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Ms. Bowles
US
Posts: 20

Questions to Consider:


1. Raphael Lemkin dedicated himself to advocating for an international law, the 1948 Genocide Convention, which defines and calls on the global community to act in the face of genocide. In the film he says,“Crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law.” What does he mean? Why is the establishment of this international law an important step? More importantly, why is the enforcement of this law even more important?


2. Although Lemkin’s efforts led to the the Genocide Convention, its effects remain limited. Why? How does the issue of sovereignty continue to make it challenging to prevent genocide? Should limits on sovereignty be established and modified in order to make is easier to stop genocide? How? By whom?


3. What role do individuals, like Lemkin, Henry Morganthau, Romeo Dalliare and Samantha Power play in holding people accountable for the crime of genocide? Are the efforts of individuals and human rights organizations equally as important as the roles of nations in preventing, stopping and punishing genocide?


Word Count Requirement: 350-500 words



Sources to Reference:


Please refer to the ideas, either using a description, quote or paraphrasing, from at least two of the sources in your response and please respond in some way to at least two of the question sets.

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (United Nations, 1948)

Preface to “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (Power, 2002)

Clip 1 from Watcher of the Sky

Clip 2 from Watcher of the Sky


Rubric to Review: LTQ Rubric
shortdog
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 12

The uses of the Genocide Convention remain limited due to the varied circumstances regarding their effectiveness. There are many reasons why a country might not want to intervene with another country and wouldn’t want to stop a genocide. For example, a country might play a big role in the world and no one wants to mess with their relationship to said country. Another example is that the countries rely on each other for resources or materials, and neither of them wants to mess up that relationship. The Preface to “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide illustrates to the reader how countries might have the opportunity to step in and stop a genocide, but they don’t. The preface specifically mentions the United States in many cases and how with the power that it has, a lot could’ve been stopped. But due to the conditions mentioned above, the US did nothing in many cases. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states what must be stopped and what can be considered a genocide, but it does not take into account how hard it would be to inforce these principles. The issue of sovereignty makes it hard to prevent genocides because countries want to be able to run without interference from anyone else. It is not the business of other countries how a government wants to run, which sometimes is regardless of the atrocities going on within the borders. Establishing limits on sovereignty could be a crucial step in preventing future genocides, but it is hard to set those limits with complete agreement. If these limits were to be set, it would be from steps taken by organizations such as the UN.

Individuals such as Lemkin, Morganthau, Dalliare, and Power play an important role in preventing future genocides because of the individual work that they have done. This said, it is not the efforts of individuals that inevitably will be what is stopping genocides, it much more likely would be the efforts from nations and organizations due to the amount of power they have over other nations and governments. However, individuals can be the ones responsible for pushing for change and starting movements that would eventually make their way to nations in order for steps to be taken. Collaboration and coordination among individuals as well as nations is what would be able to stop future genocides from taking place, if anything.

Gaius
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 16

The idea that genocide is a crime that can take place within a country during a time of peace is one that has been difficult to recon with, since in the eyes of many it is a crime so horrific that no government could undertake it against their own people. Citizens have a hard time recognizing genocide in other countries because they are unable to grapple with the reality that their own government is simply standing by while such an egregious crime takes place, and governments have a hard time acting against genocide because they either firmly believe that no western country could do such a thing, and therefore its not a problem, or that it is simply the “savegry” of an “uncilvilized” county, and therefore they can do nothing to stop it. The Bosian genocide was covered under the comfortable story of age old tensions that could not be changed, describing the history of the nation as “A Problem from Hell.” Diplomacy doesn’t work against genocide because diplomacy assumes that the people being talked to are reasonable, but no reasonable person would commit a genocide. As Raphael Lempkin said, “Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of an individual?” and the answer to this question is that the killing of an individual can be proved easily, has few perpetrators, and is a crime so common that people have come to cope with the idea that that is a thing that people are capable of; but no one, no matter how many times it happens, believes that a group could be capable of genocide, and every person clings to the idea that genocide and mass murder is a problem of the past, and could never occur in a civilized world like the one we live in today.

