On April 16, 17 & 19, the Institute for Global Studies, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Human Rights Program held a series of events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1994 genocide that took the lives of an estimated 500,000-1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The events included a public conference, a student conference, and a K-16 teacher workshop.
The commemoration began with the public conference, Genocide and its Aftermath: Lessons from Rwanda, featuring an opening address by Taylor Krauss, founder of Voices of Rwanda, an organization dedicated to filming testimonies of Rwandans to ensure that their stories inform the world about genocide and inspire a global sense of responsibility to prevent human rights atrocities. Krauss theorized that the final stage of genocide is to eliminate its trace, erase its history, so that it is made complete. As such, Krauss has been working since 2006 to film the testimonies of survivors to remind us what aftermath really means. He shared excerpts of three of these testimonies, demonstrating survivors’ essential need to remember. Krauss concluded his address stressing that listening is not a passive act, it demands a response, reminding the audience that many nations still harbor perpetrators of this horrific crime.
The first panel, Rwanda 1994 and its Representations, examined the failure of nation-states to intervene in Rwanda, the response of the human rights community, the use of commemoration to promote peaceful coexistence and the narrative on ‘lessons learned’ surrounding genocide today.
The second panel, Immediate Aftermaths: Justice, Redress and Memory, addressed the impact of the Rwandan genocide on developing international criminal law and defining what constitutes genocide. The role of memorials in changing social constructs, providing remembrance and giving hope to survivors was also analyzed.
The final panel, Long-term Implications: Impact, Prevention and Intervention, dealt with the implications of interventions, or non-interventions, into genocides, as well the effectiveness of resulting transitional justice mechanisms. The panel also provided a critical examination of the practice of tying intervention to the designation of genocide.
Finally, Adama Dieng, UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, delivered the evening keynote address. Dieng addressed the past failures to intervene in the crime of genocide, acknowledging that the United Nations and its member states have not been as effective as they could have been. He emphasized the need to build and support prevention and response institutions and to understand the price of inaction. “When powerful minds put their strength to justice…justice will prevail,” affirmed Dieng. Furthermore, the failure to address past atrocity crimes, Dieng asserted, leads to a high risk of future crimes, adding that there should be no tension between peace and justice but that they are instead mutually reinforcing.
For more information on the public and student conferences, the K-12 Educator’s Training, along with speaker biographies and other resources, please click here.