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Today we present another Guest Preventer from Prof. Alex Hinton’s genocide prevention class at Rutgers–Newark:
Shant Afarian, Class of 2012, Biology major
My name is Shant Afarian and I am a third-year biology major. In addition to my penchant for science, I have a very deep-rooted interest in genocide. This interest stems from my heritage; I am a descendant of survivors of the Armenian genocide. From early on in my childhood I have learned of the genocide of my ancestors. I was young, however, and unable to fully comprehend the extent of the crimes committed. Now that I am older, I can better appreciate the mistakes of the past, but I still have many unanswered questions. Why, for example, did the international community remain silent during the Armenian genocide? Why was nothing done to end the atrocities that were committed against my people?
Professor Hinton’s class seemed like an appropriate place to have my questions answered. And to some extent, they have been answered, but they have been replaced with other, more daunting questions. These questions deal with the integrity (or lack thereof) of the international relationships that are necessary for effective genocide prevention.
What seems to be the most prevalent issue is the persistence of international disagreement. Unfortunately for genocide preventers, humanity’s best interests and the self-serving interests of sovereign states usually clash, effectively preventing most humanitarian efforts. This conflict of interests, coupled with the ambiguities of the loophole-ridden legal definition of genocide, stands as the greatest obstacle in our path to a genocide-free world.
The successes and failures of the past are examined in Professor Hinton’s class in an attempt to learn from the mistakes of our predecessors. We have examined many case studies and have had the pleasure of meeting and hearing from many key figures in the field. Their inputs have shaped our class discussions; by taking our initially confused outlooks and opinions and reinforcing them with key facts and philosophical musings, they have greatly expanded our knowledge of the history of genocide, thus allowing us to return the favor by passing on what we learned to future generations.
Indeed, as we have seen multiple times throughout the course, the lack of general awareness is a major contributor to the difficulty of effective genocide prevention. The first step was giving a name to the “crime without a name”—by doing this, a previously inconceivable horror was turned into a tangible concept. It follows then that the next step is raising awareness. Once the minds of the general public are as permeated with thoughts of genocide as ours, once we have we succeeded in bringing genocide to the forefront of our minds, then and only then can we hope to succeed in preventing genocide.
Today’s post “From the AIPR Team” comes from Operations Intern Jessica Lemire:
As part of our mission to spread genocide prevention around the world, AIPR president and founder Fred Schwartz is currently on a trip to South America to build new relationships (and maintain existing ones) with the governments of Brazil, Chile, Peru, Argentina and Ecuador. I recently aided in communication with foreign ministries so that Legal and Operations Associate Samantha Horn could coordinate these meetings. We hope that new international bonds will help us to continue expanding our programs globally and bring to the forefront the importance of the mission and work of AIPR.
I am particularly excited to see one of these programs, the Lemkin Seminar for Genocide Prevention, in person in the upcoming weeks. In April I will be traveling with the rest of the AIPR team to Poland to participate in and help with the organization of this seminar for students from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. I know that this will be an extremely rewarding experience, not only for the participants, but for me as well. Learning through reading and research is completely different from a firsthand encounter, and I am extremely lucky to be able to have this opportunity to witness the mission of the Auschwitz Institute as it continues to grow and engage the international community on this issue.
Khmer Rouge war criminal Kaing Guek Eav (Duch) appealed his 35-year sentence in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, the New York Times reported. During his trial Duch admitted to overseeing the torture and killing of 16,000 people as the Khmer Rouge chief prison warden. He is the is the only person so far to be tried by the UN-backed tribunal set up to investigate and prosecute officials of the Khmer Rouge.
