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Stockholm conference seeks ways to prevent genocide

 
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 PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2004 8:44 pm    Post subject: Stockholm conference seeks ways to prevent genocide Reply with quote Back to top

Monday, January 26, 2004

Stockholm conference seeks ways to prevent genocide, mass killings


STOCKHOLM

A conference on ways to prevent genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass
killings opens in Stockholm on Monday with delegations from around 60
countries and several international bodies, organizers said.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to be among
the delegates, as are some 10 heads of state or government, including
from countries with experience of mass killings, like
Bosnia-Hercegovina, Armenia and Rwanda.

Host Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson will be the only western
European leader at the three-day `Preventing Genocide' conference, the
fourth and final one in a `Stockholm International Forum' series
initiated by Persson in 2000.

`Many countries and observers feel that the international community
could have done more to prevent genocide in the past,' spokesman Stig
Berglind told AFP.

`The question is: do we need more mechanisms to prevent genocide, and
what should they be'diplomatic? Political? What can be achieved?' he
said.

The level of expertise will be high, with some governments sending
justice ministers, whose portfolio includes international law, and
others dispatching specialized academics and researchers, he said.

The European Union will be represented by foreign policy chief Javier
Solana.

Organizers stressed that talks are to focus on the future, and will be
based on `the principle of the international community's joint
responsibility for preventing genocide.'

The conference will be the first major inter-governmental conference
on the issue since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Prevention
and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, Berglind said.

`It's the first time in 50 years that this problem is being addressed
at this level, and we see it as a concrete kick-off,' which could lead
to a final conference declaration, and follow-up meetings and
mechanisms, Berglind said.

The conference will also discuss the role of new technologies like the
Internet, webcams and mobile phones, which may make it easier for
individuals to alert the world to the threat of genocide in their
countries, without the need for mass media or governments as channels
of communication, Berglind said.

Israel, whose creation as a state followed genocide against the Jewish
people, will take part in the conference. The country's presence will,
however, be low-key, after it came near to canceling altogether
following a full-scale diplomatic controversy with host country Sweden
a week ago.

Sparking the row, Israel's ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, on January
16 damaged a Stockholm art exhibit showing a Palestinian suicide
bomber.

Dubbed `Snow White and the Madness of Truth' and exhibited at
Stockholm's Museum of National Antiquities, the artwork showed a tiny
sailboat floating on a pool of red water. Attached to the boat was a
smiling photo of a female bomber, Hanadi Jaradat, who killed 21
Israelis at a restaurant in northern Israel in October and herself.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon backed his envoy while Swedish
Prime Minister Goeran Persson defended artistic freedom.

In an interview last Tuesday, Mazel voiced other grievances against
Sweden, accusing the country''s press and ruling Social Democratic
party of being anti-Israeli.

`The Social Democracy in this country is pro-Arab,' he told
AFP. `There are many voices which are pro-Islamic and
anti-Israeli. We've got a problem.'

The artist himself, Israeli-born Dror Feiler defended his work,
claiming that people calling it anti-Semitic were attempting to
silence criticism of Israeli policy in the occupied territories.

Israel later backed down f
rom its threat to boycott the genocide
conference, but tensions remained, with the TT news agency reporting
that Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom had angrily told Swedish
Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds that she had to `act forcefully to
improve relations and the understanding between both countries.'

Shalom confirmed that Israel has downgraded the level of its
conference delegation, which was originally to include President Moshe
Katzav.

The conference is the last in a series of four initiated by the
Swedish prime minister in 2000. The first meeting focused on the
Holocaust, followed by a 2001 conference on combating intolerance and
the most recent one, in 2002, focusing on truth, justice and
reconciliation.
 
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