Underestimating the Magnitude of International Crime: Implications of Genocidal Behavior for the Discipline of Criminology

Posted: January 31, 2011 in Genocide Denial
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By  George S. Yacoubian Jr.
Injustice Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1, November 1997


The 20th century has witnessed the evolution of perhaps the most contemptible violation of state-perpetrated, international criminal law- genocide. Genocidal behavior however, has been routinely ignored in literature devoted to the discipline of criminology. Part I of this essay demonstrates how the study of international crime has traditionally been neglected by criminologists. Part II, first, scrutinizes the controversies that have surrounded the definition of “genocide,” and second, examines incidents of genocidal behavior that have occurred this century in Armenia and Rwanda. Part III, first, examines the difficulty in enforcing the laws prohibiting genocide, and second, evaluates proposed ways by which genocidal behavior may be impeded prior to escalation. Part IV concludes that until the laws prohibiting genocide are acknowledged by criminologists as a critical form of deviance, and an iron system is advanced to require compliance to the laws disallowing this phenomenon, this incomprehensible pattern of human suffering will likely persist well into the 21st century.

I. International Crime

Historically, international dimensions of crime have offered little theoretical or practical interest to criminologists. The preoccupation with intranational criminality has constricted the pragmatic plane on which these scholars have conventionally operated. The evolution of international crime however, poses a new and curious dilemma for criminologists. Within our American borders, the scope of criminal activity is clearly too immense and too diverse to articulate. Presumably, scholars abroad are similarly mandated to combat deviance within their own national borders. As a result, the question that emanates is how can the emerging challenges of international crime be elucidated and resolved in conjunction with attempts to eradicate intranational deviance?

The study of international crime has traditionally been undervalued by criminologists. At the 1996 meetings of the American Society of Criminology, arguably the most prestigious annual gathering of criminal justice academicians and practitioners, 1536 papers were slated for presentation 1. Of these 1536 papers, only 22, or .014%, were devoted to violations of international criminal law. This figure represents only a minuscule increase over the last four years. In 1993, only 29 out of 1249 slated presentations, or .023%, were devoted to violations of international criminal law; in 1994, 16 out of 1188, or .013%; and in 1995, 16 out of 1308, or .012% 2.

The study of international crime is also not well represented in scholarly literature devoted to the discipline of criminology. Since 1990, there have been 184 articles published inCriminology, 268 in the Journal of Criminal Justice, 132 in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 185 in Justice Quarterly, and 169 in Law and Society Review 3. Of these 938 essays, published in five distinguished periodicals devoted to the discipline of criminology, one was dedicated to studying violations of international criminal law 4. These data indicate that despite the rise of the international criminal enterprise, scholarly research in the sphere of international crime has not been well-distributed in prominent journals devoted to the discipline of criminology. Rather, essays on violations of international law have been customarily relegated to either law reviews or political science periodicals.

Clearly however, investigating violations of international law cannot supplant the study of intranational violence. Overlooking domestic dilemmas at the expense of international problems would be neither a judicious nor a publicly popular resolution. Drug use, police corruption, and sexual violence, to mention just a few, are significant domestic issues that justly require the immediate attention of qualified scholars. Nevertheless, criminologists cannot confine themselves to solving only those problems that transpire within their immediate sphere of provincial influence. International crimes are no less consequential, and often more egregious, than most offenses prohibited under domestic statutory law. The Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) Affair (Passas, 1993; Passas, 1996), the exportation of hazardous waste (Abrams, 1990; Critharis, 1990) and the commission of genocide (Andreopoulos, 1994; Dadrian, 1995) demonstrate that damage inflicted by international criminal activity is often more deleterious than any offense committed intranationally.

