UN Members Share Guilt For the Genocide in Bosnia

THE United Nations Convention on Genocide requires that all nations prevent and punish crimes of genocide. By enforcing the illegal UN arms embargo on the sovereign and independent state of Bosnia- Herzegovina, the member states of the UN are not only failing to prevent and punish crimes of genocide, they are actually facilitating the commission of these crimes.

This is a fact President Clinton should bear in mind when considering whether to veto recent legislation seeking to lift the arms embargo.

The Convention on Genocide was adopted to prevent a recurrence of the atrocities experienced during World War II, and as such it defines genocide as the deliberate attempt to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, in whole or in part. Recognizing genocide as a scourge on humanity, the convention criminalizes not only genocide, but also attempted genocide, incitement to commit genocide, and complicity in genocide.

Much international attention has naturally been focused on the fact that the Serbian nationalists are widely responsible for pursuing a policy of genocide in Bosnia. This fact has been confirmed by the indictments of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic for crimes of genocide.

There is no doubt, therefore, that evidence exists to prove that genocide, as defined under international law, is occurring.

Members' responsibility

There has, however, been little attention focused on the responsibility of nations and international policymakers for their part in the commission of crimes of genocide. Most states and international policymakers naively assume that, since they are pursuing a policy of ''negotiate and pray,'' and because they have the best interest of ''peace'' (appeasement) at heart, they can't be associated with the genocide taking place in Bosnia.

What these international policymakers fail to realize is that an integral component of their ''negotiate and pray'' strategy - the exclusive enforcement of the arms embargo on Bosnia-Herzegovina - is a tool of genocide.

Enforcement of the arms embargo facilitates the ability of Serb forces to commit genocide and reduces the Bosnian government's ability to defend its citizens from that genocide by permitting Serb forces to retain a superior military edge.

Because the countries enforcing the arms embargo are aware that it facilitates the commission of genocide, the Serbian nationalists reasonably interpret the continued enforcement of the embargo as tacit acceptance and encouragement of their genocidal acts.

Most policymakers who support the arms embargo contend that they do not ''intend'' to encourage genocide, so their policy could not therefore promote genocide.

The genocide convention, however, does not require that a third-party nation or international policymaker actually intend to commit a crime of genocide. The mere fact of their complicity in the commission of genocide, be it through intent, arrogance, or ignorance, makes them liable for that crime.

International policymakers frequently recite the mantra that they are required to enforce the arms embargo because it is mandated by a Security Council resolution.

Although the Security Council adopted more than 75 UN resolutions, including the protection of Zepa, a so-called UN ''safe area,'' the arms embargo on the former Yugoslavia is one of the few that is actually enforced - and then only with respect to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The arms embargo is, in fact, the one resolution that should not be enforced because it is illegal under international law. It is illegitimate because it violates Bosnia-Herzegovina's territorial integrity and inherent right of self-defense as codified by UN Charter Articles 2(4) and 51.

The embargo further contravenes the obligations of UN member states and the rights of Bosnia-Herzegovina under several Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. States are thus not only permitted but are obligated by the rule of law to cease enforcement of the arms embargo.

'Official state policy'

The last remaining bit of cover for international policymakers carrying out the arms embargo is that they are simply state officials dutifully carrying out official state policy.

Yet not even this argument absolves their actions. The Convention on Genocide unambiguously declares that those who commit crimes of genocide shall be held responsible and punished, whether they are ''constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials, or private individuals.''

Foreign countries enforcing the arms embargo deny the Bosnian government the means to protect its citizens from genocide, violate their own obligations to prevent genocide, and are responsible for complicity in genocide - a crime punishable under the genocide convention.

They should keep in mind that, although no tribunal has been established to prosecute those who violate the arms embargo, a tribunal has been established to prosecute those responsible for crimes of genocide.

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