by Mohammed Eid 

Wars and conflicts break up among nations. It is a complex social phenomenon of mankind. We may not approve it, but we cannot ignore it. For that reason, almost every nation in the world has agreed to be bound by the International Humanitarian Law as part of the four Geneva Conventions in 1949, which aims mainly to limit the inhuman effects of armed conflict and to protect persons who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities. The Charter of the United Nations authorizes the Security Council to take collective action to maintain international peace and security, including deploying International Peacekeeping Missions. The mission — by turn — has the ability to deploy troops and police from around the world, integrate them with civilian peacekeepers to help create conditions for sustainable peace.

Attending Sarajevo Symposium for Post Conflict Transition, I had a valuable opportunity to closely examine and analyze the infamous genocide of Srebrenica. On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serbs, supported by the military of Republika Srpska (RS), stormed into the eastern Srebrenica enclave and massacred over 8,000 Muslim men and boys, then dumped their bodies into pits and mass graves. Some of them were never found till this day. It is described as the worst genocide in Europe post-World War II. Shockingly, the genocide was committed in an area declared by the UN as one of the safe zones for civilians. A battalion of over 600 Dutch infantry were supposed to provide protection for thousands of civilians and maintain the area “free from any armed attack or any other hostile act.” As the disarmed Muslim men realized the approaching threat, they requested the UN Peacekeeping troops to return their weapons which they handed in earlier in exchange for safety and protection. The Peacekeeping mission rejected their request and left the town, leaving thousands of civilians behind to be slaughtered over the course of five days. The Srebrenica genocide is deemed one of the worst failures of the international peacekeeping missions, among others in Rwanda, Somalia and other contexts where the UN even refrained from intervening. The UN Peacekeeping mission in Srebrenica never admitted failing the citizens of Srebrenica, and the victims’ families were never compensated. The failure of Srebrenica has led to implementation of some measures that are expected to help improve protection for civilians during armed conflicts. Nevertheless, the UN still fails to agree on deployment of Peace Enforcement Missions (chapter VII) in contexts with high/ possible risk of genocide. The focus on long term impact of supporting elections, economic growth and social development per se, allows for genocides to be repeated over and over again around the world.

An effective policy reform should consider achieving both: the short-term impact of providing urgent protection for civilians and the long-term impact of supporting positive peace. Based on that, readjustment in strategies of interventions should implement multidimensional mandates that allow the peacekeeping mission to practice necessary measurements to prevent civilians mass killings, ensure supply of medicine and food during conflict and at the same time support peace talks and conflict mediation. Failing to adopt such amendments doesn’t — in its worst impact — only result in civilian causalities, but rather undermines the concept of global peace and rule of law, leading to political frustration with the UN whole mission and eventually nations dropping out of international accords. If this is to happen and the global governing bodies to maintain the same bureaucracy and slow responsiveness, the current era of our civilization may witness a setback to barbarism, savagism, brutalism, and uncivil behavior of mankind, which is what we are already began witnessing in different contexts around the world.