International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda: Preventing Further Genocide and Supporting Survivors in Syria

Today as the same fate continues in Syria, we commemorate International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda. 23 years ago, genocide was unleashed in Rwanda. Almost a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in about 100 days.


On 6 April 1994, the deaths of the Presidents of Burundi and Rwanda in a plane crash caused by a rocket attack ignited several weeks of intense and systematic massacres. The killings – as many as 1 million people are estimated to have perished – shocked the international community and were clearly acts of genocide.

An estimated 150,000 to 250,000 women were also raped. Members of the presidential guard started killing Tutsi civilians in a section of Kigali near the airport. Less than half an hour after the plane crash, roadblocks manned by Hutu militiamen often assisted by gendarmerie (paramilitary police) or military personnel were set up to identify Tutsis.On 23 December 2003, the United Nations General Assembly adopted.

Learning the lessons of the genocide in Rwanda in order to help prevent similar acts in the future and Supporting survivors – raising awareness of the lasting impact of the Rwandan genocide on survivors, particularly widows, orphans and victims of sexual violence, and the challenges that they still face today.

On 23 December 2003, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution (A/RES/58/234) designating 7 April, the start date of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, as the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda. Every year, on or around that date, the United Nations organises commemorative events at its Headquarters in New York and at United Nations offices around the world. Since the establishment of the Programme in 2005, commemorative activities have taken place in more than 20 countries.



Following the tragedies in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s, the international community began to seriously debate how to react effectively when citizens’ human rights are grossly and systematically violated. The question at the heart of the matter was whether States have unconditional sovereignty over their affairs or whether the international community has the right to intervene in a country for humanitarian purposes.

In his Millennium Report of 2000, then Secretary-General Kofi Annan, recalling the failures of the Security Council to act in a decisive manner in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, put forward a challenge to Member States: “If humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica, to gross and systematic violation of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity?”

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Following widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population by the regime in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (short: Libya), the UN Security Council, on 26 February 2011, unanimously adopted resolution 1970, making explicit reference to the responsibility to protect. Deploring what it called “the gross and systematic violation of human rights” in strife-torn Libya, the Security Council demanded an end to the violence, “recalling the Libyan authorities’ responsibility to protect its population,” and imposed a series of international sanctions. The Council also decided to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

In resolution 1973, adopted on 17 March 2011, the Security Council demanded an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to ongoing attacks against civilians, which it said might constitute “crimes against humanity.” The Council authorised the Member States to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory. A few days later, acting on the resolution, NATO planes started striking at Qadhafi’s forces.

In response to the escalating, post-election violence against the population of Côte d’Ivoire in late 2010 and early 2011, the UN Security Council, on 30 March 2011, unanimously adopted resolution 1975 condemning the gross human rights violations committed by supporters of both ex-President Laurent Gbagbo and President Ouattara. The resolution cited “the primary responsibility of each State to protect civilians,” called for the immediate transfer of power to President Ouattara, the victor in the elections, and reaffirmed that the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) could use “all necessary means to protect life and property.” In an effort to protect the people of Côte d’Ivoire from further atrocities, UNOCI on 4 April 2011 began a military operation, and President Gbagbo’s hold on power ended on 11 April when he was arrested by President Ouattara’s forces. In November 2011, President Gbagbo was transferred to the International Criminal Court to face charges of crimes against humanity as an “indirect co-perpetrator” of murder, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts. On 26 July 2012, the Council adopted resolution 2062 renewing the mandate of UNOCI until 31 July 2013.

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South Sudan (2011)

On 8 July 2011, the Security Council, in resolution 1996, established a UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), to — among other things — advise and assist the government in fulfilling its responsibility to protect civilians. South Sudan officially became an independent country on 9 July 2011, the climax of a process made possible by a 2005 peace deal that ended a long civil war. In December 2013, fighting between pro- and anti-Government forces began, causing the displacement of approximately 706,000 people, 77,000 of whom sought refuge at UNMISS bases. In February 2014, the Security Council reiterated its steadfast support for UNMISS and its vital mission on behalf of the international community to protect civilians in South Sudan, including foreign nationals, as well as conduct human rights monitoring and investigations, and facilitate assistance to populations in need.

Yemen (2011)

On 21 October 2011, resolution 2014 condemned human rights violations by the Yemeni authorities and encouraged an inclusive Yemeni-led political process of transition of power, including the holding of early Presidential elections. This resolution explicitly recalled the Yemeni Government’s “primary responsibility to protect its population.”


Why is Syria case not giving serious attention by the International community and the security council of the United Nations?  We should use today’s International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda to come to the aid of the Syrians.

Blame shouldn’t be apportioned only to those who carried out or choreographed the killings just the Assad government is being figured in the current killings in Syria. Other actors are also to blame, including institutional agents.The multiple failures of the UN to prevent or mitigate the genocide in Rwanda are acknowledged in its 1999 report which followed an independent inquiry. Inaction when the UN had a capacity to act, and could have averted great harm, is inexcusable.



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