The BCCI scandal epitomizes this deleterious international criminal enterprise. Established in 1972 to assist poverty stricken countries, BCCI ultimately possessed assets of $23 billion and operated banks in 72 countries 5. The bank however, had been “manipulating the accounts, concealing losses, keeping deposits off the books, hiding illegal BCCI investments in United States financial institutions, and generating false profits” (Passas, 1996: 58). BCCI also “touched prominent political figures and unveiled bankers’ connections with intelligence agencies as well as with criminal enterprises involving, inter alia, smuggling, drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal arms trade, transfer of nuclear technology, public corruption, capital flight, illegal ownership of US banks, financing of terrorism, frauds against depositors, false accounting, and use of violence” (Passas, 1993: 294). BCCI demonstrates that while banking has gone international, the inability of regulators to keep pace with this evolution has permitted the development of significantly dangerous criminal activity. BCCI is a clear example of how criminal agents can sidestep international laws and capitalize on the conflicting interests of global authorities.

Hazardous waste disposal and management have also become international concerns (Abrams, 1990; Critharis, 1990). Despite the enactment of strict hazardous waste management legislation, international controversies have developed surrounding the exportation of hazardous wastes and the illegal waste trade. In an effort to reduce the costs of hazardous waste disposal, companies look beyond their borders to the Third World, where costs are substantially lower. Unfortunately however, in a large number of developing countries, the regulatory framework for adequate waste management is still developing. Waste exporters have “… misrepresented the dangerous nature of their cargoes and have paid large sums to dispose of the wastes in facilities that are unsafe and inadequate” (Abrams, 1990: 804). Despite the current efforts of international associations, solving the waste trade problem is a burdensome task. The loopholes in the existing regulations of the United States, United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) appear to encourage waste trade. Consequently, the existing measures do not effectively eliminate the dangerous environmental risks associated with improper disposal in underdeveloped nations.

Global interdependence and integration have changed the nature of criminal behavior. As a result, criminal activity can no longer be viewed as a phenomenon that exists exclusively on a micro-level. That is, the effects of intranational deviance have been surpassed by international criminogenic behavior. As such, it is the responsibility of criminologists to study not only those events that transpire within their immediate sphere of provincial influence, but to expand their research internationally. The BCCI Affair and the exportation of hazardous waste demonstrate that the consequences of international crime have become exponentially more significant than most crimes perpetrated intranationally. Part II introduces a third example of international crime, genocide, as a realm of deviance that should capture the attention of criminologists. It is a violation of international criminal law which, despite its destructive historical impact, has an unavoidable contemporary dimension.

II. Genocide

Every tragedy makes the whispers of past tragedies speak again. This affirmation is perhaps most germane to genocide. The 20th century had barely begun when under cover of World War I, Armenians living under the Turkish yoke suffered massacres and deportations that eliminated over 1.5 million men, women, and children (Bournoutian, 1994). Though the crime of genocide is ancient, the concept itself is relatively new. This part, first, discusses the definitional issues and controversies that circumfuse the term “genocide”, and second, reviews the Armenian Massacres of 1915 and the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

Definitional Issues

The term “genocide” was developed to characterize the organized attempt to eradicate an entire ethnic group. Lemkin (1944: 79) coined the term to denote, “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.” Genocide has two phases: first, the desolation of the national example of the oppressed group, and second, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor (Lemkin, 1944). The objectives of this plan are the erosion of the political, economical, and social institutions of the individuals belonging to such groups. While lacking any rational justification, genocide is designed to accomplish one absolute objective- the destruction of a distinct human population.

There are twenty-two recognized international crimes, which include, for example, apartheid, slavery, drug trafficking, and genocide (Bassiouni, 1986a). The four legal bases for considering these categories of international crimes include: 1) existing conventions which consider certain acts international crimes; 2) customary international law which recognizes that certain acts are international crimes; 3) general principles of international law which recognize that certain acts are violations of international law and about which there is a pending draft convention before the United Nations; and 4) prohibition of certain conducts by an international convention, though not specifically stating that it constitutes an international crime, and which is also recognized in the writings of scholars as such (Bassiouni, 1986a). International law is considered supreme. The rights and obligations which a state has under international law are superior to any rights or duties it may have under its domestic law.

