UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the international community to prevent rather than react to genocide as the crime does not happen overnight.
"Genocide is deliberate and premeditated and requires serious preparations that take time. Those preparations should give the world time to act," Guterres said on Friday an event to mark the 70th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the international day to commemorate genocide victims, Xinhua reported.
The Genocide Convention is preventive at its core, and punishes specific acts that are committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, he said.
These acts include killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Preventing genocide means paying close attention to these provisions, said Guterres.
"Tragically, the international community has sometimes failed to heed the warning signs and take early and decisive action. Rather than preventing genocide, we are still reacting to it, often too late."
Since the end of World War II, the international community has failed to prevent genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Srebrenica in the former Yugoslavia, he noted.
In the past two decades, the world has at least started to hold perpetrators to account, he said. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia have all convicted perpetrators for the crime of genocide.
The work of these courts reflects a welcome resolve to punish perpetrators of genocide, he said.
The UN General Assembly in September 2015 designated December 9 as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime.
December 9 is the anniversary of the adoption of the 1948 Genocide Convention.
The Genocide Convention was the first human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations. It embodies a collective determination to protect people from brutality and to prevent the repetition of the horrors witnessed by the world during World War II, said Guterres.
The convention has been ratified or acceded to by 149 states; 45 member states have not become party to it, noted Guterres. "I urge those 45 states to consider becoming party as an urgent priority. Universal participation will send a unifying signal of resolve in this 70th anniversary year."