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Canada Roméo Dallaire says Rwandan genocide being repeated in Syria

Senator Romeo Dallaire speaks about torture in Syria during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 31, 2016.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Rwandan genocide is being repeated right now in Syria and the world isn't doing enough to stop it, says retired Canadian general and former senator Romeo Dallaire.

Dallaire was part of a delegation that brought to Parliament Hill some of the 55,000 forensic photos that depict atrocities committed against civilians in Syrian prisons by the regime of President Bashar Assad. The photos were smuggled out of Syria and depict torture on men, women and children.

"Through pictures, through scenes, we hope to bring to the attention of parliamentarians and Canadians the true suffering of human beings that are caught in the middle of this maelstrom that we are fiddling with, instead of trying to reconcile," Dallaire said Tuesday.

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Dallaire said the world needs to strike a peace agreement with teeth to end the five-year-old Syrian civil war, which has displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands dead.

He commanded the failed UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda and has since campaigned tirelessly for conflict prevention as a senator and now as a senior fellow of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies.

Dallaire said he has personally witnessed a repeat of the recruitment of child soldiers to the Syria conflict in refugee camps in Jordan, a phenomenon of the 1994 Rwandan genocide that left hundreds of thousands dead.

"When a society uses children as cannon fodder for a desperate cause like that, it is a disgrace to humanity and we are part of letting that disgrace perpetuate itself."

Naomi Kikoler, deputy director of Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide in Washington, said the photos show that the degree of human suffering that is currently taking place, in real time, in Syria.

"Our hope in doing so is to try to do for the Syrian people what was not done for the Jews during the Second World War, which is to shed a light on their suffering and urge that others take action to prevent and protect these communities from the crimes that are happening."

Mouaz Moustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, lauded Canada for taking in Syrian refugees, but called on the government to push for "creative solutions" to end the torture and air bombardment of civilians.

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"I truly believe this is the never-again moment of our lifetime."

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