Romeo Dallaire, expert on genocide, expresses concern for Baha'i community in Iran

September 29, 2006
Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire has released a statement calling on the international community to pay attention to the Iranian government's ongoing persecution of its country's Baha'is. [Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse/Ottawa]

OTTAWA, Canada — Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian senator and retired general who commanded the UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda at the height of the genocide there, has issued a statement saying that the international community should be prepared to act to protect Iranian Baha'is from possible atrocities.

"In Iran, as in other areas like Darfur where evil is at work, the international community must be ready to act before civilians are harmed," said General Dallaire, in a statement issued on 26 September 2006.

"Although punishing evil-doers after the fact is critical, it is a sadly insufficient international response to ethnic cleansing or other crimes against humanity," he said.

"Too often since the Holocaust in World War II have governments repeated the phrase 'never again.' Yet atrocities continue to occur," said General Dallaire.

General Dallaire pointed to the recent discovery of a secret letter from the Iranian military command headquarters to intelligence services, the army, police and the Revolutionary Guard, ordering them to draw up lists of Iranian Baha'is and put them under surveillance, as a key reason for his concern.

"This inventorying and targeting of citizens, based on their religious beliefs or racial heritage, is the first ugly step toward systematic violence and crimes against humanity," said General Dallaire.

General Dallaire also expressed concern over a government-sponsored media campaign against Baha'is in Iran.

"My experience in Rwanda and with other conflicts tells me that the world had better pay close attention whenever a country's media begin to spread hate propaganda against one particular group," he said.

He also noted that there has been a rise in the arrest and arbitrary detention of Baha'is in Iran.

"I am deeply concerned that Iran's Baha'is are now being specifically targeted by a regime that has the means to carry out the most despicable of intentions," General Dallaire said

As a brigadier-general in the Canadian army, General Dallaire commanded the 1994 United Nations peacekeeping mission in Rwanda during the period when 800,000 men, women and children were murdered in 100 days. Appalled at the world's unwillingness to step in and stop the Rwandan genocide, General Dallaire has since devoted much of his time to conflict resolution and promoting adherence to the rule of law.

Retired from the military with the rank of lieutenant-general, General Dallaire was appointed in 2005 to the Canadian Senate, representing Quebec. General Dallaire is also the author of a book recounting his experiences in Rwanda, Shake Hands with the Devil. He was also recently appointed to the United Nations Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention.