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The Contender
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Should the US have stepped in to stop the 1993 genocide in Rwanda?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/6/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 8,532 times Debate No: 15828
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (4)
Votes (1)




I am writing a paper for my English class on this subject and I would like to hear the other sides arguments as well as use mine to help me with my paper. Also if anyone reading this knows of any sources I could use in my paper I would be forever in you're debt.
When referring to genocide I am using the United Nations definition as defined by the The International Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide on December 9, 1948 (mentioned later)
In April 1994, the United States and other members of the United Nations stood by and watched as the Hutu majority group committed genocide against an ethnic group known as the Tutsis lasting 100 days and killing nearly a million people. According to UN policy any act of genocide is to be prevented and punished the United States violated UN law by not intervening to stop the killing.
terminated every minute". (Phillip)
Although the United States claims that they knew nothing about what was about to unfold in Rwanda, Documents exist which make it doubtful that that was really the case. Documents found in the National Achieves lead us to believe that perhaps the US was not as Naive as they claimed. They were repeatedly warned about the existence of large caches of machetes, and other weapons being stockpiled by the Hutu forces. In a fax to Gen. Maurice Baril, United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Maj. Gen. Romeo Dallaire Stated, "Our informant is prepared to provide location of major weapons cache with at least 135 weapons. He has already distributed some 110 weapons including 30 with ammunition. He can give us details of their location". The United States knew that by UN law if the killings in Rwanda where given the name "genocide" they would be responsible to intervene. On December 9 1948 the United Nations met to discuss how genocide should be dealt with the following is what they decided on…
"1 The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish. 2... In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such:
•(a) Killing members of the group;
•(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
•(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
•(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
•(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group". (Assembly)

The United States rapidly refused to use the term "Genocide" insisted on using the phrase "Acts of genocide may have occurred.
Many people who lived through the genocide told about how they repeatedly begged for help from the United States. However they responded with weak excuses of why they could not help or blatantly ignored the pleas for help. Paul Rusamunga who successfully hid many refugees. Remembers how he sent faxes and phone calls to Washington begging for help and aid. Another young man who was hiding in a back closet of a church tried to call for help but the only reply he received was that if he was ever able to flee his hiding place he should make his was to a UN refugee camp. However they offered not assistance as to how he might be able to escape.

Obviously had very little trouble getting their own people out of the "war zone" they where even able to save the pets. How is it possible that they had room for dogs and cats but not human beings? One source said that when the UN went in to rescue its own people they had enough men there that they could have stopped the killings then and there.

The reasons that the US gave where weak and cowardly reasons like, What if and other incident like Somalia happened, there was really not much reason to save their people Rwanda had very little in the way of natural resources.


I'd like to begin by essentially giving a cross x, but if it's true, it would undermine your stance.

1. Why the US? The US isn't the only country who was a signatory to the UN. We were under the same obligations as every other country.
a. That means (if you are correct that we were under a legal obligation) then all sorts of other countries should have stepped in. However they did not, which means that the following are more likely:
b. It increases the likelihood that we were not under a legal obligation. If we were under this obligation, then the others would have been required to do something, but they didn't, meaning that in all probability, we were not under an obligation
c. Most likely, it was a UN Obligation, it was not the US who was under an obligation to step in. It was the United Nations peacekeeping forces. In order to understand this, you have to understand how the UN works. The member countries of the UN provide beings to enter the UN's peacekeeping units, and these units are then placed under the UN's lead to be sent wherever the UN wishes. This treaty you quoted was probably saying that the UN's peacekeeping units would be under a legal obligation to step in if acts of genocide occurred.
Impact: No Obligation: At this point in time the affirmative has not yet proven that the US was under a legal obligation.

At this point I just want to question your stance, and I'll pursue some Disadvantages later on.
Debate Round No. 1


I am only mentioning the United States lack of envolvment because Its a 10 page paper and I don't have the space to go into detail about each country in the UN.

As a member of the UN the United States agreed to the resposibility of keeping the peace in other nations when freedom and liberty are in question. The world was in denial of what was going on and in order to keep from having to go fight they were very cautious about their choice of words and never said it was actualy genocide.

The Genocide Convention of 1948 places an obligation upon all States to prevent or punish acts of genocide whether committed in times of war or peace.