Part of this willful ignorance stems from the fact that genocide is so difficult to prove and punish: While many nations accept the genocide convention, they are still unwilling to make any moves against a country who commits because of genpolitical issues, social issues if they have citizens from that country in their own borders, or even simply because they are afraid to be wrong; genocide is difficult to prove for a reason, and it is fair for the prosecutors to have to jump through a number of hoops to get there, but that can sometimes cause people to shy away from calling something genocide because they fear the humiliation if they turn out to be wrong. Human rights groups don’t face the same sort of backlash if they accuse someone of genocide, meaning they are much more likely to take action, but they also have much less ability to make any changes. All a person or organization can do is provide aid, or attempt to convince a country to act, the real power to stop a genocide lies solely in the hands of countries, a power which they have proved to be unable to use

Gaius
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 16

Originally posted by shortdog on April 01, 2024 16:35

The uses of the Genocide Convention remain limited due to the varied circumstances regarding their effectiveness. There are many reasons why a country might not want to intervene with another country and wouldn’t want to stop a genocide. For example, a country might play a big role in the world and no one wants to mess with their relationship to said country. Another example is that the countries rely on each other for resources or materials, and neither of them wants to mess up that relationship. The Preface to “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide illustrates to the reader how countries might have the opportunity to step in and stop a genocide, but they don’t. The preface specifically mentions the United States in many cases and how with the power that it has, a lot could’ve been stopped. But due to the conditions mentioned above, the US did nothing in many cases. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states what must be stopped and what can be considered a genocide, but it does not take into account how hard it would be to enforce these principles. The issue of sovereignty makes it hard to prevent genocides because countries want to be able to run without interference from anyone else. It is not the business of other countries how a government wants to run, which sometimes is regardless of the atrocities going on within the borders. Establishing limits on sovereignty could be a crucial step in preventing future genocides, but it is hard to set those limits with complete agreement. If these limits were to be set, it would be from steps taken by organizations such as the UN.

Individuals such as Lemkin, Morganthau, Dalliare, and Power play an important role in preventing future genocides because of the individual work that they have done. This said, it is not the efforts of individuals that inevitably will be what is stopping genocides, it much more likely would be the efforts from nations and organizations due to the amount of power they have over other nations and governments. However, individuals can be the ones responsible for pushing for change and starting movements that would eventually make their way to nations in order for steps to be taken. Collaboration and coordination among individuals as well as nations is what would be able to stop future genocides from taking place, if anything.

The issue of sovereignty is an interesting one, as you've mentioned, because many of the countries in the UN were large forces of imperialism in the past, and smaller countries would be reluctant to be put under their control. As a result of this, as you said, it would be difficult to put limits on sovereignty without a large amount of international push-back. I also thought what you said about what the genocide convention neglects to mention regarding the difficulties of enforcement was very important to think about, because while the punishing of genocide is important, there is no real blueprint of how to do it, since during all the genocides of human history there has never been a successful intervention or prevention (that we've learned about), meaning that when a genocide takes place there is no real guide for how a country should react.

Watermelon
Posts: 11
Until Raphael Lemkin was able to convince people to put genocide prevention and persecution into law, it was largely up to those who were directly impacted and those who supported them to prosecute their perpetrators. This is what Lemkin is referring to when he says “Crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law” in Watcher of the Sky. Lemkin recognized a massive gap in society and used these words to address it. The establishment of the international law is a crucial step to addressing the problem identified by Lemkin. This law takes the pressure off of already hurting populations and puts it on the international community. The enforcement of this law however is almost more crucial than the law itself. In the Bosnian genocide the Serb perpetrators were only so bold because no one in the international community had taken any real action to stop them, even though countries knew what was happening and some even condoned it whether privately or publicly. This is similar to Adolf Hitler expanding Nazi Germany throughout Europe because of other nations appeasement, but the shocking difference is that Hitler didn’t have international law to answer to; the Serbs did. If nations stepped up in the moment, many of these atrocities could have been prevented. Even though action in the moment is highly important, it is not the only way countries approach this international law. Trials are often held after genocide is committed and while this may seem futile because it cannot regain the lives lost, it allows victims to cope and get closure. Sometimes there is also compensation involved.


