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By MARISSA GOLDFADEN

The Genocide Prevention Advisory Network recently issued a conference report from their advanced workshop at The Hague on March 14-15, 2012. Focusing on the emerging global and regional architectures aiming at the prevention of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, the conference addressed the following questions:

  • What guiding principles are emerging to shape the architecture and community of genocide prevention and its relevant fields?
  • What can GPANet offer to articulate those principles and strengthen these emerging capacities?
  • How can GPANet work in partnership to support and facilitate local, national, regional and international prevention networks?

The papers presented at the conference dealt with the topics of early warning and data gathering and verification systems, case studies on Somalia, linkages with terrorism, and lastly, perspectives on genocide prevention. This final subject is what we’ll focus on, given the work of AIPR.

Discussing Holocaust education and genocide prevention, Yehuda Bauer spoke of the “problematic” text of the Genocide Convention and the resultant inefficacy of the United Nations to prevent or halt instances of genocide post-World War II: two examples being Rwanda in 1994 and Sudan at present. Given the structure of the Security Council, geopolitical interests often trump those of the humanitarian variety. Moreover, Bauer argues that race and ethnicity are modern social constructs, given the singular origin of the human species. This leads to the common “us vs. them” framing that serves to precipitate genocide. All of this is compounded by the fact that, “There is a dialectical development one can discern in international politics, reflecting two contradictory global trends: a tendency towards greater unification on the one hand, and an opposing tendency towards greater autonomy and independence of ethnic and/or national groups on the other hand.”

Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch and formulator of the Eight Stages of Genocide model, noted Genocide Watch’s early warning system and how “[r]apid response by regional alliances has prevented or stopped several genocides: in East Timor, Kosovo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia , and Sierra Leone.” He also spoke of the success of international tribunals and the creation of the ICC. Having worked against genocide for 30 years, Stanton says he has learned two things about genocide prevention. He states:

  1. The first lesson is the direct result of our own human incapacity to comprehend or feel sympathy for large groups of people halfway around the world. Because individuals cannot do that, we need permanent institutions established that will watch out for precursors of genocide, take action to prevent it, intervene to stop it, and arrest and prosecute those who commit it.
  2. The second lesson I have learned is that genocide prevention must start and be led by people from countries at risk. It cannot be led by an American organization in Washington, DC, led by a pacifist director, that is unwilling to advocate the use of force to stop genocide. Prevention must especially begin from the ground up in countries at risk of genocide. A true International Alliance to End Genocide can support such local efforts and create an international mass movement to end genocide.

Daniel Feierstein then offered “A Critique of the Hegemonic View of the Current Genocidal Conflicts: A Perspective from the Latin American Margin.” His understanding of genocide seeks to dismantle a simplistic “Good People vs. Bad People” scenario and instead puts forth a perspective where genocide is “a technology of power used very successfully to destroy and reorganize social relationships and identities.” He believes “this would be a better explanation of why it continues beyond our collective calls of ‘never again.'” He went on to point out three different initiatives as possible alternatives to the military intervention model:

1. The UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) Experience

Since the UNASUR Constitutive Treaty was signed on May 23, 2008, UNASUR has helped four countries in the region that have experienced the possibility of new violent conflicts: Bolivia (2008), Honduras (2009), Ecuador (2010), and the conflict between Colombia and Venezuela (2010). In each case there was a major crisis with strong potential to trigger atrocity crimes.

2. The Regional Fora on Genocide Prevention

Writes Feierstein, “The idea was to meet all the governments of a region to create an open exchange and debate on how to prevent possible genocidal conflicts. As every government is involved in the discussions, there is a possibility (only a possibility, but we should have little utopias, which are more possible to achieve than the big ones) that the real problems of the regions will appear. It is even possible that some approaches to resolve them will emerge, as there are few instances in which the governments are invited to debate on regional perspectives to analyze and prevent genocide.”

3. The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation

AIPR has organized several meetings with mid- and low-level representatives, with the idea that governments change but there are some kinds of officers who continue in their key positions as professionals and/or bureaucracy. The objective of the AIPR is to train those people in early warning and genocide prevention as a challenge for the future.

The  workshop concluded with a concept note by Alice Ackermann on emerging genocide prevention structures in Europe and Liberata Mulamula discussing the same in the context of the Great Lakes region of Africa.

