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Genocide Prevention through Changing the United Nations Security Council Power of Veto

In 1948 the international community in reaction to the horrors of the holocaust sought to eradicate genocide forever by creating the 'Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide'. This Convention criminalised the preparation and act of genocide by international law, making all individuals accountable irrelevant of status or sovereignty. But the Convention has not been enough to deter the act of genocide from occurring again, and again, and again. Worst, the international community has been slow to react to cases of genocide. The problem with preventing and punishing genocide is hindered by the power and right of veto held by permanent members of the UNSC. The UNSC has been given the responsibility to maintain international peace and security and is the only entity that can mandate an intervention that overrides the principle of non-intervention. The aim of this thesis is to show that the veto has been a crucial factor in stopping the prevention of genocide, thus it is imperative that the veto change. This study argues that to effectively prevent and punish genocide the veto needs to be barred from use in cases of genocide. It looks at different cases since the Armenian genocide during WWI through to the Darfur genocide which is still in process. The case of Armenia is significant because for the first time, members of the international community were prepared to hold leaders of another state accountable for their treatment of their own citizens. However the collective will to bring justice to those accountable waned coming to an abrupt end in 1923. The holocaust followed in WWII; six million Jews died, and numerous other groups were targeted under the Nazi's serial genocide. The shock of the holocaust led to the Genocide Convention. But thirty years later during the Cold War, Cambodia became embroiled in a genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. The international community silently stood by. The USSR, China, and the US all had their reasons to stay out of Cambodia, from supporting a regime with a likeminded political ideology to war weariness from Vietnam. In the 1990s, genocides in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Kosovo) followed. The former was neglected by the US's unwillingness to be involved in another peacekeeping disaster. The two genocides in the former Yugoslavia were affected by Russia and China's reluctance to use military force even after the clear failure of serial negotiations. Finally, in 2003 Darfur became the latest tragedy of genocide. Again, Russia and China have been timid of calling the conflict genocide thus avoiding any affirmative action to stop it. These cases all show that where one state is unwilling to be involved in stopping genocide, their right and power to the veto stops or delays the international community from preventing and punishing genocide, regardless of whether the veto is used or merely seen as a threat. Therefore, for future prevention of genocide, the veto needs to be changed to prevent its use in times of genocide.
Type of thesis
Butters, M. (2007). Genocide Prevention through Changing the United Nations Security Council Power of Veto (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2386
The University of Waikato
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