Today, the United Nations marks the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of the Genocide Convention, which was adopted on December 9, 1948, and its role in combating and preventing the crime of genocide. It is also intended to commemorate and honor victims of genocide.
This year’s anniversary comes at a crucial time as the crisis in South Sudan continues to worsen. Adama Dieng, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, warned last month that, “…there is a strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines, with the potential of genocide (in South Sudan.)” Since the outbreak of the conflict in December 2013, more than 2.8 million people have been displaced, an unknown number of people have been killed, and an estimated 4.8 million people are severely food insecure.
Just last week, Yasmin Sooka of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan called on the international community to prevent further mass killings and mass atrocities.
Sooka said, “There are several steps that should be taken NOW to avert catastrophe – these are sanctions, asset freezes, an arms embargo, the immediate deployment of the 4,000 strong protection force in South Sudan which should not be restricted to the capital alone.”
Recent investigative research and reporting by the Enough Project’s initiative, The Sentry, has helped expose the kleptocratic system in South Sudan and identified the policy tools of financial pressure that can be deployed against corrupt South Sudanese officials who are involved in mass atrocities and their international facilitators. As we remember genocide victims today let us also reaffirm our pledge to prevent such atrocities.