The United Nations Human Rights Council’s decisive action on Iran and Côte d’Ivoire sends a clear message that ongoing violations in those countries should end, according to Human Rights Watch. The decision to appoint an expert to investigate rights abuses in Iran was the first time the Council created a post dedicated to a particular country since the Council was created in 2005. The Council also took strong action to address the human rights crisis in Côte d’Ivoire. “The steady crescendo of abuses including targeted killings, enforced disappearances, politically motivated rape, and indiscriminate shelling continues to claim many lives,” said Julie de Rivero of Human Rights Watch. “Establishing a Commission of Inquiry for Côte d’Ivoire sends a strong signal to all parties to the conflict that they will be held accountable for their actions.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a message marking the 17th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, observed on April 7. Said Ban: “The recognition of the collective failure of the international community to come to the assistance of the people of Rwanda, and to shield the victims of the wars in the Balkans, led to the endorsement by the 2005 World Summit of the responsibility to protect.” The Secretary-General also stated that “preventing genocide is a collective and individual responsibility.”
The Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies has released a paper titled “Applying the Ethnic Rebellion Model and Risk Assessment Model to Conflict in Myanmar,” by Lina Gong, Manpavan Kaur, and Alistair D.B. Cook. The paper discusses the use of early warning models in genocide prevention and applies two accepted models to the case study of Myanmar. The application of the models shows that “the internal ethnic conflict is likely to continue and there exist trigger or accelerating factors for genocide to occur.” The report also assesses the effectiveness of the early warning models which need to be addressed in order to make them more effective in conflict and genocide assessments.
Photo: Genocide Intervention
The International Crisis Group has released an open letter to the UN Security Council on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. The letter expressed the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the country and urges the Council to “swift action to halt the fighting and prevent ethnic cleansing and other mass atrocity crimes”.
The United States Holocaust Museum has released a paper on speaking out against rape as a weapon of genocide. The paper noted that for the first time ever, following the conflict in Rwanda, an international tribunal handed down a judgement for genocide including the crime of rape. “Perpetrators assault women as a way to assault the past, present, and future of targeted groups.” Women must continue for inclusion of a gendered perspective into efforts to respond to conflict, particularly genocidal violence the paper stated.
Ernest Gakwaya, alias Camarade, and Emmanuel Nkunzuwimye, two Rwandan men accused of taking part in the 1994 Genocide have been arrested in Belgium reports AllAfrica.com.
The Libya conflict has reopened the R2P debate on Burma, Irrawaddy.com reports. Burma is ravaged with geopolitical problems and a mounting humanitarian crisis. France and US warships with humanitarian aid were rejected from landing in Burma in 2008 by the Burmese regime. At the time, many in the UN argued that a legitimate case of intervention under R2P was justified as the regime’s refusal fell under the loosely worded R2P mandate. More recently though, in early 2010, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to Burma Tomás Ojea Quintana reported to the UN’s Human Rights Commission and called for a Commission of Inquiry into possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.
This week’s Guest Preventer on the AIPR blog is Daniel J. Gerstle:
Inspired by my experience as a former humanitarian aid worker and rights advocate, I now produce creative humanitarian media about how people survive war, disaster, and other extreme adversity. Part of my work is documenting the story of local and traditional violence prevention initiatives in war zones, which are often ignored by the press and left out of peace negotiations.
There are tremendous fears that the vastly different claims on where Sudan’s north–south border might lie, along with the threat of more violence in Darfur and growing rebellion in the Nile valley, will continue to threaten peace in central Africa and lead to more violence for years to come. What can a regular person living around the world do to stop it?
As founder and editor of HELO Magazine, a new organization that produces creative humanitarian media by, for, and about aid workers, rights advocates, refugees, and musicians who support them, I’ve gathered a team ready to answer this question.
Darfuri reconciliation expert Suliman Giddo, filmmaker Lucas Gath (Sins of My Father, ShootingPoverty.org), photographers Brendan Bannon, Michael Marquand, and Ala Kheir, motion graphics artist Ruslan Shukurov, musician alSarah, students at Ahfad University for Women in Khartoum, and many more are staged to help HELO create a visually stunning, interactive, virtual Sudan in which we will place short films that document local violence prevention initiatives along the frontlines. Each short film found within the virtual Sudan will offer a menu of options that viewers can take to act on what they saw: debate, donate, sign a petition, plan a trip, and potentially correspond with the people involved in the initiative.
