International Justice

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Tag Archives: genocide

Early Warning in Burma

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The “G-word” has recently come up in regards to the escalation of mass violence currently taking place in Burma. The perpetrators, ethnic Buddhist Rahkine, began attacking Burma’s Muslim minority, the Rohingya, in early October in response to militant attacks on police outposts. It does not appear that the group is acting under the authority of Aung San Suu Kyi, but it’s obvious the Burmese government is most definitely not doing anything to stop it. Several indicators of genocide developed by past scholars have been evidenced in the war-torn Rahkine State, some of which include “the systematic dehumanization of the target group”, “their isolation inside camps and barricaded ghettos”, and “violent 2016-12-02-2attacks on them involving the participation of security forces”. Oddly familiar, don’t you think? The Wall Street Journal has, in a recent article, pointed out the
unnerving similarities between the aspects of this event and the hallmarks of tragedies like those in Bosnia, Darfur, Kosovo, and Rwanda.



In Honor of Columbus Day?

One Word – Episode 25: Christopher Columbus (Native Americans)

Christopher Columbus, a name we have all heard and probably at one point were told to idolize him. We were taught that he discovered America, responsible for opening up the New World to Europe modernization. I found this video on my facebook feed and felt that it was relevant for the fact that even though it was 500 years ago, great atrocities were wrought upon the native population of the Americas, and Columbus got glory and impunity, even in the history books, for centuries. So why do we have a national holiday for a man that is responsible for the rape and mass murder hundreds, if not thousands, of Native American? Christopher Columbus began the immeasurably long trials of strife of Native Americans brought on by Europeans and American settlers. As said in the video, the scars of pain and suffering caused by Columbus are still felt today in the Native American Community. So in this age of strict political correctness, why do we have a national holiday to celebrate a man who got lost at sea and began the genocide of Native Americans?

Post-war Bosnia


1024px-Srebrenica_massacre_memorial_gravestones_2009_1.jpgPictured above is a cemetery and memorial for the genocide victims at Srebrenica. Although the Bosnian war ended over two decades ago there are still tensions in the country today. Today intermarriage between the three Bosnian ethnicities is even less common than it was before the war and there is still great segregation. The only thing that the different parties now have in common is the poverty they have been stricken with. In 2010 the men who fought in the war, on both sides, were promised a pension by parliament.These war veterans never received their pension due to the continuing power squabble between the ethnicity and their right to govern the territory. Today the citizens still feel trapped by the grip that their parties have on their lives. It affects their education, their communities and their economic freedoms.

Why not the Winners too?

History is written by the victors. The winners decide the rules, and the punishments to dole out to those who break those rules. The Nuremburg and Tokyo trials after WWII proved that. The defeated Germany and her allies were put on trial by the victorious world powers, but these winners had the express design to punish the losers in this war. That is how it has always been; the winners punish the defeated for their crime, but what about the crimes of the victors? The crimes of the victors are often ignored in favor of publicizing the crimes of the losers, but shouldn’t all crimes in a conflict be persecuted? Shouldn’t the nations that preach that impunity cannot exist, be held responsible for the crimes that they committed? It is this in mind that the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) and the ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) were created. They were made in the image of the Nuremburg and Tokyo Trials, but with a new purpose of prosecuting both the winning and losing sides in the conflict. These tribunals are trying to make sure that no matter what side you are on, that committing war crime will never go unpunished.

Banality of Evil

“The Banality of Evil”

I remember first hearing this phrase and thinking how can evil be ordinary? It gives many great comfort to think that people are born inherently evil, that your neighbor, friend, colleague, would never be this caricature of evil. But that is not the truth, and the truth is a terrifying reality. Normal people can do more damage than the person holding the gun, The Nazis proved that. The bureaucratic officials of Nazi German were a well-oiled machine where one signature at the bottom of an insignificant piece of paper could send thousands to their death. It was so easy to blame the figurehead of the movement, Hitler, but he never pulled a trigger (except on himself). The power behind Hitler was the fire he ignited with his rhetoric and promises, and to a severely economically depressed Germany, his words sounded like salvation. People still question why anyone would follow a man like Hitler, but they didn’t follow the man, they followed the promise of a future that Hitler promised. Hitler made the masses proud to call themselves German once again after humiliation in WWI. People could have felt they had an obligation to the man who raised their country back up, they could have whole-heartedly believed in his rhetoric. The important thing to remember is that without the support of the masses, the ordinary people, no dictatorship or genocide would ever happen; they would have no army, no followers to fill their ranks, no support for their cause.