Lemkin dedicated his life to the Genocide Convention, but it is still extremely weak. Countries are scared to intervene because of sovereignty, or the right of a country to govern itself and handle its own internal affairs. Sovereignty has begun wars and is a very hard issue to tackle. If war crimes are being committed, especially if those crimes turn to fit genocide as defined by the UN, sovereignty should be removed as there is clearly corruption and evil in the power(s) of the country. This could be done by the UN, NATO, or other international organizations. They could work together to make an agreement to fight countries committing genocide via another treaty, but that in turn would likely be equally as hard to enforce. Additionally, the news and politics are a major issue when it comes to issues of war crimes and genocide. In “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power, she talks about how she wanted to release a story before the fall of Srebrenica, but her editor said no because it had not happened yet. This is a prime example of how news, and even politics, are a business and often do what is best for themselves rather than other people.
fridakahlo216
Posts: 12

The 1948 Genocide Convention not only defined genocide but also established that it must be punished by law. Raphael Lemkin spoke on this concept in the film Watcher of Sky, claiming, “Crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law.” In making this statement, he maintains ideas presented in the Genocide Convention that genocide is a crime that has a legitimate legal weight and must be punished by law, not simply advocated against by survivors or their descendants. The establishment of this international law and the international responsibility to enforce it further solidifies genocide as a crime that the international community must be careful to prevent and then punish as soon as it is flagged. In making this change to the legal language around genocide, the world now takes it more seriously, which will help prevent genocide (as well as war crimes as a whole) in the future.

However, even if the expectation is that genocide is fought against more in the future, what matters is the action taken against it. The enforcement of the Genocide Convention is thus even more important than its actual establishment, as it sets a standard for how genocide is regarded and how its perpetrators are viewed and punished. If the Genocide Convention is not enforced at all and becomes merely an empty promise, then the world will only regress, as perpetrators of genocide won’t fear its consequences. A real-life example of this is the Bosnian Genocide. In this event, Bosnian Serb forces feared very little consequences as they committed genocide against Bosnia’s Muslim population. This was largely because, even though the Genocide Convention had already occurred decades prior, the international community was too concerned with other issues and gave little thought to the violence in the Balkans that minimal action took place to protect this population until after the genocide was carried out.

Furthermore, while certain countries tried to do what they could (which was very little) during the Bosnian Genocide, individuals have had a very powerful role as well. People such as Raphael Lemkin and Samantha Power have served as a link between victims of genocide and the general international population. For instance, Samantha Power’s work as a war journalist helped document what was going on in Bosnia. As this information spread to the US (and other countries) both during and especially after the genocide, people have become increasingly aware of what genocide can look like and how they can prevent it. Additionally, human rights organizations can act as neutral third parties that aid the victims of genocide. However, while individuals can propel change, human rights organizations often have less of an impact on politics and the actions taken by nations against genocide due to their neutrality. The fight against genocide is ultimately one that must be a collective effort, joining entire governments with individual activists with human rights groups, as we fight against such horrors.

