Preventing Genocide - Monday, 11 October 2010
Lieutenant-General Jonathon Riley – Director General and Master of the Armouries – has delivered a keynote speech examining the role of military leadership in preventing mass atrocities.
Lt Gen Riley – a veteran of the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq – was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for bravery and distinguished conduct during his 36-year British Army career.
He delivered his speech to members of the US military at the Raphael Lemkin Seminar for Genocide Prevention in Poland last month. Instructors and professors from the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation delivered further seminars – covering mass atrocities not only during the Holocaust but more recently in Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Darfur.
Lt Gen Riley said, “I was asked to talk about the prevention of mass atrocities against civilians from the point of view of my own experience – in particular highlighting disconnections between weak political leadership and lack of action; early detection, prevention, military response; the complexities of the environment and the capabilities needed. I discussed some aspects of my time in Croatia and Bosnia between 1992 and 1999 and also some words about Iraq and Afghanistan.”
In order to help prevent atrocities, Lt Gen Riley concluded that military powers need:
- Good quality intelligence about atrocities – multi-sourced and disentangled from the various parties’ agendas, deceptions and media hype. The old military adage that the first report is always wrong holds true.
- Political motivation that will engage before a problem becomes a crisis and the authority to act pre-emptively.
- A strategic communications plan that forms part of the campaign from the outset.
- A United Nations’ mandate to run the operation – not execute it.
- A unified command structure, with a civil representative in overall charge and a legal/investigative team in place from day one.
- Access to non-government organisations and charities who know the area – allowing them to tap into local knowledge, get underneath the surface and find out what is really going on – nothing will be what it seems.
Lt Gen Riley concluded, “Sounds like common sense? That’s all it is. My fear is that the next generation of politicians will be even less likely to address a problem until it is a crisis, having felt keenly the weight of public and media opposition to the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. This may lead to a move away from intervention, even when it is necessary and right.”
- Lt Gen Jonathon Riley, Director General and Master of the Armouries, took up his appointment early in April 2009, after 36 years’ service in the Army, latterly as Deputy Commander of NATO ISAF in Afghanistan. Jonathon was Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion The Royal Welch Fusiliers in Goražde, where he was awarded the DSO for bravery and distinguished conduct.
- Lt Gen Riley’s fee was paid to the Royal Armouries.
For more information regarding the Royal Armouries – Britain’s oldest museum – visit:
Tel: 07838 379599
Notes to editors
- Royal Armouries is the national museum of arms and armour and has sites in Leeds, HM Tower of London, Fort Nelson and Louisville, Kentucky. It is the first British national museum to open a permanent presence in another country
- Admission to the museum is free. However, there may be a small charge for some special events.
- Open all year daily, 10am-5pm. Closed 24-25 December
- Information Line: 0113 220 1999
- Website: www.royalarmouries.org
- The Royal Armouries Museum should not be confused with Royal Armouries International plc, the private sector corporate hospitality business.