3) Preventing Genocide on the 65th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

By: Mariana del Rio Kostenwein
Pace International Law Review, Junior Associate

On January 27, 1945 the Soviets liberated one of Nazi Germany’s largest concentration camps, Auschwitz, which is located in present day Poland.  This year marked the 65th anniversary of the liberation of that camp, where it is estimated that the Nazis murdered over one million Jews and hundreds of thousands of others including Poles, Gypsies, and homosexuals.

On this solemn anniversary, many wonder whether the world has come any closer to preventing genocide in light of the recent horrors in Rwanda, Kosovo, and Darfur.  After the failure of the League of Nations following World War I and the atrocities of World War II, the nations of the world were determined to establish an effective world organization, whose mission would be to promote international peace and prevent genocide.  These events led to the establishment of the United Nations (“UN”) in 1945.

UN members soon adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.  Additionally, in order to preserve world peace, the UN Charter was drafted to authorize members to use force only in two situations: when authorized by the UN Security Council pursuant to Article 42, or in self defense pursuant to Article 51.

Non-intervention has been the norm in international law as reflected in the text of the UN Charter.  The norm that one state will not intervene in another’s domestic matters is rooted in the principle of state sovereignty and the idea that people are entitled to self-determination, or the right to determine their own destinies without intervention from outsiders.  Due to continued acts of genocide recently, a new concept in international law has been developing called the “Responsibility to Protect” (“R2P”), which favors intervention by the international community in order to prevent or end genocide in a state that is either unable or unwilling to do so.  Proponents of R2P argue that every state has the duty to safeguard its people and intervention is justified when this obligation is not met.  Opponents argue that intervention is a violation of the principle of state sovereignty and there is the risk that R2P will be abused.  While far from becoming a norm of international law, in September 2009 the UN General Assembly passed its first resolution concerning R2P in which it agreed to hold further discussions on the subject.

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