genocide Convention at 70:

Lessons Learned And Yet To Be Learned

Click here:–

Genocide Meeting at Speaker's House

genocide meeting

With Fiona Bruce MP and Baroness Cox


Speakers included Ewelina Ochab, Geoffrey Robertson QC and Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Ahmed Khudida Burjus, Deputy Executive Director of Yazda, Neville Lazarus, and Ben Rogers.

Speakers considered the legacy of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention), scrutinised the lessons learned over the last 70 years and considered lessons yet to be learned.  

Speaker focused on two cases of genocides from the recent years,  the Daesh genocide against religious minorities in Syria and Iraq, and the genocide against the Rohingya Muslims in Burma. The speakers  asked the crucial questions whether the UK Government’s response to these genocides was adequate and what now needs to change for the UK to be able to meet its duties to prevent and to punish.

 The event was hosted by Lord Alton of Liverpool and Fiona Bruce MP, Member of Parliament for Congleton and with the kind permission of Mr.Speaker. 

Times article September 2018 on campaign to bring perpetrators of genocide to justice. Click on:

Genocide Questions1

Click here to read the answers:

Genocide Questions2Genocide Questions3


Affirm Human Dignity For Everyone Everywhere And Stand Up For Human Rights

Ewelina U. Ochab5:30 pm

The United Nations observes Human Rights Day on December 10, the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This year’s celebration of the day is even more special as it will be the 70th anniversary of this important document.

Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, displays a Spanish language version of the document which is the most translated document in the world. (Photo credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)Getty

The legacy of the UDHR can never be underestimated. It is a landmark document that “proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being — regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”  It was the direct response to the heinous crimes perpetrated by the Nazis and a much-needed affirmation of human rights for everyone everywhere.

For the 70th anniversary, the UN is calling to #StandUp4HumanRights. The initiative calls upon everyone to take a pledge to respect everyone’s rights regardless of who they are, uphold their rights even when they disagree, and recognize that when anyone’s human rights are denied, everyone’s rights are undermined. Furthermore, an attack on the rights of one person rarely ends there. Other individuals and groups will be affected, sooner or later. An attack on the human rights of one person is an attack on the human rights of all.

The UDHR is as important now as it was back in 1948, even though the circumstances (in many places) have changed. The rights enshrined in the UDHR empower us all. Indeed, over the past 70 years, significant progress has been made to ensure that the UDHR is universally accepted and recognized as the primary document on human rights. The very fact that the UDHR, as a declaration, is not legally enforceable, should not hinder its implementation. The UDHR, as a part of the international customary law, is a set of basic principles that inform the implementation of all human rights for everyone everywhere. However, the issue of its implementation leaves much to be desired.

The key to ensuring that the UDHR does not lose its significance but continues to empower and allow human rights to flourish is to go back to basics and affirm human dignity for everyone everywhere.

The universality of the UDHR is often diminished by the fact that its protected rights are only guaranteed for some people and only in some parts of the world. Such an approach means that, in the first place, these rights are not universal. Affirming human dignity for everyone everywhere means that it would not be possible to deny anyone their rights. The focus on human dignity for everyone everywhere may be a better way to ensure its universality.

Indeed, at the time of drafting the document, the concept of human dignity played a crucial role in transcending differences and reaching consensus. Now more than ever we need to find ways to invoke this core concept to find solutions for the ever-present failures to guarantee and protect human rights for all.

In pursuit of this goal, in early December 2018, politicians, experts in the field of human rights and constitutional law (the working group on human dignity) met in Punta del Este, Uruguay, to develop a common language on human dignity. This common language will help to further the original intentions of the drafters of the UDHR in ensuring human rights protection for everyone everywhere. The event was convened under the auspices of the European Academy of Religion, in cooperation with the International Center for Law and Religion Studies.

The document drafted by the working group on human dignity highlights the importance and usefulness of the concept of human dignity for everyone everywhere, as a basis for human rights and as a spectrum to interpret and implement these rights. The declaration is to be used as a mechanism for reaffirming and re-energizing the worldwide commitment to human rights. Over the next year, the members of the working group will organize conferences all over the world to mark the 70th anniversary of the UDHR and explore how the concept of human dignity can contribute to the greater success of the UDHR in becoming a truly universal guarantee of human rights for everyone everywhere.