As the Genocide Convention has the status of customary international law it binds all States. The Four Geneva Conventions and the additional Protocols of 1977 thereto are aimed at protecting people who do not take part in hostilities (civilians, aid workers etc.) and those who can no longer fight (e.g. wounded soldiers and prisoners of war). Each of the Four Geneva Conventions places an obligation upon contracting parties to prevent or punish what are identified as "grave breaches" of that Convention. Under the Conventions "grave breaches" include:

willful killing, torture or inhumane treatment;
willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health
extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified
by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly;
taking of hostages;
unlawful deportation or transfer (what is commonly referred to
as "ethnic cleansing").
The obligation upon States to prevent or punish "grave breaches" requires the State to enact legislation to effect penal sanctions for persons committing or ordering the commission of grave breaches; and to search for alleged perpetrators and to try those persons before their own courts, or alternatively to hand them over to another contracting State. In addition, Additional Protocol I requires State parties to provide mutual assistance with criminal proceedings brought in respect of "grave breaches", including cooperation in matters of extradition. As the "grave breaches" regime of the Geneva Conventions is recognized as customary international law, the obligation to prevent or punish applies to all States.(quoted from

The United States choose to ignore repeated pleas for help and warnings as far ahead as November that Hutus were colecting weapons for the genocide.


I can understand other arguments for/against intervening in Rwanda, but your stance is based on the idea that we were obligated by law to do so. You claim that each and every state under the UN is required to intervene in situations of genocide. However, I don't believe this stance can be correct in the slightest, because genocide is happening all around the world. Is every single UN country under a legal obligation to intervene in each and every one of these situations? Right now the Russian's are perpetrating abuses upon the Chechen's, genocide is occurring in Libya, Darfur, and the Congo just to name a few. Are we under a legal requirement to intervene in every single one of these instances? I certainly don't believe that we are, and I have seen no outside sources from your side yet to show that we are obligated to do so. I see three main problems with your stance so far:
1. No Outside Sources: If we're under a legal obligation, then someone must have seen this and gotten upset that we are violating our obligation, but if no one has said this, (at least not that has been showed by the affirmative). If we're violating UN law, then the UN would be up in arms about this, and if the UN isn't upset about it, surely some member countries of the UN would be unhappy with the US for not shouldering our legal obligations, and if neither of these were upset, at least some American's would have noticed and said that we were legally obligated to get involved, but if none of this evidence is provided, the obvious conclusion would be that the affirmative is misinterpreting the law.
2. No Other Countries: If all of the UN countries are legally obligated to act, then why have none of them done so? And why has their been no public outcry against their indecisiveness?
3. Impossible Precedent: If your interpretation of the UN law is true, then we are required to intervene (as is every single other UN member) in every single situation of genocide, and we simply don't have the resources or abilities to do this.

Your one reason to intervene in Rwanda is of a legal obligation, and up till now I really don't see any legal obligation that we're under.

Now lets look at why we should not have gotten involved in Rwanda
1. UN was there: Obviously the UN totally failed at their peacekeeping (if you've seen Hotel Rwanda you'll know what I mean) but they were there nonetheless. American's are supposed to be able to trust the UN and assume they'll do the right thing. Therefore, American's didn't believe they had to get involved, because the UN was already there, so we had a reason not to.
2. Didn't want to fail: The United States had just failed in Somalia at peacekeeping, causing a major backlash against our country, so we didn't want to repeat the same mistakes by getting involved in Rwanda. It would have undermined our standing among the rest of the world, and would have destroyed American influence.
3. American's First: The US didn't want to send American troops to another country which had nothing to do with us, and get American soldiers killed. Every single American soldier is somebody's son, somebody's brother, somebody's friend. When one of them dies, the responsibility for their death lies on whoever they sent them out into that situation. In Rwanda, we didn't want the price of American soldier's deaths on our heads. It wasn't our duty, and there was no reason to get involved with this.
4. Nothing to do With Us: Obviously abuses are bad, and we don't want them to happen, but that doesn't justify military action. This was not an attack against the United States, thus there was no reason to get involved.
5. No Possible Gain: Getting involved in a civil war simply wouldn't have helped, because we weren't going to change anybody's minds, so the killing would have continued. That's the awful thing about civil wars, they're determined to kill their brother, and nobody in the world is going to stop them. Perfect examples of this are Korea and Vietnam, the only two wars America tied or lost. When you get involved in someone elses war, it's almost impossible to make a difference.

Overall, the only reason that has been shown to get involved was that we were under a legal obligation, which simply does not make sense to me, and there are multiple reasons why we should not have gotten involved. It wouldn't have worked, and would only have hurt American soldiers.
Debate Round No. 2
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by debateme13 6 years ago
Wow I didn't realize this was only 4 rounds. Sorry bout that
Posted by Rayray 6 years ago
@twsurber If its not our responsibility than we have no business in the UN!
Posted by Rayray 6 years ago
I would have made it all 3 rounds but I'm going out of town for a week and wont have time to debate
Posted by twsurber 6 years ago
It's not our responsibility.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by BlackVoid 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Honestly con won the debate, showing that there is no impact of violating international law. But, con made five new arguments in the final round that pro had no way of responding to. This is such a huge conuct violation that it deserves to spill over into the arguments vote as well. In the future please give your opponent a chance at responding.