This is the third in a series of blog posts by Auschwitz Institute interns who from October 2011 through March 2012 monitored countries for risk of genocide using the Analysis Framework of the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. This week we present the post by Yasmin Andrews, a graduate student in international relations at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland. Yasmin monitored Zimbabwe for risk of crimes against humanity.

As a student of International Relations at the University of St. Andrews, I was no stranger to the study and analysis of violence, war and political conflict. However, this internship took on quite a different timbre than my university studies. I was chosen as one of the first set of interns to monitor states “at risk” of the occurrence of genocide. My country of interest was Zimbabwe, which is currently embroiled in a myriad of problems that render the state incredibly vulnerable.

As a Genocide Prevention Monitoring Intern for the Auschwitz Institute, I have had to be incredibly alert to the happenings within Zimbabwe. My work entailed observing events, news and current opinions within the country in relation to the potential for mass atrocities or crimes against humanity. The UN OSAPG (Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide) provided us with a Framework of Analysis establishing detailed guidelines on different factors that could indicate the potential for genocide within a society, including issues such as independent media, human rights protection, propaganda, increases in arms, and any increased involvement by other states.

Genocide is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Through the training received from the OSAPG and the research conducted, it became very evident that genocide is not a spontaneous occurrence. The build-up in tension within a country, as well as the actual killing of its people, takes place over a period of time. It is targeted and planned and therefore not a spur-of-the-moment affair.

My partner Jeremy Garsha’s and my job differed slightly from that of the other monitoring interns, as mass atrocities and crimes against humanity are more likely to occur than genocide in Zimbabwe. However, the UN OSAPG framework was still utilized as an important guideline in our research. This difference in classification often results in blindness towards the threat of violence that is brewing within Zimbabwe’s borders.

Zimbabwe has a history of internal violence. The massacre that took place through Operation Gukurahundi in Matabeleland by the Fifth Brigade is widely termed as genocide. This 3500-strong group of ethnically Shona supporters of Mugabe killed approximately 20,000 villagers and tortured and assaulted countless others in January 1983. In addition to this history of violence and genocide, the current situation in Zimbabwe lends itself to monitoring. There is a lack of an independent judiciary, effective national human rights institutions and effective legislative protection. The government has failed to abolish oppressive legislation and has passed additional laws which are inimical to fundamental rights and freedoms, including the Non-Governmental Organizations Act, which looks to proscribe the work of human rights organizations.

Additionally, Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government, comprised of President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), have employed violence and tyranny to dominate government institutions and stem significant human rights advances. The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has been under attack from the excommunicated bishop, Dr. Nolbert Kunonga, since 2007. He has been able to intimidate Anglicans and with the support of members of the police force, he has denied many of their right to worship by seizing property belonging to the church. Churches have been forced to shut down and many have been forced at gunpoint to attend ZANU-PF rallies.

Additionally, the precedent of political violence, intimidation and corruption set by the 2008 elections is a cause for concern with the nation’s upcoming elections. UNICEF has reported a rise in the use of child labor and the lack of investigations or arrests for these abuses. A large number of NGOs, which provide basic services such as food and assisting the disabled, have been banned. Torture and other ill treatment of activists by police and members of Zimbabwe’s intelligence services remain a serious and systemic human rights problem in Zimbabwe. An alarmingly high proportion of these violations have been perpetrated by youth. Amnesty International’s call for Zimbabwean authorities to cease manipulating the country’s laws to persecute activists has fallen on deaf ears. Partisans of the Mugabe regime continue to benefit from a lack of accountability for past crimes. For example, a member of the Central Intelligence Organization connected to the murder of two MDC activists 12 years ago has still not been indicted. The African Union is unwilling to intervene and expel President Mugabe despite its mandate to maintain good governance in its member states. These are a few pertinent examples of the significant threat to the capacity to prevent mass atrocities in Zimbabwe.

The term “genocide” is a powerful word that many shy away from and are afraid to consider. When using the UN OSAPG framework to examine the cases of genocide in the past, such as when the Interahamwe killed 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda, the indicators are visible. It is clear that there is a need for proper and effective monitoring efforts to prevent such a crime from ever occurring again.

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