The Coalition for Genocide Response is currently engaged with the following projects:
Formal recognition or determination of a situation as genocide is not required to trigger action and the duties under the Genocide Convention. But experience has shown that actions follow words. Professor Gregory Stanton conducted a study on the effects of determining genocidal atrocities by using the words ‘ethnic cleansing’ or ‘genocide’. The results of the studies revealed that:
Choice of the term to be used is determined by the willingness to take action to stop the killing. When the terms ‘ethnic cleansing’ or ‘crimes against humanity’ were used, it indicated an unwillingness to take forceful action to stop the crimes. These weak words never motivated the use of force. Indeed, they were probably chosen because the decision whether or not to use force had already been made.
It was not until the term ‘genocide’ was applied to the crimes that force was used to stop them …
When the term ‘genocide’ is used to describe crimes against humanity, use of force is possible. When the crimes are only called ‘ethnic cleansing’ or ‘crimes against humanity,’ it is a sure indicator of a lack of political will to take forceful action to stop them.
Gregory H. Stanton, Weak Words Are Not Enough, (9 December 2015) Testimony to the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and International Organizations of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Stanton’s research concludes that, where the threshold for Article II of the Genocide Convention is met, recognising atrocities as genocide – rather than using the phrase of ‘ethnic cleansing’ – makes all the difference. It follows then that naming genocide is critical to trigger the action necessary to prevent, suppress and punish the crime of genocide.
States have taken different approaches to the recognition and determination of crimes as genocide. For example, when dealing with the question of the Daesh atrocities, the US government issued a statement recognising the atrocities as genocide based on their own assessment of the situation. The Canadian government relied on the report produced by the International Independent Commission of Inquiry of the Syrian Arab Republic (They Came to Destroy) to recognise the genocide. The Dutch government obtained expert opinions from two independent research centres before clarifying its recognition of the Daesh atrocities as genocide.
Other states, such as the UK, continue to shy away from recognising genocide and making a formal determination – relying on the argument that it is not for politicians but for the international judicial systems to make such a determination. A position that is erroneous and contested.
Current projects on genocide recognition
UK: Genocide Determination Bill
Genocide is an international crime that is preventable. Professor Gregory Stanton, in his paper “The Ten Stages of Genocide”, introduced a formula that seeks to identify the different red-flags suggestive of genocide. The ten stages of genocide highlight the fact that genocide is a process, a well-planned and organised crime.
The ten stages are:
1. CLASSIFICATION: All cultures have categories to distinguish people into “us and them” by ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality: German and Jew, Hutu and Tutsi. Bipolar societies that lack mixed categories, such as Rwanda and Burundi, are the most likely to have genocide. The main preventive measure at this early stage is to develop universalistic institutions that transcend ethnic or racial divisions, that actively promote tolerance and understanding, and that promote classifications that transcend the divisions. The Catholic church could have played this role in Rwanda, had it not been riven by the same ethnic cleavages as Rwandan society. Promotion of a common language in countries like Tanzania has also promoted transcendent national identity. This search for common ground is vital to early prevention of genocide.
2. SYMBOLIZATION: We give names or other symbols to the classifications. We name people “Jews” or “Gypsies”, or distinguish them by colors or dress; and apply the symbols to members of groups. Classification and symbolization are universally human and do not necessarily result in genocide unless they lead to dehumanization. When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups: the yellow star for Jews under Nazi rule, the blue scarf for people from the Eastern Zone in Khmer Rouge Cambodia. To combat symbolization, hate symbols can be legally forbidden (swastikas) as can hate speech. Group marking like gang clothing or tribal scarring can be outlawed, as well. The problem is that legal limitations will fail if unsupported by popular cultural enforcement. Though Hutu and Tutsi were forbidden words in Burundi until the 1980’s, code words replaced them. If widely supported, however, denial of symbolization can be powerful, as it was in Bulgaria, where the government refused to supply enough yellow badges and at least eighty percent of Jews did not wear them, depriving the yellow star of its significance as a Nazi symbol for Jews.
3. DISCRIMINATION: A dominant group uses law, custom, and political power to deny the rights of other groups. The powerless group may not be accorded full civil rights or even citizenship. Examples include the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 in Nazi Germany, which stripped Jews of their German citizenship, and prohibited their employment by the government and by universities. Denial of citizenship to the Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma is another example. Prevention against discrimination means full political empowerment and citizenship rights for all groups in a society. Discrimination on the basis of nationality, ethnicity, race or religion should be outlawed. Individuals should have the right to sue the state, corporations, and other individuals if their rights are violated.
4. DEHUMANIZATION: One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases. Dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder. At this stage, hate propaganda in print and on hate radios is used to vilify the victim group. In combating this dehumanization, incitement to genocide should not be confused with protected speech. Genocidal societies lack constitutional protection for countervailing speech, and should be treated differently than democracies. Local and international leaders should condemn the use of hate speech and make it culturally unacceptable. Leaders who incite genocide should be banned from international travel and have their foreign finances frozen. Hate radio stations should be shut down, and hate propaganda banned. Hate crimes and atrocities should be promptly punished.
