To begin a discussion about genocide, the natural place to begin seems to be in establishing a definition. This is more difficult than it appears,
and I'm not sure it can be done to the satisfaction of everyone, so I will attempt to provide an idea of what it typically involves.
The UN defined genocide in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. I have reduced definitions from that
document, to this:
Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial, or religious group, as such: a.
Killing members of the group; b. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of
life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; e.
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
This document also provides for “punishable acts should include not only genocide itself but also “conspiracy to commit genocide; direct and
public incitement to genocide; attempt to commit genocide; complicity in genocide”.
Firstly, it involves intent
, with the intention directed towards the complete or partial destruction of a targeted population. Depending on
the method involved, it can take years to identify intention, which can cause delays in efforts to stop it. By the time we can ethically step-up,
it's too late. Is it then true, however, that immense harm can be caused to large groups of people without the intention of targeting them
specifically for destruction? While we have waited on establishing intention, massive numbers of people can die, as we well know.
used in genocide muddy the waters for long periods of time, and makes intent
difficult to establish. This might take multiple
forms, because at the core is the desire to end a functioning body of people. There might be outright killing. Sterilization. They are stripped of
any political power. They might be kept illiterate, or otherwise kept so beaten down, they begin to lose viability as a functioning group. Think of
the photographs of the children we see who are starving, who are dying and crying for lack of food and water. Starvation is a method of genocide, as
The victims: Persons of Power are threatened by them. They refuse to accept their “place”. A decision is made to eliminate the threat, when
it becomes clear the only way to maintain complete control is to get rid of them. All group members are targeted. Men, women, children and the
elderly. It doesn't matter what they have done, or if they have done nothing. Only that they have been identified as being a member of a certain
Taking on the task of genocide is not an easy one. It has to be planned. How the killing will be done, how the bodies will be disposed of. Will the
targets be transported to the killing fields, or will the killers be imported or brought to them? We they be killed quickly, or over a decade or
It's not easy, being genocidal. Many complicated details to be worked out.
Much has been written about it.
Much of the above information has been taken from the book Will Genocide Ever End?
by Carol Rittner, John K. Roth, and James M. Smith , Paragon House, 2002.
Can we control Genocide in the twenty-first century
The international community failed to stop the massacres in places like Bosnia and Rwanda. Is it immoral not to take swift action, once we become
aware of it? Is there a criteria and protocol which should be followed?
We become so involved with our own lives, and have a tendency to think “it's their problem, let them handle it in their own way. We have our
When should we intervene? Intervening in the internal affairs of another country is very controversial, and can be very dangerous. Should we, or
shouldn't we? If so, how? At what point?
The Dutch writer Hugo Grotius argued that before one state could prevent another state from mistreating it's own citizens, the situation had to be
“so ruthless and widespread that it would shock the sensibility of the international community”.
Are you shocked yet?
From a paper written by Herbert Hirsch, and published in the book Will Genocide Ever End
Most scholars suggest that intervention is justified if several overlapping criteria are met:
1.The existence of large-scale atrocities or gross violations of basic human rights in the offending society;
2.Humanitarian motives MUST take precedence over other motives such as territorial acquisition;
3.Other possible remedies are exhausted and intervention will not cause significant harm elsewhere.
At times when someone brings up the Holocaust, inevitably someone points out that it was a horrible, horrible occurrence in our human history, and we
should maybe just forget about it. Then, someone usually points out that we absolutely should never forget it, so it will never happen again. But it
It happens over and over. It's happening now.
I learned a new word recently. It's “Omnicide”. Our thermonuclear warheads, and weapons of mass destruction. There are those who would wipe
out the entire population of the Earth. Some of these like-minded people even seem to among us, at times.
Are they harmless? Hatred is a powerful emotion.
Just a thought.