The international community must implement strong legal mechanisms to ensure violators of human rights are held accountable regardless of the amount of time that has elapsed or the standing of the individual who committed the crimes, said Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights. “Where domestic law and order has broken down, individuals may feel that they can commit even the most atrocious crimes without fear of legal sanction,” she said during her address “Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity” at Fordham University.
“When this happens there is an urgent need to reestablish the principle of individual responsibility for crimes. If serious human rights violations are not addressed and a climate of impunity is permitted to continue, the effect will be to stoke the fires of long term social conflict.” When whispers of human rights violations are heard, swift action should be taken, she said. More than that, though, world leaders must be proactive in preventing such crimes from occurring because once the word is out, lives have already been lost.
“There is an urgent need to step up the level of preventive actions,” she said. “There must be an end to the pattern where intervention by armed forces stops atrocities only after the fact and then the donor governments are expected to contribute billions of dollars to rebuild shattered societies.”
Robinson’s remarks will be printed in the Fordham International Law Journal dedicated to the subject of “Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity.”