Following Ole’s recent post, it seems necessary to mention the massacre that occurred just over a month ago in Kiwanja, North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The N.Y. Times reports that:
‘In little more than 24 hours, at least 150 people would be dead, most of them young men, summarily executed by the rebels last month as they tightened their grip over parts of eastern Congo, according to witnesses and human-rights investigators.’
The acts were allegedly committed by Laurent Nkunda’s rebel forces. This massacre is exacerbated by the fact that ‘a contingent of about 100 United Nations peacekeepers was less than a mile away, struggling to understand what was happening outside the gates of its base.’ In this way, the N.Y. Times further reports that ‘already overwhelmed, officials said, they had no intelligence capabilities or even an interpreter who could speak the necessary languages. The peacekeepers said they had no idea that the killings were taking place until it was all over.’
Given these facts what is purpose of deploying UN peacekeepers if they cannot prevent such and similar massacres? It appears that we cannot learn from past mistakes in Srebrenica and earlier examples from DR of Congo. The UN and its members states have responsibility to protect civillian populations from mass atrocities. In this way, prevention of mass atrocities worldwide should become a priority of the EU external policies. It is therefore unfortunate that the EU rejected for the moment its mission to DR Congo. All in all, the priority should be placed on the prevention of mass atrocities, whereas international criminal justice can only provide a partial response to human rights violations.
As far as peacekeeping forces are concerned, this massacre resembles the one that took place in Srebrenica in 1995. Quoted from Wikipedia:
“The United Nations had declared Srebrenica a UN-protected ‘safe area’, but that did not prevent the massacre, even though 400 armed Dutch peacekeepers were present at the time.”