International criminal law conventions establish three duties upon signatory states: first, to criminalize the prohibited conduct; second, to prosecute accused violators or to extradite accused violators to other states desirous of prosecuting them; and third, to cooperate with other states in the prevention and suppression of such conduct (Bassiouni, 1983). On December 9, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 6. This Resolution officially came into effect as a binding piece of international law on January 12, 1951. Article II of the Convention declares genocide to mean,

the commitment of any of the following acts 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; and

e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

No state has ever advocated that genocide is not a crime, and the definition contained in Article II is considered to be binding international law, a universal interdiction that permeates the mask of state sovereignty. The definition provided by the Convention would seem to provide scholars with an instrumental standard for interdisciplinary analysis. While the classification of genocidal behavior must be initially measured against this U.N. declaration, by virtue of its international legal status, there has been considerable scholarly debate over the inadequacy of this definition.

The two main criticisms of the Genocide Convention focus on, first, the exclusion of certain groups from those deemed worthy of protection, and second, the absence of an international enforcement mechanism (Andreopoulos, 1994). As Fein (1994: 96) observes, the most fundamental problem of the Convention is, “its enforceability, as the perpetrator of genocide, the state, is responsible for its prosecution.” It is similarly difficult for the United Nations, as an international organization composed of sovereign states and committed to territorial integrity, to generate proceedings against fellow member states. That is, even with a permanent international criminal tribunal, the system would be relatively ineffectual if only governments were permitted to bring cases before it.

Any debates that involve the conceptual dimensions of genocide have at their roots the definition of genocide articulated in the Genocide Convention. Chalk (1994: 52), for example, in his criticism of the Convention’s declaration, maintains that genocide, “is a form of one-sided killing in which a state or other authority intends to destroy a group, as that group and membership in it are defined by the perpetrator.” This broader interpretation emphasizes that the denotation of the boundaries and membership of a victim group always lie in the hands of the victimizers. Chalk’s criticism is that the Convention’s definition is too narrow, that it often excludes political and social groups. Chalk (1994) asserts that the dismissal of such groups means neglecting the thousands of homosexuals liquidated by the Nazis because of their sexual orientation, the million Khmer murdered by the Communist party of Kampuchea from 1975 to 1978, and the killing of 500,000 Indonesian communists in 1965.

Charny (1994: 64) proposes a relatively similar assessment of genocide, insisting that, “there should be no situation in which thousands, even millions of defenseless victims of mass murder do not qualify as victims of genocide.” Charny (1994) thus maintains that the annihilation of twenty million Soviet citizens by Stalin and the murder of five thousand students in Tiananmen Square are both clear cases of genocidal events. His proposition is that because there is such a discrepancy between the reality of mass killings across the globe and the definitions that legally prohibit them, it is the latter that must change.

Fein (1994: 95) however, asserts that “many people use genocide-labeling… to describe situations in which they perceive themselves as threatened, regardless of how these situations have come about, the source of threat, and the truth of accusation against the perpetrator.” She (1994: 97) defines genocide, as a “sustained purposeful action by a perpetrator to physically destroy a collectivity or through interdiction of the biological and social reproduction of group members.” Her major criticism of Chalk and Charny is that their definitions are not concepts, but moral judgments. They utilize genocide generically to infer all kinds of deaths that should not have occurred, whether they were “caused by war or war crimes, industrial or nuclear accident, environmental degradation, or demographic influx of settlers” (Fein, 1994: 100).

While Charny and Chalk argue that all mass killings are worthy of the term “genocide”, their preoccupation with labeling all cases as “genocide” produces two critical problems. First, “genocide” should remain the penultimate international crime and cannot be applied to all instances of human suffering. The crime of genocide and its subsequent Convention were born from the annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians and 6 million Jews. As Fein (1994: 100) attests, “discrimination of crimes and events is necessary and both scientifically and morally justified.” Second, individuals or states may be accused of having committed genocide when perhaps they have not. As the need for a permanent international criminal court continues to evolve, the obligation to distinguish criminal activities and criminal perpetrators will become increasingly consequential. Given the acrimonious sanctions that may be imposed following conviction, mislabeling should be avoided at all costs. While clearly the alleviation of mass murder and human suffering is a goal the global community should strive to attain, academics should resist the temptation to group all instances of human affliction into an all-inclusive, non-scientifically driven category of “genocide”.