rica.junction
MA, US
Posts: 11

“It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on” (Power XXI). Examining the genocidal acts of the 20th and 21st centuries after 1948, there is an astounding number of occurrences across a multitude of religions and nationalities throughout the world. When considering Raphael Lempkin’s question, “Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of an individual?” heads turn to the legal framework behind prosecution for murder versus genocide. The killing of an individual is much easier to assess and subsequently charge one with, but the killing of a million lacks historical precedent on ways to address it. Lemkin’s solution to this was the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, passed in December 1948, that labeled genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” as a crime under international law and “condemned by the civilized world.” In Watcher of the Sky, he states that “Crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law.” He believed that crimes that were once only talked about by victims, begging the world to see the horrors committed against their people, and their ensuing desperate acts of individual revenge against perpetrators, must be punished instead by the global community. The establishment and enforcement of international law are so incredibly important because they prevent victims (and possible victims), often displaced and already having suffered a lifetime of horrors, from struggling, yet again, to get recognition. It also sets an expectation for the world that genocide is a crime against humanity and is not, under any circumstances, excusable.

The convention, while revolutionary and absolutely necessary, is sadly limited in its effectiveness. Why, after Lemkin’s lifetime of effort put into it, is the Genocide Convention so weak? Samantha Power explores this in the context of the United States’s inaction. Despite “countless opportunities to mitigate a prevent slaughter,” ultimately “we have all been bystanders to genocide” (Power XVI - XVII). The answer lies within multiple things: the language chosen to describe situations of war and possible genocide, the history of inaction and lack of a precedent to act, the inefficiency of the UN and US government, geopolitical desires, and the terrible truth that “no US president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no US president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence” (Power XXI). The effects of the Genocide Convention and the responses of the international community have thus remained limited, and the issue of sovereignty also continues to challenge efforts to prevent genocide. Nations who have signed onto the Convention are reluctant to take action in the face of their fears; they worry that accusing another nation of genocide or attempts to intervene will be seen as undermining the rights of the other government to handle its internal affairs. Gaius adds that powers “shy away from calling something genocide because they fear the humiliation if they turn out to be wrong.” They fear that they may interfere with another power’s sovereignty, and then for it to somehow end up as unjustified. This fear is what prevents so much action from happening, and what permits genocides to continue to be committed today. Limits on sovereignty should be established and adapted to make the prevention of genocide an achievable task. It should be permissible and necessary for foreign powers to have the right to intervene in other countries in situations of genocide, but also in situations where the other acts punishable by the genocide convention are proven to be taking place: conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and attempt to commit genocide. The one remaining act Lemkin mentioned, complicity in genocide, is what governments will be committing if they do not take action.

Samantha Power writes how the US “has never in its history intervened to stop genocide and had in fact rarely even made a point of condemning it as it occurred” (Power XV). It is imperative that we all, as citizens of the United States, activists, and members of the global community, speak up. We must advocate for a change in how the government treats issues of possible or definite genocide, and work towards a world in which genocide is a warning from the past, not a reality taking place in the present.

deepwaternearshore
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 7

“We need deeds not words” (Lemkin, Watcher of the Sky). In and around 1948, Lemkin called on the global community to see the need for and create a legal framework where the repercussions of genocide did not fall solely on the victims. As rica.junction concisely states, “the killing of an individual is much easier to assess and subsequently charge one with, but the killing of a million lacks historical precedent on ways to address it.” Lemink’s goal was to create this historical precedent in the form of a universally recognized set of rules both defining genocide and mandating action from the international community. Article II of the 1948 Genocide Convention lists a classification for what actions fall under the category of genocide and makes a note that “genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy.” The idea of intent and an action as deliberate are central to acknowledgement and punishment of genocide through the convention. While the ideas behind the 1948 Genocide Convention marked a crucial step in acknowledging the gravity of genocide and committing nations to prevent and punish it, it lacks enforcement mechanisms, leading the convention to largely remain a symbolic gesture.


