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Annual Review 2004 – Against genocide

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2004 marked the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda in which up to one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred in the space of some three months. At a series of commemorative events last year, world leaders reminded us of our duty not to forget the dead and pledged ‘Never again’. They are repeating that pledge in 2005 on major anniversaries of the Nazi Holocaust and the Armenian genocide.

Yet the systematic failures that allowed the Rwandan genocide to happen could be repeated. The gaps in minority protection that existed then still exist today. And international action to prevent or halt episodes of mass killing is all too often ineffectual, or just too late.

Minorities and indigenous peoples, through their marginalized position in society, are especially vulnerable to genocide or mass killing. They may inhabit areas rich in natural resources that other groups are seeking to exploit.

To ambitious politicians, they may just present a convenient scapegoat. But in nearly every case, the slide from discrimination to repression to organized violence does not take place in secret, and it can be stopped.

This annual review highlights the work of Minority Rights Group International (MRG) last year to prevent mass human rights abuses:

  • investigating situations where minorities are in grave danger and pressing for international action to save lives and bring the perpetrators of abuse to justice;
  • promoting innovations at the United Nations (UN) to ensure that action is taken at an early stage in cases of serious threat;
  • advancing understanding of the role of minority rights in preventing violent conflict and in supporting post-conflict reconciliation;
  • working with partner organizations throughout the world to counter the prejudice and discrimination that are root causes of violence against minorities and indigenous peoples.

Our work to prevent extreme violence against minorities is only part of the mission of Minority Rights Group International. Much of what we do is focused on the long term development of minority communities and their organizations, building their own capacity to defend their rights and win a fair chance for their children. But a life of dignity and security is only possible once communities can live free from fear.

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