Methods of prevention cannot logically precede the determination of a viable definition of the phenomenon. That is, solutions cannot be implemented without knowing exactly what needs to be solved. Once established, a permanent international criminal court would clearly need to utilize either the definition of genocide provided in the Convention, or redefine the phenomenon. Nevertheless, scholars must resist the temptation to engage in ‘definitionalism’, “a damaging style of intellectual inquiry based on a perverse, fetishistic involvement with definitions to the point… that the real enormity of the subject no longer guides or impacts on the deliberations” (Charny, 1994: 91). While terminology cannot obviously be ignored altogether, academics can argue over definitional inadequacies only so long before the real magnitude of the subject no longer directs the dispute. Given the critical nature of the problem in question, argumentative deliberations and intellectual competition cannot supplant genuine concern for the victims.

Genocide in Armenia and Rwanda

The history of the Armenian Massacres of 1915, the first principal genocide of the 20th century, still remains an aggregation of survivor accounts reflecting the ordeal of a nation that barely escaped extinction. To this day, Turkish government officials still disavow the attempts at racial extermination that have haunted Armenian survivors for eight decades. During the second half of the 19th century, Armenia fell under the rule of the Ottoman Turks. The end of the century however, brought significant deterioration to the Ottoman Empire, and, in 1908, the Young Turkish revolution overthrew the old regime (Guttmann, 1965). The Young Turks adopted, “a credo based on pan-Turanism, which alleged a prehistoric mythic unity among Turanian peoples based on racial origin to be implemented by ‘Turkification’…” (Guttmann, 1965: 5). Motivated by a feverish sense of jingoism, the Young Turk regime sought an empire that stretched from central Asia all the way to China. They regarded the Armenians as alien and a major obstruction to the fulfillment of their political, ideological, and social goals (Hovanissian, 1994). The method utilized to transform this Ottoman plural society to a single Turkish society was genocide.

By the end of April 1915, the stage had been set for the final solution to the Armenian Question. Men, women, and children were walked to secluded areas and murdered outright. Those that were not killed immediately found death by deportation. Alleging acts of treason, the Ottoman authorities ordered “… the wholesale deportation of the Armenian population of the empire’s eastern and southeastern provinces” (Dadrian, 1995: 219). By the time the killings had been completed, over 1.5 million Armenians had been slaughtered, and the Armenian Question in Eastern Anatolia had been resolved (Hovanissian, 1987).

At the time of the Armenian Massacres, neither the crime nor the definition of genocide had been developed. Under international law, there were certain rules of war to protect civilian populations, but these regulations failed to cover a government’s persecution of its own people. Only after the Holocaust of World War II did the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide emerge. Nevertheless, at the time of the Armenian Massacres, many governments made public their intent to hold Turkish governments officials liable for their actions (Hovanissian, 1968).

The terms of the definition of genocide contained in Article II of the Genocide Convention may be proficiently applied to the circumstances in Rwanda. Since 1993, there has been ceaseless fighting, with varying degrees of intensity, between members of the majority Hutu tribe, previously headed by President Juvenal Habyarimana, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the minority Tutsi tribes. Despite being less than 15% of the population, the Tutsi formed the ruling class in the region until 1959, when the Hutu took power in a revolution (Destexhe, 1995). The Hutu ruled into 1994, when a rebel force of exiled Tutsi invaded Rwanda. The Hutu-led government fled to Zaire, orchestrating the killings of Tutsi as they left. Though they speak the same language, share the same religion, and traditionally have lived side by side, the antipathy between the two groups dates back to the era of Belgian colonization (Destexhe, 1995).