One of the reasons that the impact of the 1948 Genocide Convention has been limited is due to the principle of sovereignty. Nations, for the most part, think it is their right to have exclusive authority over their internal affairs. While this principle occasionally adds to a nation's patriotism, in this case it undermines international intervention in genocide. Nations are able to invoke sovereignty as a way to resist interference from the United Nations and other countries, even when egregious acts against human rights are being committed. Additionally, many nations are reluctant to enforce the convention depending on the circumstances because an accused nation could be strategically important or not important at all, both of which motivate little response from the international community. The world as we know it feeds off of seeing repercussions for actions, so both countries and the United Nations should see it as allowed and necessary for them to intervene in situations of genocide. The only way to effectively prevent genocide is for countries to see that if they do engage in genocide, other nations will act and the nation comminting genocide will be punished. As stipulared in Article III of the 1948 Genocide Convention, “genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, complicity in genocide” are all punishable. Nations need to start to both see their role in aiding the international community away from genocide and to see that they are punishable if they stand aside and let genocide occur. Between 1948 and 1995 “the United Nations had not oiled its rusty parts or rid itself of the anachronistic practices and assumptions,” leading to further complicit actions in genocide. Prior to 1995, “the United States had Never in its history intervene to stop genocide and had in fact rarely even made a point of condemning it as it occurred” (Power, XV). Response to genocide is all of our responsibility, nations are unable to function without people who speak up and advocate for response and change. Currently, the world still needs and relies on the efforts of individuals and human rights organizations to stop and punish genocide, we can not let genocide be a concern of a select few or fall prey to the “human phenomenon of wishful thinking” (Power, 255).

vetoed UN resolution
Posts: 10

Call me a bit cynical, but I see the ability of individuals to influence the response to a humanitarian crisis to be reliant on whether they can utilize finesse and a mastery of media relations to drum up both public support. Many humanitarian crises around the world have been swept away because, simply put, the people trying to get the public concerned about said crises were unable to hone their public relations ability. The ability to cut through the thick, hazy atmosphere of modern mass media and convey your message either in spite of that atmosphere or by assimilating into it. If said individuals can get their message directly into the halls of power though, via lobbying, the response is usually more expedited and effective. It is for that reason that I believe the power of states supersedes anything else when it comes to stopping genocide. Namely, the power of multiple states working in tandem to stop humanitarian crises holds great potential to be able to stamp out many calamities both today and historically.

universaldeclarationofhumanrights<3
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

The Genocide Convention and 'A Problem from Hell'

When a group of people is the targeted group in a genocide, it should not be up to them to prosecute and carry out punishments for the perpetrators. They should be given time, resources, support, and compassion to heal and rebuild themselves, their homes, and their communities. It should be the responsibility of the global community to stand up for the victims, and carry out punishments in a deserving way that brings justice to the perpetrators. There are literally tribunals, councils, and full government wings whose sole purpose is to inflict the consequences of committing such a crime on the perpetrator. It is important that this law is enforced tightly so that all future governments, militias, and individuals who are considering carrying out a genocide are able to look back on prior ones, and see that it is either impossible, or the consequences of such an act are far too harsh to outweigh the so called “benefits” at all.
A sovereign nation is one that is able to govern and make their own decisions within their own countries. The issue with sovereignty pertaining to the enforcement of the Genocide Convention is that power is first given to the sovereign nation’s government to enact change, then secondly to the United Nations, after far too much destruction has already been enacted to reverse. In Article Five of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide by the United Nations, it reads “The Contracting Parties undertake to enact, in accordance with their respective Constitutions, the necessary legislation to give effect to the provisions of the present Convention, and, in particular, to provide effective penalties for persons guilty of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III.” This article gives power to the nation, and when the nation’s government is the one inflicting genocide upon another group, how and why would they stop it? The other issue with sovereignty is that how does one sovereign nation prosecute another nation for using their sovereignty? What happens to the prosecuting nation then? Would they lose their sovereignty too? Governments are far too fragile and unsure to act in times of genocide, as they are scared of the effects on their countries too.
Lemkin, Morganthau, Dalliare, and Power all have one thing in common: during a time of crisis and genocide, although that may not be affecting them directly, they all took a stand and called attention to and actively fought against genocide, even when no one was listening to them. They are all people who can sleep soundly at night, knowing that they at least tried, knowing that they do not have the blood of thousands of people on their hands, while every other person who was aware of a genocide, who had at least knowledge of it, and didn’t do anything, are partly responsible for the loss of millions of people.

