MONTREAL – Last week, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, organized a symposium entitled “Imagine the Unimaginable: Ending Genocide in the Twenty-first Century.” In a poignant and topical keynote address, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton underscored the international community’s obligation to prevent all forms of atrocity. “Not every mass killing is announced,” she noted, “[but] there are slow-motion conflicts that happen every day.”
Clinton’s message resonates deeply with the current crisis in Mali, whose government recently submitted an official request to the International Criminal Court for an investigation into the rampant human-rights abuses in the country’s rebel-controlled north. The ICC’s lead prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda Bensouda, noted reports of widespread killings, rapes, and torture, as well as conscription of child soldiers.
The Malian government’s move signaled that it can no longer uphold its United Nations-mandated “responsibility to protect” its citizens. In such cases, the international community must step in to protect civilians and bring perpetrators to justice.
Mali’s crisis was triggered in March by a coup d’état in the capital, Bamako. As the military seized control of the government in the south, rebel groups armed with sophisticated weaponry from Libya took advantage of the chaos to occupy the north, an area the size of France.