On April 6, 1994, President Habyarimana’s plane, en route to Burundi, was attacked just outside of airport grounds (Prunier, 1995). Everyone on board was killed. The murders “… acted as the fuse for the eruption of the violence which led to the greatest tragedy in the history of the country” (Destexhe, 1995: 31). The shooting down of President Habyarimana’s plane detonated genocide in Rwanda. Instantaneously, the call for the annihilation of all Tutsi, and all those who opposed the Hutu, began. These massacres revealed the plan to eliminate every single Tutsi. By July, Hutu soldiers, police officers, and militia members, recurrently aided by civilians, had killed approximately 800,000 Tutsi in several well-coordinated waves of mass killing (Prunier, 1995). The population of Rwanda before the genocide totaled approximately 7.5 million people. By April 6, 1994, about 85% of the Tutsi who lived in Rwanda, 11% of the entire population, had been exterminated (Prunier, 1995).

Unfortunately, the United Nations neglected to take any earnest action concerning the Rwandan situation, probably because, “… in the eyes of the major powers it holds little geopolitical significance” (Mendlovitz and Fousek, 1996: 239). While the case of Rwanda was certainly “genocide”, as measured against the Convention’s standards, the lack of a global commitment for confronting a crime of this magnitude represents both a moral defeat and a political error. Eight decades ago there was no international law prohibiting genocide. Today however, though genocide is prohibited under international law, no global body exists to obligate its enforcement.

In December 1996, Rwanda itself began a series of trials against the first of 90,000 detainees, overwhelmingly from the majority Hutu tribe, accused of involvement in the 1994 genocide. To date, eight Hutu have either plead guilty to, or been convicted of, genocide and crimes against humanity. All have been sentenced to death. Clearly however, these trials are an incomparable circumstance. Rarely will government officials try their own nationals for the crime of genocide. Part III, first, examines the difficulty in enforcing the laws prohibiting genocide, and second, evaluates proposed ways by which genocide may be obstructed prior to escalation.

III. The Laws Prohibiting Genocide

Article IX of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states that, “disputes between the Contracting Parties relating to the interpretation, application, or fulfillment of the present Convention… shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice at the request of any of the parties to the dispute.” Although the act of committing genocide is prohibited by international law, there are no permanently established criminal processes by which offenders may be brought to justice. The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the standing U.N. forum for international justice, does not try criminal offenders, but rather is designated “as one of the main rule-supervisory organs of the convention” (LeBlanc, 1991: 203). The disputes that the parties agree to submit for settlement to the ICJ normally concern the interpretation of conventions in question (Bassiouni, 1987).

International law customarily prohibits states from applying their laws extraterritorially unless one or more of the five following bases of jurisdiction are present: 1) the principle of nationality, the most prevalent jurisdictional standard in international law, which permits intervention wherever a state’s nationals are discovered; 2) the principle of territoriality, which permits jurisdiction over persons or things within a state’s territory; 3) the principle of protection, which permits international intervention when a state’s security is threatened; 4) the principle of passive personality, which provides extraterritorial jurisdiction over acts that cause harm to a country’s nationals abroad; and 5) the principle of universality, which permits jurisdiction over any individuals or states who commit acts prohibited by international law (Bassiouni, 1986b).

Article VI of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide states that, “persons charged with genocide… shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed….” This Article is based however, on the erroneous assumption of ethical governments and criminal individuals, a reversal of truth in proportion to the degree of autocracy practiced in most countries predisposed to genocidal behavior. When acts of genocide occur, they are normally perpetrated intranationally. That is, governmental leaders attempt to exterminate a segment of their own national population. Following these attempts at genocide, the same perpetrators will often remain in power. Rarely will government officials arrest and prosecute themselves for crimes committed intranationally. Without a permanent international criminal court, the singular jurisdictional alternative available in international law for trying perpetrators of genocide is the principle of universality. This principle however, is not well-embraced. The underlying tenet of maintaining state sovereignty prevents its frequent utilization and destines victims of genocide to hope that their perpetrators will arrest, prosecute, and punish themselves.

