FOR THE RECORD:
The Ukrainian Weekly
Ukrainian National Association
Parsippany, New Jersey
December 20, 1998
Following is the text of a statement by Volodymyr Yelchenko, permanent
representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, delivered on December 2
(1998) at the Plenary Meeting of the 53rd session of the U.N. General
Assembly on the "50th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and
Punishment of the Crime of Genocide."
Ukraine Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko:
This year the world marks a very important event of historic significance:
the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - an
international instrument designed to promote and protect the basic elements
of a meaningful human existence.
It is symbolic that adoption of this declaration was preceded by approval by
the General Assembly on December 9, 1948, of the Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, widely considered to be
the most reprehensible of all crimes.
This form of crime is often understood as being almost exclusively
associated with the Nazis in their drive to exterminate "untermenshen"
(subhuman peoples). Unfortunately, in the present day the meaning of this
word is much broader, both in temporal scope and in terms of the techniques
employed. Many researchers maintain that the word "genocide" describes a
process that is considerably more multifaceted and sophisticated than a
simple mass murder.
According to Raphael Lemkin, the Polish lawyer (whom the distinguished
delegate of the United States already mentioned), "genocide" does not
necessarily mean an immediate destruction of a nation, except when
accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation.
It is intended, rather, to signify a coordinated plan of various actions
aimed at destroying the essential foundations of the life of specific
national groups, with the aim of annihilating them, their political and
social institutions, their culture, language, national feelings, religion as
well the individual's personal security, liberty, health and dignity.
The 20th century unfortunately, has witnessed many examples of genocidal
Last month Ukraine commemorated one of the most tragic chapters in its
history, the 65th anniversary of the man-made famine of 1932-1933, when the
Ukrainian people became the object of a conscious and deliberate genocide
undertaken by the Soviet regime of those days.
That famine was not caused by calamities of nature, it was the result of a
twisted political ideology calculated into a vicious criminal scenario and
implemented by those who pursued the authoritarian ruling of Stalin's
regime aimed at suppressing and eliminating the freedom aspirations of
such freedom-loving nations as Ukraine.
Not very many people in the world know the truth about this tragedy
experienced by the Ukrainian people. According to the most modest estimates,
it took some 7 million innocent lives. Some researchers suggest that this
number could be much bigger.
A report by the prominent Belgian daily Le Flandre published in September
1933 captures graphically the drama and the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine. I
"So, Ukrainians are dying of hunger. This is a great calamity not only for
Ukraine and Ukrainians, but for the future of Russia, Europe and even the
whole world. For this dying land was once a great production center of
agriculture. The soil is not changed, only the people have. This is where we
have to look for the causes of the great drama in which a whole nation has
become the sacrificial victim."
Many years have passed since then, but this horrible tragedy cannot and
should not be forgotten.
Recently, President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine issued a decree in accordance
with which from now on the last Saturday of November will be marked as
Famine Victims Memorial Day.
In his message on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the 1932-1933
Famine addressed to the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian American
community, President Bill Clinton of the United States stressed that "we
have a solemn obligation to keep alive the memory of the innocent victims
who suffered and died because of Stalin's attempt to crush Ukraine."
Neither should we forget the horrors of the second world war, which saw the
Holocaust and the extermination of many millions of people. The post-war
period also has seen a number of crimes of genocidal nature. Let's remember
Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Rwanda to refresh our minds.
This is hard to believe, but it's a fact that 50 years after the adoption of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide we hear about mass
exterminations of innocent people and ethnic cleansing in various parts of
the world. And all this happens on the threshold of the next millennium!
There is a need for a fresh look at the substance of the Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. We must try to
determine why all this happens and to discuss the ways and more effective
means to ensure the practical implementation of the convention.
That is why we note with satisfaction the recent relevant decision of the
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The creation of the
International Criminal Court will also become an extremely important
step toward this end.
In our view, the definition of genocide should be expanded to include all
groups targeted by policies that lead to the annihilation of humanity.
Chemical, biological or radiological warfare could also be regarded as
The sad lessons of the 20th century also prove that mass destruction of
human lives often originated from intolerance and hatred, from the denial of
people's rights to their own thoughts, and from the search for domestic
By founding the United Nations in 1945, the creators of this universal
organization have elaborated and put into the preamble of its Charter
one of the best human principles addressed to their contemporaries and
to future generations: "to practice tolerance and live together in peace
with one another as good neighbors."
Therefore, it was very symbolic and very timely that the General Assembly
has included on its agenda for this session the item "Dialogue among
Civilizations." In its resolution proclaiming the U.N. Year of Dialogue
among Civilizations, the General Assembly, recognizing the diverse
civilizational achievements of mankind, emphasized "the importance of
tolerance in international relations and the significant role of dialogue as
a means to reach understanding, remove threats to peace and strengthen
interactions and exchange among civilizations."
The Ukrainian Weekly, December 20, 1998, No. 51, Vol. LXVI,
Roma Hadzewycz, Editor-in-chief, 2200 Route 10, P. O. Box 280,
Parsippany, New Jersey, 07054. Published by the Ukrainian National
For personal and academic use only.