Why ISIS Needs to be Stopped


Many people see ISIS as just a terrorist group with their main focus on randomly killing innocent civilians. This however is not what their main intent is, their main intent shows much more cause for concern. ISIS is a religious group that disagrees with the Yazidis beliefs and has been exterminating these citizens for years now. Genocide is a term that can sometimes be thrown around loosely in today’s society, but in this instance ISIS is committing genocide on the Yazidis group. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro says “ISIS permanently sought to erase the Yazidis through killing, sexual slavery, enslavement, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, and forcible transfer causing serious bodily and mental harm.” It is clear that ISIS has one motive behind their actions and that is to completely destroy the Yazidis people. This is why ISIS needs to be stopped immediately to prevent this genocide from becoming worse.

Native American Genocide

As Genocide was discussed during class it was apparent that the actual definition written for the crime is quite vague. This leaves the crime’s circumstances up for some interpretation, which can allow further discussion top take place about what genocide really is and what events embody the crime. One of these events is the genocide of Native Americans. Before the European settlers arrived to America is it estimated the American population consisted of over 10 million people. The 2010 consensus confirmed that there were only about 5.2 million left of that population today. The rapid colonization along with the rush to find gold and other natural resources by white settlers resulted in blatant racism and oppression towards the Native Americans. Along with the social hardships the Native Americans were also subject to mass illness and the forceful loss of their land. Although civil rights have bettered since the early 20th century for the Native American population, they still face hardships due to the history of attacks from their fellow citizens and even their own government.

Darfur: The First Genocide Of The 21’st Century

Claiming over 300,000 lives and displacing over 3 million people, the genocide in Darfur is one of the worst humanitarian disasters the world has ever faced. The most devastating reality is that the killing continues till this day.

Omar AL Bashir, the president of Sudan rose to power during a military coup in 1989. He inherited the long running war with the rebels of South Sudan. This conflict stemmed from “northern economic, political, and social domination of largely non-Muslim, non-Arab, southern Sudanese.” The need for resources played a big role in this conflict, which led to two civil wars one in 1972 and the second in 1983. Even after the civil wars the government continued to neglect the people and have left them poor and without voice. In 2003, a group of non-Arab rebel group decided that they have had enough and launched an uprising against the Khartoum government. The response from the government was the beginning of the genocide campaign. The government decided to enlist the help of an Arab militia in Darfur called the Janjaweed to carry out this task. This dispute is not religious but an ethnic one.

Rape, murder, torture, etc.. The international community promised “never again” to allow a destruction of a particular ethnic, racial, or religious group. The United States carried its promise in 2004, when congress passed a resolution labeling Darfur genocide. This however did not foster a strong reaction from the international community, instead the community spent most of the time arguing about what constitutes as genocide. The UN only went as far as threatening to sanction Sudan’s growing oil industry. This did not stop the killing. The African Union also sent 7,700 troops by April 2005, but the uncooperative government proved to be a stronger force.

The International Criminal failed to bring justice to this crime when an arrest warrant for Al Bashir came in 2009, the judge claimed that there was not enough sufficient evidence to support charges of genocide. In 2010 though, a warrant for Al Bashir came for three counts of genocide, the GoS , the Arab League and the African Union denounced the warrants. thankfully though the UN has not placed any action against these warrants so they are still in place. Yet Many countries have failed to their obligation to act on these warrants. Al Bashir is still in power and cannot leave his country. What I question is how ineffective the international community has been. I believe it is because many of these governments commit some of the same crimes, and other countries do not actually care. How can one man escape justice leaves me flabbergasted. This massacre just proves how ineffective the international community is when it comes to large scale killings (cough Syria).