5. ORGANIZATION: Genocide is always organized, usually by the state, often using militias to provide deniability of state responsibility (the Janjaweed in Darfur.) Sometimes organization is informal (Hindu mobs led by local RSS militants) or decentralized (terrorist groups.) Special army units or militias are often trained and armed. Plans are made for genocidal killings. To combat this stage, membership in these militias should be outlawed. Their leaders should be denied visas for foreign travel. The U.N. should impose arms embargoes on governments and citizens of countries involved in genocidal massacres, and create commissions to investigate violations, as was done in post-genocide Rwanda.
6. POLARIZATION: Extremists drive the groups apart. Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda. Laws may forbid intermarriage or social interaction. Extremist terrorism targets moderates, intimidating and silencing the center. Moderates from the perpetrators’ own group are most able to stop genocide, so are the first to be arrested and killed. Prevention may mean security protection for moderate leaders or assistance to human rights groups. Assets of extremists may be seized, and visas for international travel denied to them. Coups d’état by extremists should be opposed by international sanctions.
7. PREPARATION: National or perpetrator group leaders plan the “Final Solution” to the Jewish, Armenian, Tutsi or other targeted group “question.” They often use euphemisms to cloak their intentions, such as referring to their goals as “ethnic cleansing,” “purification,” or “counter-terrorism.” They build armies, buy weapons and train their troops and militias. They indoctrinate the populace with fear of the victim group. Leaders often claim that “if we don’t kill them, they will kill us.” Prevention of preparation may include arms embargos and commissions to enforce them. It should include prosecution of incitement and conspiracy to commit genocide, both crimes under Article 3 of the Genocide Convention.
8. PERSECUTION: Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity. Death lists are drawn up. In state sponsored genocide, members of victim groups may be forced to wear identifying symbols. Their property is often expropriated. Sometimes they are even segregated into ghettoes, deported into concentration camps, or confined to a famine-struck region and starved. Genocidal massacres begin. They are acts of genocide because they intentionally destroy part of a group. At this stage, a Genocide Emergency must be declared. If the political will of the great powers, regional alliances, or the U.N. Security Council can be mobilized, armed international intervention should be prepared, or heavy assistance provided to the victim group to prepare for its self-defense. Humanitarian assistance should be organized by the U.N. and private relief groups for the inevitable tide of refugees to come.
9. EXTERMINATION begins, and quickly becomes the mass killing legally called “genocide.” It is “extermination” to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human. When it is sponsored by the state, the armed forces often work with militias to do the killing. Sometimes the genocide results in revenge killings by groups against each other, creating the downward whirlpool-like cycle of bilateral genocide (as in Burundi). At this stage, only rapid and overwhelming armed intervention can stop genocide. Real safe areas or refugee escape corridors should be established with heavily armed international protection. (An unsafe “safe” area is worse than none at all.) The U.N. Standing High Readiness Brigade, EU Rapid Response Force, or regional forces — should be authorized to act by the U.N. Security Council if the genocide is small. For larger interventions, a multilateral force authorized by the U.N. should intervene. If the U.N. is paralyzed, regional alliances must act. It is time to recognize that the international responsibility to protect transcends the narrow interests of individual nation states. If strong nations will not provide troops to intervene directly, they should provide the airlift, equipment, and financial means necessary for regional states to intervene.
10. DENIAL is the final stage that lasts throughout and always follows a genocide. It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses. They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims. They block investigations of the crimes, and continue to govern until driven from power by force, when they flee into exile. There they remain with impunity, like Pol Pot or Idi Amin, unless they are captured and a tribunal is established to try them. The response to denial is punishment by an international tribunal or national courts. There the evidence can be heard, and the perpetrators punished. Tribunals like the Yugoslav or Rwanda Tribunals, or an international tribunal to try the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, or an International Criminal Court may not deter the worst genocidal killers. But with the political will to arrest and prosecute them, some may be brought to justice.’
Gregory H. Stanton, The Ten Stages of Genocide. Available at: http://www.genocidewatch.org/genocide/tenstagesofgenocide.html
Applying these stages to developing scenarios helps to identify those with the potential for escalation. This work could be achieved through special monitoring mechanisms tasked with obtaining and analysing evidence.
Current projects on preventing genocide
UK: A proposal to establish a new mechanism for early warning signs and indicators of genocide and mass atrocities.
PROSECUTING GENOCIDE PERPETRATORS
Under the Genocide Convention, states are under a duty to punish the crime of genocide. In order to do so, many states introduced domestic provisions criminalising genocide. However, apart from domestic courts, the crime of genocide can and has been prosecuted by international courts, whether the only permanent international court, the International Criminal Court (ICC), ad hoc tribunals (as the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) or the International Criminal Court for Rwanda (ICTR)) or regional mechanisms.
Current projects on prosecuting genocide
International: UN Security Council Resolution on bringing Daesh to justice for its crimes in Iraq.
Prevention should be the aim of any effort to address the crime of genocide, once and for all. In addition to the other projects mentioned here, it is crucial to ensure that the international infrastructure is equipped to do its job to effectively address genocide.
Current projects on addressing genocide
International: Supporting the initiative to block P5’s veto right in cases of genocide and crime against humanity