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Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Human rights conference to tackle "R2P" resolution

– A year after the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted the "Responsibility to Protect" resolution, human rights groups are pressing world leaders to act on their declaration to stem genocide and other atrocities.

At the University of California, Berkeley, next Tuesday (March 13), the campus's Human Rights Center will launch the West Coast's first conference on how to implement the ambitious U.N. principle known as "R2P." The "Stopping Mass Atrocities" conference is being co-hosted by Human Rights Watch and the Genocide Intervention Network.

The keynote speaker is Lt. General Romeo Dallaire, former commander of the U.N. peacekeeping troops during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In addition to his sold-out opening speech at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dallaire will speak at a campus press conference at noon on Wednesday (March 14).

Also speaking at the press conference will be Sudanese refugee Valentino Achak Deng, the subject of Dave Eggers' novelized autobiography "What Is the What," and Juan Méndez, special advisor to the U.N. on the prevention of genocide.

Among the conference's noteworthy panelists is Ken Rutherford of the Landmine Survivors Network. He lost both legs when his vehicle ran over a landmine during a relief mission in Somalia in 1993.

In a testament to growing youth concern over global massacres, many students have signed up to attend the conference, including a dozen members of Wood River High School in Blaine County, Idaho.

"Some of our students are campaigning locally against the sale of blood diamonds by local jewelers. Others are writing letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience," said Wood River High teacher and Amnesty International advisor Jean Jacques Bohl, who will be traveling to Berkeley with the student group.

If put into practice, R2P would place the safety of individuals caught in deadly conflicts above the sovereignty of a country in determining when international forces should step in. A critical case in point is the Darfur region of northern Sudan, where hundreds of thousands of civilians have died in the conflict between government militias and rebel leaders.

"My generation of human rights activists has spent a lot of time trying to end impunity and bring about justice and accountability for war crimes, but the area we neglected was moving upstream to try and prevent mass atrocities from ever happening," said Eric Stover, director of UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center, who has investigated war crimes in Iraq, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Rwanda and Cambodia, among other places.

"One could question whether implementing this is really possible, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try," added Stover, who said he got the idea for the conference from watching the success of student groups raising awareness of Darfur.

The conference also seeks to raise political and grassroots support for R2P and to establish a means to implement the "Responsibility to Protect" principle.

Other conference speakers will include Gareth Evans, Australia's former foreign minister and president of the International Crisis Group; Lee Feinstein, senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations and a former defense and state department official in the Clinton administration; and the Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, M.D., co-founder of My Sister's Keeper, a humanitarian group that frees women and children enslaved by the Sudan's two-decade-long civil war.

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