Failure to Protect


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Is Prevention Possible?

Image result for genocide

Genocide is often a result of prejudiced beliefs and ideas that are passed down generations or have been misinterpreted by powerful people. This built hatred, which is then passed down to populations, seems justifiable and acceptable for societies. When genocide occurs, it is not something abrupt or accidental and because there is so much thought and careful planning put into this by the groups committing the crime, it is not easy to stop this overnight.

There is no limit of deaths at which officials can term the mass killings as a “genocide.” Therefore, it is usually wise for international organisations to be cautious of the situation at a conflicted area/region and then intervene, before the death tolls rise. Genocide is greater in conflicted areas or countries where there is active war and a powerful dictator/government ruling and controlling the civilians. Global peace organizations and other countries need to address this while the discrimination and intolerance of a particular group is not as widespread. This can be done through taking swift action through the use of military forces, setting up warning systems that help detect the early signs and take action. If civilians are already being targeted, organizations can create plans/locations to provide them with safety and resources. These changes will not only lead to faster peace but could also prevent these atrocity crimes from occurring repeatedly.

Pope recalls 100 year old Armenian genocide at mass


Pope Francis, in a mass designed to honor the 100 years since mass murder, decided to quote from a past Pope and Armenian leader about the Armenian atrocity, “The first, which is widely considered the first genocide of the twentieth century, struck your own Armenian people.” Here he made his views clear, even while using the words of another. The estimated 1.5 million Armenians that were killed occurred during the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

During the mass, Pope Francis gave Armenian leaders a chance to speak, in what some deem an important strategically move. He also declared, “It is necessary, and indeed a duty, to honor their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester.” This acknowledgement was designed to bring more attention to Christians in the East, and while it is unlikely conflict will arise between Turkey and Armenia, there may be some concerns in the Vatican. In order to explain the Pope’s statements about the killings, the ambassador of the Vatican to the Turkish capital has been summoned to the foreign ministry.


Armenians have been waiting for the day that the atrocity will officially be called a genocide. While many countries, including Italy, have recognized it as such, Turkey still refuses to do so. The hopes are for this year on Remembrance Day, April 24th, that the President will use the language that many Armenians have been waiting decades to hear.

Impunity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

2118453159The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been a zone of political upheaval and armed conflict for the better part of the last twenty years, and as such its population has been subjected to blatant instances of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as indications of genocide. Regardless of recent relative stabilization in the country, two provinces continue to struggle with atrocity. Thousands of people are continually displaced from the two Kivu provinces, and civilians are being raped and massacred while their homes and schools are destroyed and looted. The Mai Mai militia has perpetrated many of the rapes, killings, mutilations, and abductions in the past two decades of conflict, and on January 6, of 2011, a Congolese arrest warrant was issued for the the militia’s leader, Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka.

In a blatant show of impunity, Sheka openly traveled to Goma in July of 2011 for health treatments and ran for parliament in November, conducting his campaign across the country’s Walikale territory. There are suspicions that Sheka, along with other war criminals in the region, are kept abreast of all military operations, participate in the exploitation of regions to trade their resources, and receive arms and ammunition when needed.

Typically, this would be a case for the International Criminal Court, especially when we consider the country’s signing and ratification of the Rome Statute in 2002. Unfortunately, the legislation of the ICC was never successfully implemented in the DRC due to the neglect of the transitional government in power at the time and the tabling of subsequent proposals. Instead, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide have been adjudicated by a system of military tribunals since 2002. In response to concerns for the legal rights of those involved in the tribunals, the DRC gave the 12 provincial Courts of Appeals the power to hear cases concerning atrocities in 2013. The ICC is also working to utilize temporary legislation in the country to adjudicate the crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The DRC has seen little progress in the pursuit for justice within the country. Proposals for specialized tribunals like those established in Cambodia have been abandoned, and the government has largely ignored the crimes committed before the signing of the Rome Statute. All of this demonstrates that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is struggling with a significant impunity problem, and the absence of justice will continue until national and international leaders shift their focus to prosecuting war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide.