0_0
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

The Genocide Convention and ‘A Problem From Hell’

In order for the perpetrators of genocide to be punished for their inhuman actions, it must be punishable by law. When groups of people believe that they can commit mass killings without consequences, that is when they begin to take it to the extreme as well as deny their prior actions or try to cover them up. What Raphael Lemkin meant by “Crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law” he meant that when victims advocate for themselves they are seen as one thing and one thing only: victims. Therefore, nobody takes the claims of the survivors seriously or there aren’t that many willing to speak out due to fear. In other words, they can't fairly prosecute their perpetrators but the law can. When other nations refuse to step in, it allows history to continue to repeat itself. If the 1948 Genocide Convention law was to be established then history wouldn’t be a never-ending story of genocides and war crimes. There are criteria for punishments which are listed in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (United Nations, 1948), “The following acts shall be punishable: (a) Genocide; (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide; (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide; (d) Attempt to commit genocide; (e) Complicity in genocide”. There are many points listed that have to do with the “before” of the genocides themselves yet the steps before them never are punished. If it were to be enforced then it would be more likely to avoid the Ten Stages of Genocide. Especially during steps 4 to 8 which would qualify under the criteria to be prosecuted, nobody steps in to do anything or even interfere with the process especially when it comes to location. Many nations choose to ignore genocides when it is beneficial to them or they have racist thoughts that “it's acceptable because it's happening in a third world country”. Lemkin wanted there to be laws to prosecute genocides because “He was horrified to realize that genocide was not one of the four crimes that were being prosecuted. The crimes that were being prosecuted were a crime against peace, crimes against humanity, but crucially crimes against humanity had to be linked to the crime of peace” as told in the documentary Watchers in the Sky. The actions that were punished had to do with crimes against peace but genocides had no connections to that so they went unpunished and they still go unpunished when laws are not exercised or established. This is why it is vital to establish a law that punishes genocide because that is the only way it can be ensured it doesn’t happen again when individuals know there will be consequences to their actions.
crazyarmadillo
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 13
The term “ genocide” is a complex term that one can misconstrue despite clear circumstances of genocide happening. “Crimes should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law,” means that theevidence isfrom thevictims, but the actual trias should be politically supported by the law. If the victim were to act on what the perpetrators had done, they would also be accused. It would not be beneficial for both sides if the victim harmed the perpetrators. The establishment of this international law is important to determine how the ending of the genocide can be conducted. The enforcement of the law maintains the structure needed for perpetrators to take account of their crimes. Perpretrators are taken account of in teh genocide, therefore acknowledging that there was a genocide that happened, it recognizes the actions inflicted on the victims are proof that one can acknowledge the horror. It also doesn’t allow the perpetrators to get away with something that changed the course of history. The specifics of the Genocide Convention ensure that no country can try to avoid the crimes they’ve committed. Article 1 to Article 3, state the specifics of how a genocide could occur, the signals of it. Article 1 says “ The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.” (Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide) The peace in the country can be disrupted gradually, and it is necessary to realize the hateful actions toward a group quicker rather than later. Article 2 describes the specifics of a genocide and the range that it can inflict harm on, such as children, men, and women. Article 3 calls for the perpetrator’s side, how one can be accused of genocide. Those three articles prove to witnesses that genocide can happen so quickly, and right when it starts the notice of what is happening remains important in stopping it.