We’re in the fundraising stage for traveling to Sudan to complete filming right now. The formal online fundraising campaign begins in the next weeks, but in the meantime we would love for people to help us cover the costs of travel and production by checking out our new Sudan Mosaic Video Teaser and reading the instructions below it which explain how to support our cause. You can also check out the other literary journalism, opinions, culture, and music stories we offer on other countries at HELO Magazine.
Much of Sudan has great potential for peace and prosperity. Many Sudanese who live on the frontlines have incredible ideas about how local and national disputes can be resolved. But for some reason, the international community, diplomatic envoys, and governments tend primarily to invite those with guns to negotiation tables. Wouldn’t peace talks be more successful if they were dominated by local violence prevention innovators instead? At the very least, Sudanese violence prevention innovators could use more press.
Daniel J. Gerstle is founder and editor of HeloMagazine.org; executive producer at Sudan Mosaic Interactive Media Project; and an independent consultant on humanitarian aid, human rights, and media.
Victims of Europe’s last remaining communist leader, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, are preparing to sue him for crimes against humanity, including persecution, illegal detention, and torture, the Epoch Times reported. Proceedings were initiated after last December’s presidential elections, during which hundreds of protesters were arrested and abused, including presidential candidates, human rights activists, and journalists. “The lawsuit contains charges of torture, abduction, kidnapping, and murder.”
The legal implications of Libya’s no-fly zone have been featured regularly in recent media. In Foreign Policy Journal, David Hillstrom published an article, titled “The Libyan No Fly Zone: Responsibility to Protect and International Law,” discussing whether the international community’s actions are legal, given UN approval, the stance taken by the Arab League, and the participation of token Arab states in the coalition. Meanwhile Foreign Affairs published an article by Michael W. Doyle, “The Folly of Protection: Is Intervention Against Gaddafi’s Regime Legal and Legitimate?” assessing the notion of the Responsibility to Protect and the legal and ethical dilemmas that will plague policymakers in weeks and months ahead.
Disputes along the North and South Sudan border continue. On March 16, the UN secretary-general’s advisers on genocide prevention and the responsibility to protect “expressed grave concern at the increase of tensions in Abyei” between Missireya Arabs and Ngok-Dinka ethnic groups. The statement underscored the responsibility that both governments share in ensuring that civilians are protected. This responsibility, the two advisers emphasized, extends to “all person in Abyei, irrespective of their ethnicity or religion.”
Photo: Enough Project
Today’s post “From the AIPR Team” comes from Operations Intern Daniel Mitzner:
As AIPR focuses on expanding its outreach by developing new editions of its standard Raphael Lemkin Seminar for Genocide Prevention, I have been involved in a few different projects.
One is the development of a Lemkin Seminar focusing on women in genocide. To this end, we have been seeking advice on curricular development strategy from academics and organizations around the world. Recently I contacted women’s human rights organizations in South America prior to a trip there by our president, Mr. Fred Schwartz, so we could arrange meetings for him with the aim of working together with these groups to develop the seminar. I have also drafted various legal documents, including a proposal for a donation of real estate to AIPR from the Polish government.
However, my main focus at AIPR has been drafting an academic article with Tibi Galis, our executive director, on judiciary reforms in regimes in transition and how these reforms affect the administration of transitional justice. Specifically, I have researched several regimes that have undergone a transition and compiled data on the effectiveness of the various approaches these governments have taken when vetting their public officials and judicial officers. I began the writing process last week, and Tibi and I hope to have the article published this spring.
The UN Security Council passed resolution 1973, authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya from pro-Gaddafi forces. The BBC released an article analyzing the text of the resolution. The overriding aim of the resolution is to halt the fighting and implement a cease-fire. The resolution further creates a no-fly zone over Libya.