I wonder how the justice system in the DRC would evolve were the ICC to reach out to the current government regarding the lack of permanent national legislation supporting the charter of the court, or if stronger powers in the international community were to voice support for the establishment of specialized tribunals to address acts of atrocity and to adjudicate perpetrators of such crimes. Impunity is a national problem that is perpetuated throughout all levels of the government, and it will likely take international voices to change the landscape of justice in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Gacaca court system in Rwanda

As we have discussed in class, three different court systems have been used to prosecute the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide: the ICTR, the national court system, and the local-level Gacaca court system. These systems have, on the aggregate, been quite successful in terms of the sheer number of cases they have tried since the genocide; however, there are still many concerns about the legitimacy and biases of the Gacaca courts, ultimately resulting in what the BBC terms, ‘controversial justice’ (BBC).

Immediately following the genocide in 1994, Rwanda’s legal system was left largely in disarray. In order to prosecute the large volume of genocidaires, it became clear that employing various court systems would be necessary. As a result, the Gacaca courts transitioned from settling only small local disputes and adapted to “a more conventional model of punitive justice,” which sought to “reveal the truth about the genocide” (HRW). In 2005, these courts began prosecuting the “thousands of accused still awaiting trial in the national court system,” to further their goals of achieving “justice and reconciliation at the grassroots level” (UN).

By 2012, the system of 12,000 community-based courts had tried over 1.2 million perpetrators throughout Rwanda (UN & BBC). According to statistics, approximately 65% of those tried were found guilty, and were subsequently sentenced. In these local courts though, it was possible to significantly reduce your sentence if you showed signs of remorse, publically apologized, and asked for forgiveness from your community (UN). Consequently, some called into the question the legitimacy of the courts— fearing that convicted genocidaires could deliver falsely “sincere” apologies in order to “return home without further penalty” (HRW & UN).

As the Human Rights Watch asserted, the expectation that the Gacaca courts would achieve “national-level reconciliation” in these few years was pretty far-fetched (HRW). In fact, a multitude of other factors caused people to question the legitimacy of these trials, including corruption, personal ties, and intimidation (HWR). Although the BBC reported that “many people in Rwanda” have credited the system for “help[ing] to mend the wounds of the past,” the Gacaca’s ability to promote justice and reconciliation has undoubtedly been challenged by these underlying problems (BBC & HRW). For these reasons— as well as the many reasons we have discussed in class— it is and will remain to be very difficult to assess the success of these courts for many years to come.

Perinçek v. Switzerland

Currently in Strasbourg, France at the European Court of Human Rights Doğu Perinçek, a political activist from Turkey, is on trial against the government of Switzerland. In 2007, Perinçek was found guilty by a Swiss court for repeatedly denying the Armenian Genocide. This violates Switzerland’s anti-racism legislature. Perinçek brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights with the charges that the Swiss ruling infringed on his right to freedom of speech. In 2013, it was ruled 5-2 that Switzerland had violated Perinçek’s rights. The Swiss government appealed this decision and the court accepted the appeal. The trials are ongoing.

In class we decided that justice is so important partially because it recognizes the victims and perhaps bring peace to them. This is a contributing factor to why many European countries have outlawed genocide denial, particularly pertaining to the Holocaust. For the ECHR to allow Perinçek and others like him to deny the existence of a genocide that killed so many seems to be harmful to the process of reconciliation. Do you think that the denial of genocide should be illegal or is the ECHR correct in its ruling that freedom of speech should be protected?

Dutch Liability in Srebenica

BosniaIn July of last year, a Dutch court in The Hague determined that Dutch troops acting as UN peacekeeping forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina were at fault for the deaths of more than 300 Muslim men and boys. These deaths compose part of one of the most famous genocides in international history, an episode of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Bosnian Serbs. The judge presiding over the case said that the soldiers should have known that deporting the Bosnian Muslims from the UN-sponsored Dutch compound would have meant their death. This ruling raises an important question: how will those responsible for the Dutch action (or lack thereof) be prosecuted for their roles in the act of genocide? The court has yet to announce how the families of the 300 men and boys killed by the decisions of the Dutch forces will be compensated, but there hasn’t been any word about the possibility of punitive actions against those responsible in the eyes of the court.