The term “ genocide” is held loosely. The current events that are happening in the world are heavily relied on social media. There is a misconception of what genocide is, it undermines the gravity of what genocide entails. The Holocaust is seen as the mother of genocide, it stands as a monumental part in history, but because it is so widespread, people tend to compare current events to the Holocaust. In Watcher of the Sky, Lemkin’ s purpose in creating the Genocide Convention was for countries to understand how a genocide can happen, and witness it quickly enough to stop it. However, the political ties between other countries are so important to these political benefits that countries are more prone to watch it happen, than terminate their political ties. The issue of sovereignty plays into what country holds the power where other countries do not go against their doings. It is difficult to set limits on sovereignty because a country’s power can waver as time passes. Establishing limits on sovereignty is difficult to do because no country wants to be limited of their power. Once that happens, it is difficult to stop wars from happening between countries. The Genocide Convention remains a fundamental part in history, contributing to the hope that the world does not experience another atrocity.

Fig Leaf Tree
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

When Raphael Lemkin Lemkin said “crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law,” he understood that the power of survivors is outweighed by the power of the international community. For example, some Turkish officials who were involved with the Armenian Genocide were killed by surviving Armenians, their victims. However, because the international community did not formally hold those officials responsible, Hitler ended up reportedly saying “who remembers the Armenians?” while committing genocide in Germany. This is a clear instance in which lack of efficient persecution of past perpetrators became proof to future perpetrators that genocide would go unpunished. Punishment from victims may be sporadic, unsupported by the international community, and a short-term solution. People who commit genocide or are planning to commit genocide are aware of this, so they know that there is no guarantee of negative consequences for them without an enforceable international law. The strength of the genocide convention lies in its specificity and consistency. The convention lays out the actions qualifying as genocide concisely in Article II, and then describes the trials and punishments in Articles IV - VI. This format leaves little room for interpretation, at least in comparison to public opinion. Rather than having an individual or limited set of individuals taking matters into their own hands when forced to, the genocide convention gives a structured plan for condemning genocide. The genocide convention additionally gives incentive to not begin actions considered genocide, and to not be complacent in actions considered genocide. Genocide prevention is more important than only condemning it after it has already happened.

The genocide convention is not enforced consistently or reliably because of states’ claims that when oppression of a group occurs within their borders, it is not in the jurisdiction of the international community. Some states believe that international interference with events in their countries are a violation of their sovereignty. In some of these cases, formerly colonized nations see international law as a form of Western domination. Although it would be difficult, the international community needs to establish some limit on sovereignty, and that limit needs to be universal. Some would argue that some areas of the world are more prone to genocide than others and need less sovereignty, but this is fundamentally incorrect. After all, when Lemkin tried to warn people of the Holocaust, he was dismissed because people didn’t believe genocide could occur in Europe. Genocide can occur anywhere and at any time, so the genocide convention needs to be strengthened to prepare for the next one. The enforcement of criminalizing complicity in genocide especially needs to be enforced, because then individual nations are responsible for enforcing the convention themselves. The government of the United States is not held responsible for complicity by its citizens, as observed by Samantha Powers, so a larger force needs to hold it accountable.

bobboston28
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 14

When Lemkin says,“crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law”, he emphasizes the responsibility of those with established authority to seek justice and punish those who commit a crime. It is not the duty of the victims to persecute and charge others, and instead the laws’. Polticians have more influence in policy-making in comparison to the victims, as the victims can only do so much, like sharing their stories in hopes society learns from its mistakes. They have already suffered enough and need the help of those in real power to punish the guilty.

Though the establishment of the Genocide Convention is not the final course of action, it is certainly a significant step, as it signifies the international community’s willingness to punish and prevent acts of genocide. Though this law cannot bring back the lives lost in these genocides, it provides justice for the victims and a way for the international community to show their support for those affected. Justice can be served (to the best of its ability) through complete recognition and acceptance of the war crimes that occurred. However, solely ratifiying this law does not definitively guarantee the prevention of future genocides or that the guilty will be held accountable. It becomes even more crucial for it to be properly enforced. If people don’t enforce the law, there becomes no point in even creating it and diminishes the efforts made by individuals like Lemkin to ensure the victims’ lives do not go in vain. The role of these individuals act as a powerful voice for those unable to speak out. In Watchers of the Sky, Lemkin is portrayed as a desperate man who dedicated his life to creating the Genocide Convention, so much that he began to lose focus on his own well-being. This shows how dedicated people like him are in causes that are important to them and clearly, his efforts paid off. Despite having less direct influence, their voices can pressure nations to take actions against the perpetrators, demonstrating how their efforts are equally important to those of nations’.

