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Genocide in Rwanda: Lessons Learned and Future Challenges to the UN Human Rights System

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image of Nordic Journal of International Law

In light of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the new challenges of our time, beginning with the end of the Cold War, the recent spread of democracy, and explosion of ethnic and religious turmoil around the world, we need to reexamine critically the complex web of UN human rights machinery. This paper does so by using the 1994 genocide in Rwanda as a case study. It contrasts the violent reality of the genocide with how the UN human rights system reacted. This analysis reveals that many early warning signals emanate from the UN human rights system but that they often go unheard due to the lack of any formal procedures and mechanisms for early warning and for rapid responses. This paper therefore argues for the need to develop and adopt a coherent system for early warning and, finally, seeks to identify some creative ways to strengthen the role of the various human rights bodies in reacting to massive scale human rights violations.

Affiliations: 1: Human Rights Consultant, The Carter Center, Atlanta, Georgia


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