France Convicts Rwandan for Crimes Against Humanity

After six weeks of hearings, a “great victory” for the victims of the Rwandan genocide was won today when the Criminal Court in Paris convicted fugitive Rwandan Pascal Simbikangwa of the crime of genocide and being complicit to crimes against humanity for his actions during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Simbikangwa, a 54 year old Hutu man who lived in Kigali during the war, was an intelligence officer during the genocide and was accused of supplying weapons and giving orders to the Interahamwe militia in Kigali  and encouraging them to slaughter Tutsis. He was also known to have had tight connections with the death squads as well as with the Akazu, a secret and elite Hutu corps within Mr. Habyarimana’s inner circle. He was originally sought under an arrest warrant in 2008 and was not apprehended until 2009 on the island of Mayotte, a French territory in the Indian Ocean. Despite being bound to a wheelchair and fervently denying his involvement in the genocide, French prosecutors sentenced  Simbikangwa to 25 years in prison in the landmark decision.

This case is significant because it marks the first time that a Rwandan fugitive accused of genocide was convicted of his crimes in France. Under international law, a country can claim criminal jurisdiction over a person who committed genocide regardless of where it was committed, yet France has been notoriously criticized for its lack of response following the 1994 genocide. Since 1994, other European countries such as Belgium, Norway, and Sweden have all convicted Rwandan fugitives accused of genocide. With France’s decision, however, it will open the way for more than 20 upcoming prosecutions against fugitive Rwandan officials accused of genocide. After the RPF took control of the government at the end of the genocide, many upper- and mid-officials fled to new countries to escape being tried and have escaped accountability for their actions. Yet, is justice of this truly such a “great victory” like many believe? Rwandan criticisms for the ICTR have been well documented, yet even that justice is much more direct that the offshoot justice served in a French court that is far separated from the Rwandan people and survivors. Should France have sent Simbikangwa back to Rwanda to be tried in his local courts once they apprehended him in 2009? Would putting him through the gacaca system (back in 2009) have been better for the survivors of the genocide–having him openly admit to his crimes–than relegating him to a French prison in front of French spectators? Does where he is persecuted matter as long as he is held accountable for his crimes, even if its done by a foreign government?



The Makers of “The Act of Killing” Do an AMA on Reddit


A few weeks back we learned about The Act of Killing, an incredibly strange yet moving film about the anti-Communist atrocities in Indonesia from 1965-1966. Just today, director Joshua Oppenheimer and producers Werner Herzog and Errol Morris did an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit.

The humorous responses are quite entertaining, such as when a redditor asks what their greatest motivation for making documentaries is—to which Morris says, “The desire for future employment.” Especially notable however are some of the serious responses. Oppenheimer describes his motivation as the following: “It is my opportunity to explore the darkest and most puzzling aspects of what we are – and, because everybody starts to stage themselves the moment you point a camera at them, it is my opportunity of pondering the fantasies and dreams that make us what we are.”

Oppenheimer gives some incredible insight into the filming process, such as the sort of danger he and his crew faced during the 5 years they spent shooting the documentary: when powerful ministers ordered, “Cut!” or the like, the crew had no choice to abide (these officials could have easily arrested Oppenheimer and his crew on the spot). While the nightmarish feel is no doubt palpable in the film, Oppenheimer notes that he and his crew felt this too, first-hand. Oppenheimer also describes how he and Anwar still keep in touch, and how Anwar has refused to become a spokesperson for human rights (which Oppenheimer seems to have somewhat hoped for). Oppenheimer also describes the final rooftop scene, the raw humanness of it all, when Anwar, gagging and physically distraught, says, “I had to do it, because my conscience told me they had to be killed.” There, Oppenheimer notes, “For my part, I had this desire to put my arm around him and say ‘It’s going to be okay’ (a manifestation of desperate optimism that we Americans are famous for). In that moment, however, I had this sickening realisation that no: it will not be okay. And this is what it looks like when it is not okay. And I realised then I could do nothing other than bear witness to what was unfolding.”