The Genocide Convention entails what is considered “genocide” in an effort for other nations to be able to recognize early signs of indiscrimate killing. Samantha Power provides insight on America’s inaction during this genocide and blames it on their “failure to sound a proper early warning, and…refusal to intervene even once the men’s peril had become obvious” (Power, 2002). It was a common mindset among the Muslims that the killings and destruction were only temporary; they could not accept their circumstances as the numerous war crimes committed by the Serbs initially seemed morally and humanly impossible. The US had the military and political power to prevent this genocide from reaching the full-scale that it did, but did not intervene for the sake of the US soldiers’ lives and strategic reasons. Bosnia was not of strategic or policial importance to the US, causing the US to have a lack of motivation in intefering. Though the future and stability of the nation was not directly impacted by the ongoing Bosnian genocide, the US, and other nations with great power, should have acted with good morals. Unfortunately, this becomes the case in many political situations where controversial decisions made by leaders are supported with an “it’s complicated”, and nations are forced to make choices based on political, not emotional or moral reasoning.

bobboston28
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 14

Originally posted by fridakahlo216 on April 06, 2024 14:14

The 1948 Genocide Convention not only defined genocide but also established that it must be punished by law. Raphael Lemkin spoke on this concept in the film Watcher of Sky, claiming, “Crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law.” In making this statement, he maintains ideas presented in the Genocide Convention that genocide is a crime that has a legitimate legal weight and must be punished by law, not simply advocated against by survivors or their descendants. The establishment of this international law and the international responsibility to enforce it further solidifies genocide as a crime that the international community must be careful to prevent and then punish as soon as it is flagged. In making this change to the legal language around genocide, the world now takes it more seriously, which will help prevent genocide (as well as war crimes as a whole) in the future.

However, even if the expectation is that genocide is fought against more in the future, what matters is the action taken against it. The enforcement of the Genocide Convention is thus even more important than its actual establishment, as it sets a standard for how genocide is regarded and how its perpetrators are viewed and punished. If the Genocide Convention is not enforced at all and becomes merely an empty promise, then the world will only regress, as perpetrators of genocide won’t fear its consequences. A real-life example of this is the Bosnian Genocide. In this event, Bosnian Serb forces feared very little consequences as they committed genocide against Bosnia’s Muslim population. This was largely because, even though the Genocide Convention had already occurred decades prior, the international community was too concerned with other issues and gave little thought to the violence in the Balkans that minimal action took place to protect this population until after the genocide was carried out.

Furthermore, while certain countries tried to do what they could (which was very little) during the Bosnian Genocide, individuals have had a very powerful role as well. People such as Raphael Lemkin and Samantha Power have served as a link between victims of genocide and the general international population. For instance, Samantha Power’s work as a war journalist helped document what was going on in Bosnia. As this information spread to the US (and other countries) both during and especially after the genocide, people have become increasingly aware of what genocide can look like and how they can prevent it. Additionally, human rights organizations can act as neutral third parties that aid the victims of genocide. However, while individuals can propel change, human rights organizations often have less of an impact on politics and the actions taken by nations against genocide due to their neutrality. The fight against genocide is ultimately one that must be a collective effort, joining entire governments with individual activists with human rights groups, as we fight against such horrors.

I agree with your interpretation of Lemkin's quote and how "genocide" is a legal crime that politicans have a responsibility (legally or morally) to uphold in punishing those guilly of these crimes. I also agree how everyone has the ability to influence the outcomes of a genocide and that it becomes a collective effort because the voices of the people can pressure the government into taking action.

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