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Special Event

Millennium 2000: 20th Century is Century Full of Violent Struggles for Freedom

Aired January 1, 2000 - 6:21 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Here on CNN we've been marking the many milestones of the past year and the century around the world. Now a look at moments in history that are painful to remember yet impossible to forget.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's Christiane Amanpour looks back at some of the most violent struggles for freedom, and the lessons yet to be learned. One caution: some of the images you are about to see may be disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTL. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It has been called the bloodiest century, with two war worlds, and in the last decade of the century, genocide in the Balkans and in Africa. After World War II, after the Holocaust that killed six million Jews, the world said never again.

But during the 1990s, we watched it happen again and again in the former Yugoslavia, in Croatia and Bosnia. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were murdered because of their ethnicity. It was called ethnic cleansing. U.N. blue helmets sent in to keep the peace instead found themselves facilitating the killing simply by being there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot negotiate with people who are ordering or committing crimes against humanity. And I think the great lesson of the 20th century is that in these situations there are no sitting on the fence. It's simply not possible. Cowardice is not an option when you're confronted by countries that are committing genocide against their own people.

AMANPOUR: But to the shame of the international community, cowardice was again an option, when Rwanda's Hutu extremist regime slaughtered nearly a million Tutsis in just 100 days in the spring of 1994. A year later, back in Bosnia, the West stood by as the Serbs stormed the U.N. safe area of Sbrenica. Seven thousand Muslim men are still missing, believed killed. It was the worst single massacre in Europe since the Nazi horrors.

(on camera): In a highly significant, official mea culpa, the United Nations secretary general drew conclusions that will likely have far reaching implications. (voice-over): Kofi Annan said, not only must ethnic cleansing always be confronted, but a new dimension must be added to international politics, a human dimension where the rights of the individual must be as important and may even take precedence over a states sovereign rights, thus turning hundreds of years of real politic on its head.

Kosovo, March 1999. NATO launches its first war to stop Serbia's Milosevic from slaughtering the ethnic Albanian population. After 78 days, Milosevic backed off, pulled his forces out of Kosovo, and refugees who had fled in terror from the Serb killing machine all returned to what was left of their homes. NATO's first war was also the first ever fought in defense of human rights.

East Timor, September 1999. The Indonesian army and militias are waging war against the indigenous people who had voted for independence. This time, international action was even swifter. Within weeks, the U.N. sent in its peacekeepers.

Perhaps, say the experts, the surest way to end genocide in the future is to threaten to go to war to stop it, to refuse to tolerate illegal and immoral behavior. While it may be too early to talk of the triumph of human rights, huge strides have been made. Crimes against humanity stand to become the litmus test of the 21st century.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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