Jurisdictional obstacles have created the need for a permanent international criminal court to prosecute offenders and punish the guilty. For the past eight decades however, the world community has had difficulty establishing this institution. Post-World War I occurrences demonstrated the extent to which international justice could be imperiled for the sake of political convenience. Conversely, post-World War II experiences exhibited how effectual international justice could be when there is political will to nourish it. Since World War II, four ad hoc tribunals have been assembled to investigate international crimes 7. The most recent, the International Tribunal for Rwanda, convened specifically to investigate reports of atrocities in Rwanda, reinvigorated the international community’s desire to create a permanent international criminal court (Bassiouni, 1995). The 1995 International Law Commission’s (ILC) Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind 8 seemed to provide a subsequent foundation for this sort of international criminal justice process. The two core components of the Draft Code are an international criminal code and an international criminal court. While it is generally recognized that an international criminal code and court are essential components of a civilized world order, neither, to date, have been established.

Impeding Genocidal Behavior

Mendlovitz and Fousek (1996) propose a variety of innovative methods by which, first, genocidal behavior may be obstructed prior to escalation, and second, the laws prohibiting genocide may be enforced. This proposal includes the creation of two permanent, international establishments- a “genocide-watch advisory board” and a Genocide Police Force (Mendlovitz and Fousek, 1996). The former would be responsible for devising a system to recognize signs of genocidal behavior in advance. The latter would be responsible for five specific functions: first, terminating genocidal behavior; second, demilitarizing the area and creating a safe environment for the victims; third, apprehending accused victimizers; fourth, coordinating relief work; and finally, inaugurating procedures for humanitarian and self-sufficient governance (Mendlovitz and Fousek, 1996). Mendlovitz and Fousek (1996: 240) state that, “nation-states would have no part in the command structure, allowing the force to operate as an effective law-enforcement agency, rather than as a captive of geopolitics.” These law enforcement officers would be procured as citizens of the world and hired directly by the United Nations, thereby preventing any type of political misappropriation.

Their proposal, while theoretically sound, may not be practically so. Accurately identifying vulnerability to genocide is not an uncomplicated assignment. A sophisticated, content analysis could be utilized to isolate predictors of past genocides, such as culture conflict, economic strife, or organizational strain. These exogenous variables could then be applied to modern states for the purposes of determining predisposed vulnerability to genocidal behavior. Simply put, states susceptible to genocidal behavior could be identified prior to any significant loss of life. To date however, no efforts with any methodological rigor or statistical validity have been made to quantify trends in genocidal behavior.

As Mendlovitz and Fousek (1996) concede, states may also be unwilling to relinquish their police power to an international entity. Power sharing may benefit less influential nations, but few tangible gains are enjoyed by those who relinquish authority. Similarly, nations are often hesitant to infringe on another nation’s jurisdictional sovereignty. How then, can their visions materialize? The solutions appear to be threefold. First, genocide must be acknowledged within the discipline of criminology as a preventable form of international crime and must be immediately explicated in scholarly literature. That is, genocide must be treated as the crime that it is rather than a political process. Second, trends must be statistically identified and validated by qualified researchers to pinpoint accurate predictors of genocidal behavior. Third, world superpowers, like permanent members of the Security Council, must step forward and demand global participation in a permanent international law enforcement entity. If world leaders are willing to surrender some of their sovereignty to such an international law enforcement body, then less prominent nations will likely follow.