In recognition of the resolution, Libya’s foreign minister held a press conference in which he stated: “Libya has decided an immediate cease-fire, and the stoppage of all military operations.” But many countries are skeptical, as reported by the Telegraph and the Associated Press. American Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States must see “action on the ground,” not just words concerning the cease-fire.
Officials announced that the leaders of Britain, France and Germany, and the chiefs of the United Nations and Arab League, would join other world leaders for an emergency summit on Libya in Paris this Saturday.
Disputes between ethnic groups in the Sudanese border region of Abyei could escalate to full-scale conflict, UN genocide officials warned on Friday. UPI.com reported that clashes between the groups have left more than 100 people dead and displaced at least 20,000 people.
Human Rights Watch stated that the three-month campaign of organized violence by security forces under the control of Laurent Gbagbo in the Ivory Coast may amount to crimes against humanity: “A new Human Rights Watch investigation in Abidjan indicates that the pro-Gbagbo forces are increasingly targeting immigrants from neighboring West African countries in their relentless attacks against real and perceived supporters of Alassane Ouattara, who is internationally recognized as having won the November 2010 presidential election.” The Associated Foreign Press reported that Gbagbo said on Friday he would open talks on the situation with his rival Ouattara.
Photo: Human Rights Watch
Today we present another Guest Preventer from Prof. Alex Hinton’s genocide prevention class at Rutgers–Newark:
Yannek Smith, Class of 2011, Political Science major
Professor Hinton’s genocide prevention course is the culmination of my undergraduate studies. I knew as soon as I heard about it that this was not something to pass up. Here was a unique opportunity to take a class sponsored by the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, taught by Alex Hinton, one of the world’s top genocide scholars. It includes weekly visits by prominent actors in the field of genocide prevention who come to teach the class about their work and share their views on this expanding field. This is something special, and I am grateful to be a part of it.
When most people hear the word genocide, it evokes certain images: the Jewish Holocaust, the Hutus’ massacre of the Tutsis, perhaps Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and (increasingly) the genocide of the Armenians. These are the most infamous cases of genocide in the 20th century, the ones that stick out the most in our recent historical memory. What the course does a wonderful job illustrating is that these atrocities are not isolated cases. Genocide is far more common than most people imagine; it cuts across class, culture, and ideology. The targets include a wide a range of groups, real and imagined, albeit several that are not included in the 1948 Genocide Convention’s narrow definition. More important than academic debates over what constitutes genocide is adopting a utilitarian approach and looking at the roots of this phenomenon and what can be done to stop genocidal behavior in its early stages.
In class, we are learning to see genocide on a spectrum, as a series of steps or stages that can be identified and addressed. We demystify the concept and look at it through a sober lens. This requires accepting many difficult truths: genocide is a huge part of human history (the United States and the greater “New World,” for instance, were founded on genocide), genocidaires are rational actors (there is always some kind of logic to genocide), and it can happen anywhere. Fred Schwartz, the founder of AIPR, would add that genocide, like rape or murder, will never cease to exist. Humans have always done it, and will continue it, and the challenge therefore is to detect it and defeat it in its early stages, or if it is too late, minimize the damage.
The human rights movement is essentially a fight to improve the human condition; to protect people on a global scale from abusive governments, torture, the torments of abject poverty, and—the gravest crime against our humanity—the crime of genocide. Prof. Hinton and our weekly speakers teach us about the shifting paradigms in genocide prevention, the different legal instruments that are out there, and the challenges and barriers of our current international order and the United Nations system. Things are changing fast, and many questions linger: What is the future of Responsibility to Protect? Why is the world sitting and watching as Libyan and Ivoirian people are deprived of basic human rights? How should we address the delicate issue of sovereignty?
The students in our class are in a privileged position: we are intellectually equipped to address these important questions. I hope that this educational initiative will not end with our class, so that in the future a broader range of students can become active participants in the fight against genocide.