Australian Judge Discusses Genocide Convention

SYDNEY–The Honorable John Dowd AO–Justice of the Common Law Division of the Supreme Court of NSW–President of the Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists–and former Attorney-General of NSW–last Sunday delivered the 3rd Annual Armenian Genocide Commemorative Lecture at Macquarie University.

In delivering his lecture–entitled ‘The UN Genocide Convention 50 Years On: What Have we Learnt?’–Justice Dowd stated that–"In terms of deterring those Nations and states that perpetrate genocide we have progressed exactly nowhere in 50 years since the UN Genocide Convention of 1948 …"

He continued by explaining that–"There is no doubt that there has been a progression in terms of world awareness of genocide in the 83 years since the perpetration of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey. Indeed we see it now instantaneously flashed into our homes through television and the news media. Yet there is no evidence that the nations of the world by present means have done anything to prevent genocide."

Commenting on the new International Criminal Court of Justice which was established in Rome this year to prosecute war criminals and perpetrators of crimes against humanity such as ethnic cleansing and genocide–the Judge acknowledged that this was a significant step towards deterring genocide.

"Not until those who perpetrate genocide feel the real deterrent of the certainty of punishment either personally or through economic sanctions will there be any meaningful attempt at reducing these terrible crimes," said Justice Dowd–adding that "It is only when tyran’s such as the Pinochets of this world know that there is no place to hide that there is any prospect that genocide can be deterred."

However–he pointed out that–"War Crimes Tribunals and the imposing of economic sanctions …will only work when all countries put aside economic self-interests. In its turn–too–Australia must be prepared to bring economic sanctions against those countries that perpetrate genocide irrespective of its own trade interests."

The Judge went on to say that Australia–which was one of the first signatories of the Convention–nevertheless has a long way to go in enacting the Convention by making genocide a punishable crime according to Australian law. He called for Australia to "enact legislation in terms of its obligations under the genocide Convention and further [to] support the development of an International Criminal Court with full jurisdiction and power to impose penalties for those involved in the perpetration of genocide."

Justice Dowd concluded by commenting on the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Lecture–saying that the Armenian Community has done well to keep alive the memory of the Genocide and that this is a significant contribution to the fight against Genocide.

The first annual Armenian Genocide Commemorative Lecture was delivered in 1996 and is organized by Macquarie University’s Centre for Comparative Genocide Studies. Each year a distinguished Australian or international speaker is invited by the Centre to deliver a lecture on issues of contemporary international or national importance in relation to human rights–international law and the crime of genocide in memory of the genocide of the Armenia’s by the Ottoman Turkish Government during World War I.

The Armenian Genocide Commemorative Lecture is normally delivered at the date commemorating the Genocide each April. This year–to commemorate the significance of the 50th UN Genocide Convention–the lecture has been delivered at this time to underline the significance of that convention.


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