IV Conclusion

As international crimes aggrandize in both breadth and severity, the global community faces the challenge of enacting and enforcing regulations which adequately stifle this criminal enterprise. As such, international criminal law has become increasingly more consequential to contemporary society. Criminologists however, scholars presumably devoted to the reduction of all criminal activity, have consistently adopted a localistic orientation to crime. Consequently, it is imperative that academics and researchers devoted to the discipline of criminology begin to recognize the evolution of the international criminal enterprise. Crime is not solely an intranational phenomenon. More criminologists must be prepared to cross the border and undertake the study of international crime. Annual meetings, such as those of the American Society of Criminology, are the ideal forums for exchanging current and meaningful academic ideas. Unfortunately however, these meetings are often filled with trivial research studies. The study of the hackneyed would clearly indicate the need to revive what is the influential discipline of criminology.

Genocide is the gravest crime against humanity. No criminal activity matches it in the moral ignominy that it generates. During the second decade of the 20th century, the world witnessed the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. To this date, Turkey still denies the genocidal intent of these killings. A similar model to Armenia exploded in Rwanda three years ago, leaving as many as one million dead. The relatively low impact of these killings on modern public consciousness raises serious questions about the ability of the international community to prevent or punish acts of genocide. How can the laws preventing this phenomenon be enforced so that attempts at racial extermination cease with the termination of the 20th century? Destexhe (1995: x) states that, “the crime of genocide affects the whole human race, but the Genocide Convention has never reached its obvious conclusion- the creation of an international court to judge the facts and to sentence the guilty.” The necessity for a recognized international criminal code, with a permanent, international criminal law enforcement police force and court to obligate compliance to it, appears to have never been so significant.

In American discourse, the disordered task of treating situations of genocide have come to be dismissed as ‘social work’, rather than halting acts of state-perpetrated, international crime. Standards for engagement have become rules for nonengagement. Success is measured in terms not of genocides deterred, but of dilemmas evaded. The pitfall is that American political requirements have come to obstruct international action. Clearly however, the relief of any victims of genocide should not hang on Washington’s own readiness to offer international assistance. Renewing the battle against ethnic strife will take the right combination of international intervention, power-sharing, economic development, and human rights monitoring. There needs to be a force available for a showing of international concern. International actors cannot prevent or punish acts of genocide when they do not remain cohesive and unequivocally committed to such ends.

It must be remembered that a refusal to adjudicate violations of international criminal law encourages belligerents to threaten the peace and stability of the global community. Global criminality evolves not only from the activity itself, but from the absence of international mechanisms for deterring such deviance. Domestic law enforcement agencies are incapable of responding to international crime, manifesting the need for a permanent global law enforcement body. When this international law enforcement body is initiated and sustained, the United States must have a major commitment. Rather than an obstacle, American participation must offer a guarantee of effectiveness. If other nations are to follow suit, they must rally behind American attachment to this method of international law enforcement and genocide prevention. Until this permanent institution is established, perpetrators of genocide may take comfort in the realization that their actions are often condemned in theory, but rarely in practice.


(1) Derived from the program for the 1996 American Society of Criminology meetings. For a listing of authors and titles, see Appendix D. leader Jay Prakash Narayan who led the pre-emergency movements against the corrupt and dictatorial government of Mrs. Gandhi heavily suffered in prison — he soon died of a kidney failure.

(2) Derived from the programs for the American Society of Criminology meetings, 1993-1995. For a listing of authors and titles, see Appendices AB, and C.

(3) Including main articles, commentaries, research notes, and review essays.

(4) Smith, B., and G. Orvis. (1993). America’s Response to Terrorism: An Empirical Analysis of Federal Intervention Strategies During the 1980s. Justice Quarterly 4, 661-682.

(5) Bingham Report 1992; Kerry Report, 1992; US SBC, 1992: 87.

(6) Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. (UN GAOR Res, 260A (III) 9 December 1948).

(7) The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague, and the International Tribunal for Rwanda at Arusha.

(8) Draft Code, in Report of the International Law Commission on the Work of Its Forty-Seventh Session 2 May-21 July 1995, 10 U.N. GAOR Supp., U.N. Doc. A/50/10 (1991). [hereinafter 1995 Draft Code].

Source: http://www.habermas.org/yacoubiandoc.htm


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