Another redditor also notes how Oppenheimer and his colleagues screened the film in front of Congress and asked them to acknowledge the genocide, to which Oppenheimer responds that the international community was complicit in the atrocity, and did not intervene when they should have because of convenience.

Personally, I was most moved by Herzog’s response to a redditor asking what Herzog has learned during his career of making documentaries:

“My work on death row inmates was very disturbing. The key insight during this work and other films that I made, was that murderers and executioners are human beings, not monsters. The crimes are monstrous, but the killers still remain human. This is the great and devastating lesson to learn from The Act of Killing.”

Overall, this was a great AMA worth checking out!

Alain and Dafroza Gauthier: Searching for Justice

recent NY Times article profiled the work of Alain and Dafroza Gauthier, who have spent the past 13 years collecting evidence for the prosecution of 24 perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide who are now hiding in France. Their efforts have been successful; “Paris appointed five judges to investigate the matter of the Rwandan fugitives and opened a police section specializing in crimes of genocide. Next month, the judges are scheduled to bring their first criminal case against a Rwandan fugitive accused of genocide” (NY Times).

Their success illustrates how important individuals actors are to the spread of norms of international justice and the end of impunity (a theme explored in the most recent chapter we’ve read from Kathryn Sikkink’s The Justice Cascade). It also helps to understand the human toll of impunity–how an obsession for justice for family and a beloved country can lead two individuals with no background in law (he’s a former school principal and teacher, she’s a chemical engineer) to devote decades of their lives to an investigation. Justice for atrocities is more than an abstract concept–it has real value to victims.

This case also reveals the stakes of pursuing international justice for individual states. Rwanda and France only resumed diplomatic ties in 2009, and while these prosecution will likely improve ties between the two countries, “there is a risk the rapprochement could be set back if the trial results in a short sentence or acquittal. ‘The Rwandans would not be happy at all with that,’ acknowledged one French diplomatic source” (Reuters, 9/12/13).

Also interesting is the revelation from Alain Gauthier that perpetrators of atrocities in hiding “come across as pillars of society, be it as practicing priests and doctors. ‘They try to be forgotten,’ he said” (Reuters). Dafroza Gauthier explains that these perpetrators have “always denied, they have created another story, they have completely erased that part of their lives. They were obliged to do so, otherwise you end up in a mental institution. You can’t live with a crime like that” (Mrs. Gauthier, quoted in NY Times). It is chilling to think that individuals with so much blood on their hands could resume a normal life and take up a position of trust in the community, especially when victims have so much trouble resuming their normal lives and moving past the tragedy. Perhaps this is one reason why justice in the wake of atrocities is so essential–it forces perpetrators to confront their crimes and the victims whose lives they’ve shattered.

Dutch Peacekeepers are Found Responsible for Deaths

Dutch Peacekeepers are Found Responsible for Deaths

Here is a link to an article about a recent trial regarding the Dutch’s responsibility in the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre that we spoke about in class today. In September of last year, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the Netherlands was in fact responsible for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslim men because Dutch peacekeepers had wrongfully ordered them to leave UN compound. What’s really interesting is one of the families that filed this lawsuit, was the young man we watched in one of the videos, the one who was allowed to remain on the base because he was a UN translator while his mother, brother and father were forced to leave.

this verdict gives the U.N a certain level of accountability for the thousands of death that took place during the massacre, saying that the Dutch peacekeepers had ‘effective control’ of the troops so as a result they must share responsibility for the crimes. Many victims feel that this verdict brings true justice, because it sets the precedent that the U.N actors are held accountable too, and cannot hide behind the U.N wall of immunity. I don’t know if i necessarily agree with this verdict, but it definitely does send the message that by allowing this travesty to happen, you are just as responsible as the ones who committed the crime

Chemical weapons in Syria

There has been rising concern that Assad will use chemical weapons (or that they would lose control of them to other groups). The concern has been enough that President Obama and Secretary Clinton have both spoken up about. Secretary Clinton called it the “red line”. If crossed, she said that “those responsible would be held to account”.

