Crimes Against Humanity: Is It Time To Close This Chapter?

By Zak Syengo / Published May 31, 2021 | 6:57 am




KEY POINTS

“France, land of the Enlightenment and of Human Rights, land of hospitality and asylum, France, on that day, committed an irreparable act. It failed to keep its word and delivered those under its protection to their executioners.”




“France, land of the Enlightenment and of Human Rights, land of hospitality and asylum, France, on that day, committed an irreparable act. It failed to keep its word and delivered those under its protection to their executioners.”

These words by President Jacques Chirac on July 16, 1995, during the commemoration of the Vel d’Hiv roundup, 53 years later reverberated like thunder on a sunny day.

To the listeners, mostly aged survivors and their descendants, this was a weighty speech coming from Paris after years of denying the mistreatment of Jews on French soil.

Vel d’Hiv derives its name from horrible events that took place on 16th July 1942 during which 7,000 Jewish people were taken to the Vélodrome d’Hiver, a bicycle velodrome, and sports stadium, to await deportation to Nazi death camps, most of them in Poland.

The brazen events happened in the early morning hours, where French police took Jews living in Paris into custody, using records in their possession. Within two days of shameless activity, over 13,000 Jews were arrested, 4000 being children, in one of the largest single arrests on French soil, albeit occupied by German during World War II.

Two years earlier, German-occupied France and established what came to be referred to as the Vichy French government. In areas under German occupation, a law forced Jews to register their religion and wear a yellow star as means of identification.

Therefore in 1942, French police easily used their records to arrest Jews for deportation. The arrests were unique in the sense that they included children to avoid terrific scenes of separation, a horrendous public relations exercise. On the face of it, it was a perfect plan, but the horrible conditions that the children faced in the transition camps describe scenes from hell.

It is this guilt that Jacques Chirac seemed to admit, going as long as accepting that France had to find a path out of anti-Semitism. He remains the most senior government official to agree that French police complicity was undeniable. Years earlier, President François Mitterrand took an opposite stand and opined that he could not apologize on behalf of the French people.

This pointless level of deniability seems to be common with most colonial masters, who turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed directly or under their administration.

This week, serious statements have rendered the waves of foreign relations for two European powers, France and Germany in relation to African engagement.

President Emmanuel Macron came out of another French cocoon and admitted that his country was complicit in handling the dreadful killings in Rwanda. A number of reports have been released supporting this position with a recent one declaring the French government was aware of the plans to execute mass killing and did nothing about it. In fact, a number of sources authenticate that French military experts trained units in Rwanda that went on to commit mass killings of Tutsis, with the French government covering this up for years. This was uncovered by the recent report released in March 2021.

France and Rwanda have endured very frosty diplomatic relations after the genocide with accusations and counter-accusations over responsibility. France now admits it has a role to play in the development of Rwanda and is keen to restore full ambassadorial relations, signaled by the appointment of a French diplomat to Kigali.

Germany also agreed to have actively orchestrated the killing of more than 100,000 people in Namibia from Herero and Nama ethnic groups in the 1904-1908 massacres. The two tribes were resisting German occupation. Germany acknowledged it had committed the massacre during the colonial occupation of Namibia and promised a billion euros in financial assistance to descendants of the victims.

“We will now officially refer to these events as what they are from today’s perspective: genocide,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

The French and German examples expose a host of similar atrocities committed, and in some cases continue to be executed by a number of powerful nations across the world. Either the government or their contractors accomplish such inhuman acts, as the rest of the world goes in silence, mistreatment being carried out unabated.

Unfortunately, statutes that could minimize such actions are created and checked by the same powers.

Read More: The Season Of Words To Hurt The Economy Than Never Before







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