Ewelina U. Ochab is a legal researcher and human rights advocate, and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East.” Ochab…MORE

Ewelina U. Ochab is a human rights advocate and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East.” 


Genocide Convention At 70 And Years Of Failures To Prevent and Punish the Crime

Ewelina U. Ochab4:54 pm

On December 9, 2018, the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention) is marking its 70th anniversary.  The Genocide Convention can be praised for being the first international treaty to define genocide, providing a historic commitment to prevent genocide and punish the perpetrators. However, the existence of the Genocide Convention itself and states ratifying it – mean little if its implementation does not follow. The effectiveness of the Genocide Convention depends on state parties giving effect to their obligations – translating their commitments into action. While the aspirational pledges to prevent and punish have underpinned international criminal developments, these do not necessarily translate into effective enforcement.

A display of skulls at the Kigali Memorial Centre for 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The centre on is on a site where 250,000 genocide victims were buried in mass graves. The centre opened in 2004 on the 10th Anniversary of the start of the genocide. (Photo credit: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)Getty

The UK is a good (or rather bad) example of the paradox of a state voluntarily accepting the duties to prevent and punish the perpetrators of genocide but then having little political will to deliver on these promises.

In accordance with the Genocide Convention’s obligations, and in order to give effect to the Rome Statute, the UK introduced laws that criminalize genocide, no matter where it is committed and enable prosecution of individuals who are resident in the United Kingdom. While the UK should, in principle, no longer be a safe-haven for genocidaires, the provisions for prosecution have rarely been utilized because extraditions have been prioritized over prosecutions as a matter of policy. In fact, the UK Government confirmed, in response to Lord Alton’s written parliamentary question that “the Crown Prosecution Service has to date not charged any individual with the crime of genocide.”

As it stands, progress towards giving effect to the UK’s commitment to prevent genocide lags far behind. There are no early warning and risk assessment structures that are mandated to recognize mass atrocities like genocide, in order to respond to them adequately. In the UK, there is no clear process for officially recognizing mass atrocities as cases of genocide. In fact, the UK government’s long-standing policy is to leave this question to ‘“international judicial systems.” The UK government argues that “international judicial systems”, rather than politicians, should make a determination of genocide, but the government has no reasonable justification for this policy, apart from its long-standing nature. Genocide has been committed under the watch of successive governments in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur (Sudan) and Libya, not to mention the Daesh genocide in Syria and Iraq or the genocide of the Rohingya Muslims and other religious minorities in Burma – nevertheless, the UK government’s argument persists.

Because the UK does not have any formal mechanism to determine genocide, the UK is at a disadvantage when trying to fulfill its duty to punish genocide because it is highly unlikely that any punishment of genocide perpetrators would be undertaken until an “international judicial system” makes the recognition of the genocide. Yet very often there would be no “international judicial system” with the necessary mandate to consider the question of genocide. Similarly, this has an adverse effect on the UK’s duty to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention. If a state does not have any mechanisms to recognize the elements of genocide in a conflict situation, the state will not be able to realize that genocide is at a verge of happening – and prevent it from materializing.

Not recognizing mass atrocities as genocide is a tactical step. Theoretically, if the state does not use the G-word, there is no pressure on the state to act upon. However, such an approach misses an important point. Even if the mass atrocities do not reach the threshold of genocide, the atrocities highly likely constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes. Hence, even if the G-word is not used, that does not mean that the state does not have any obligations to act.

Even though states argue that they take steps to address these situations, the steps are usually small and very often too late to ever make a difference in the lives of the targeted group. Ask the Yazidis or Christians in Iraq, ask the Rohingyas in Burma, as long as the remnants still exist. If we are serious about adding some value to the empty promise of never again, we need to recognize mass atrocities for what they are and act accordingly. The existence of the Genocide Convention is not enough in itself. Our generation and those to come after cannot just rely on the existence of the document if little is done to implement the underlying duties. Real actions must follow.

Ewelina U. Ochab is a legal researcher and human rights advocate, and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East.” Ochab…MORE

Ewelina U. Ochab is a human rights advocate and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East.” 


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Ewelina U. Ochab

Lord David Alton

For 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and today he is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer in the UK House of Lords.

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