I can’t help but be reminded of the Halabja massacre. In the Halabja massacre, several thousands of Kurdish people (mostly civilians) were killed by chemical weapons (by Iraqi government forces). Officially, this has been named an act of genocide against the Kurdish Iraqis. Even without targeting a specific group, it has still been defined as a crime against humanity by the Parliament of Canada.

Syria has said that they have chemical weapons, but said that they were there in case of invading forces. However, there is obviously still the very concerning possibility that they could be used on the Syrian people.

Concerning the situation in Syria, reports are saying that the USS Eisenhower is on the Syrian coast and ready for intervention. This intervention could happen “within days”.

This action by the United States actually follows a decision by NATO to arrange for the Patriot Air and Missile Defense Systems in Turkey on the Syrian border. This is because of concern for the Turkey, as well as the northern parts of the Syrian border (these are controlled by the rebels).

Chemical weapons in Syria

USS Eisenhower by Syria

Halabja massacre

Genocide Witness Protection in Rwanda

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda established the Victim and Witness Support Unit, a genocide witness protection program. The VWSU was created in 2006 after more than 150 genocide survivors were murdered for testifying against suspects. Some genocide suspects were even targeted after testifying against other perpetrators who were on trial. A second witness protection was created two years later as mandated by the Supreme Court. While the first unit was praised because it was somewhat effective in the healing and reconciliation process among survivors and perpetrators, the second unit has been criticized because it did just the opposite. A genocide and human rights organization called REDRESS released a report in which they criticized Rwanda for pushing anonymity in their second unit, which does not “protect witnesses from re-traumatization.” They believe that the unit, which was forced to have genocide suspects transferred to Rwanda, does not aid in the recovery of victims but rather creates lasting tension among people on both sides of the issue. Their issue with anonymity is that it “clashes with some witnesses’ desire for communal acknowledgment through public testimony and the fact that anonymity is often difficult to ensure on the hills of Rwanda.” Additionally they contend that there should only be a single witness protection unit with a trauma counseling section. Genocide survivors who were interviewed stated that they preferred a system that allows them to speak openly, so it seems that the only issue is the schism between the right of victims to openly tell their stories out of a desire for societal acknowledgment of their suffering and their safety. While REDRESS poses a possible solution, which is to strike a balance by having security for witnesses in open and public testimonies, it simply does not seem like that will be enough.

Sometimes in April

Since we have been talking about Rwanda, I thought it would be appropriate to post about the movie “Sometimes in April” that I had to watch for my African Film class.  It is often compared to “Hotel Rwanda” and is based on the genocide.  The movie is about two brothers, one that is on trial for inciting killings through his radio program and another that is a soldier in the Rwandan army and is married to a Tutsi woman.  The movie shows the emotional turns from before, during, and after the genocide.  It is very powerful and does a great job at portraying the different aspects of the genocide and how everyone in Rwanda was affected.  As a warning, it can sometimes be graphic but it is worth watching if anyone is at all interested.

UMass Institute for Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies

The Institute for Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies at UMass recently opened at the end of March. It is hosting its first traveling exhibit called the Rescuers with Proof: Media for Social Justice.The exhibit highlights stories from genocides that occurred in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, and Cambodia.With photographs and testimonials from around the world, the Rescuers Project highlights the remarkable stories of ordinary people who, at great risk to themselves, have intervened to protect and save members of targeted groups. Here’s a link to its website if you’re interested: . The exhibit is open until April 12th. The Institute is at 758 North Pleasant Street (ac from Totman Gym). Here is the link to the website .

I think this new Institute could be a really great resource for a lot of our research papers and is a great complement to what we’ve been doing in class if anyone has a chance to check it out!

Srebrenica, Genocide Denial, and Mladic Trial

Srebrenica Genocide Memorial

Here is a post on the issue I mentioned in class today regarding denial of the Srebrenica genocide.

“The cold-blooded murder of 7,000-8,000 Muslim men following the fall of the United Nations “safe area” in July 1995 is probably the most documented war crime in history — but there are still those who insist it never happened.”

Despite the extensive documentation providing the massacre occurred, the ICTY trials of both Karadzic and Mladic will contribute to the factual record of their criminal responsibility for Srebrenica. Trials do help fulfill an essential truth-telling function for victims – even if knowledge does not come from acknowledgment from the perpetrators.

Michael Dobbs explores various issues and news on the Mladic trial on his blog through Foreign Policy magazine online.

What’s going on in Libya? Good question.

The uprising in Libya follows on the heels of pro-democracy protests in Tunisia and Egypt. But the brutal and violent crackdown on protesters by the Libyan government differentiates this case from others.

Some of Libya’s UN diplomats have broken ranks and accused Gaddafi of genocide, and if not, of committing crimes against humanity that warrant an investigation by the ICC. To be sure, it is not genocide. (This does not diminish the severity or significance of the violence against civilians, but even a cursory reading of the Convention’s definition would demonstrate that this is not genocide.) But the head of the UN human rights commission has called for an investigation into the violence, which could result in some international pressure to hold accountable those who are responsible for ordering and organizing the violence. Keep in mind that Libya is not State Party to the ICC, so any investigation and indictment would have to come by way of referral from the UN Security Council.

And then there’s Gaddafi and his son. First, his son, Saif, made a televised statement the other day that rebuked the protesters, accused outsiders of interfering, and warned of civil war if the government fell. Turns out he also did a PhD at the London School of Economics, and wrote his dissertation on the role of civil society in democratization. Oops! Be careful what you wish for.

Second, Gaddafi is most certainly a nutty but not less dangerous dictator. His regime has been repressive and brutal and internationally he is a friend to many fellow dictators. He is also known for many bizarre things: traveling around with his own personal tent, his bevy of modelesque female bodyguards, and especially his long and non-sensical speeches at home and abroad.  Gaddafi’s speeches to the United Nations in the last few years have been gems. And his speech today was no exception.

While it’s important not to make light of the seriousness of the situation or undermine the call the end violence against civilians, Gaddafi’s antics have been a source of amusement and bewilderment in the international community in the past.

See this SNL video if you want a reprieve from the depressing state of international affairs.

UPDATE: Security Council refers Libya case to the ICC. This is also the first time the United States has voted in favor of UNSC resolution on the ICC.

UPDATE: The Telegraph has an interesting article on why the African mercenaries used by Gaddafi would be ‘immune from prosecution for war crimes.

Also, Kevin Jon Heller, who blogs at Opinio Juris, has two interesting posts on some of the caveats of the UNSC deferral to the ICC: “Can the Security Council define the limits of a “situation”? and “Can the Prosecutor decide not to investigate the Libya situation?”

A Bit of Political Psychology

Yesterday in class Tiemessen mentioned that Pol Pot’s regime kept well documented records of the crimes they committed. I thought it was worth noting a political psychology  explanation, or perhaps theory is the better word, of genocide. As we know, genocide occurs always in communities affected by war and oppressed conditions. The elite oppressors use various psychological mechanisms to gain obedience from their ranks. Psychologists would recognize Pot’s extreme organization as routinization. This means that Pot presented his commands in a way that removed the need to use much mental faculties, in a drill like, repetitive way. To give you a concrete example of this, transporting victims from their homes to fields or into prisons was ordered by an elite official who didn’t have to actually physically mobilize the people. For this official it was about paperwork, checking the details, making sure the troops are ready to  do what’s necessary, pretty much making sure he did his job with perfection. He’s not thinking about the fact that he’s killing people he doesn’t know, his perfectionism is focused on following orders closely.Instructing specific orders like marching people to their death, in an extraordinarily organized fashion to type A personalities typical of  the high-ranking, makes it seem like it’s just a part of the job. Those instructed don’t have to think, Pot does all that, just execute. If the instructions are good enough, the next time it has to be done again, it’s a routine you don’t have to think about. I hit my word limit, there’s so much more I could say…