posts 1 - 15 of 24
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
souplover
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

The Genocide Convention makes genocide a crime, but remains weak because it is the responsibility of each individual nation to accuse another of genocide.
Often, nations are reluctant to accuse each other because of geopolitical importance– whether it is so great that we want them as an ally, or so little that we view those lives as irrelevant. In the case of Israel, the U.S. has committed itself to their defense since the postwar formation. As a bulwark against Middle Eastern powers, Israel is seen as key to the American sphere of influence in a region where we lack sway. The American-Israeli relationship is believed to be necessary for oil and the military industrial complex. Even after the dissolution of the USSR, Israel has been an important ally for America because of the Iranian Revolution, 9/11, and persisting violence in the Middle East. Thus, the American government is resistant to even calling for a permanent ceasefire, not to mention accusing them of genocide. In this, it was a similar case for Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s destruction of the Kurds. Iraq was important to the U.S. because of its oil access, water, and geographical location that was key to controlling the Middle East. Therefore, it was unlikely that the U.S. would’ve stood up for the Kurdish people with oil at stake, especially thinking about the relatively recent oil crisis.
Another big issue in preventing genocide is the issue of sovereignty. Ultimately, countries control what happens within their own borders. So intervening and preventing a genocide in opposition to the government would be a violation of state sovereignty. But I believe that in extreme cases such as these, it is justified. If a government is committing such horrific crimes against innocent people, they shouldn’t be given unilateral control over their country. I think that it does make sense for the UN to modify sovereignty in order to stop genocide.
Samantha Power says that “nonintervention in the face of genocide offers sad testimony not to a broken American political system but to one that is ruthlessly effective.” The system was made to be unjust, was made to serve the interests of the U.S. over everything else, even defending human rights.
Thus, we have to change the system. That’s where individuals like Lemkin, Morganthau, Dalliare, and Power come in. These people with influence and power are able to spearhead change. Without the efforts of individuals and human rights organizations, nations would never intervene. Even though, as Article VIII states, only contracting parties can call upon the UN to investigate, these individuals are the ones who can influence our governments to do so. They can mobilize the people, which incentivizes the government to take action. Unfortunately, the final decision comes down to the government, so while, according to law, the government is more important in preventing genocide, in real life, individuals are the ones who are trying to make real change.

buttercup
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

LTQ 9

“Crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law.” - Raphael Lemkin. In this quote, Lemkin is saying that laws should be the guiding force that punishes crime-committers, as it should not be the sole responsibility of the victims to call for justice. By having the victims condemn the crimes, we are only able to punish crimes after they have happened. But, by having pre-existing laws in place, we can catch perpetrators in action and/or stop genocide (and other heinous crimes) before it even happens. The establishment of the international law on genocide is an important step because 1) it recognizes the existence of genocide (as a crime) 2) it gives guidelines on what genocide is 3) it assigns nations the responsibility to take steps in advance to prevent genocide 4) it gives nations the responsibility to punish the crime of genocide. Although the international law is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction to prevent more mass atrocities. The enforcement of this law is even more important because a law means nothing unless there is concrete action and change behind it. As Ernest Bevin said, “We need deeds, not words. Show us the deed. Give us proof of good faith. Let us deal with a deadly weapon. Let's open our countries to inspection, all of us. Let's open up the world and let light and knowledge come in and see what each other is doing” (Bevin). The very least we can do is to hold ourselves and each other accountable, but that is difficult when the convention has so many flaws. One issue is that the guidelines for the punishment of genocide are extremely vague. The convention says “The Contracting Parties undertake to enact… 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” and “Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III” (Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide). Additionally, there is a lack of ways the law is actually enforced and proving the intent to commit genocide is extremely difficult. Another one of the largest issues is the concern over sovereignty. The convention respects the each nation’s sovereignty, but that means intervention on a nation’s internal issues to prevent genocide can be limited by the concern of violating their sovereignty. As souplover said, “... in extreme cases such as these, it is justified. If a government is committing such horrific crimes against innocent people, they shouldn’t be given unilateral control over their country. I think that it does make sense for the UN to modify sovereignty in order to stop genocide” (souplover). I agree with them; limits on sovereignty should be established to make it easier to stop genocide, because then it allows the international community to step in and help hold the perpetrators accountable. This could be done by strengthening the authority/abilities of international governments (such as the United Nations) to allow intervention when genocide occurs, even when the target nation does not consent. There could be an establishment of policies by international government that gives countries the responsibility of protecting their citizens against genocide and associated crimes. When nations fail to take this responsibility, then this policy could help justify international intervention. There could be more widespread education on these issues. The (international) criminal justice system should also be strengthened in order to hold perpetrators accountable and deter future crimes from happening.

xoxogossipgirl
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 12

It Is Our Duty

“Why was killing a million people a less serious crime than killing a single individual?” Lemkin asked this question after seeing the underwhelming response to the Armenian genocide. The Armenian Genocide was an unfortunate and heartbreaking event with a death toll that is too heavy for anyone to bear. However, it was done before the term genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin. Raphael Lemkin fought to make genocide a known and recognizable term so that people could notice it and try to stop it. The Genocide Convention was signed in 1948 but the Armenian Genocide occurred earlier from 1915-1916. There are many arguments people can make in defense of those who did nothing to stop it but the fact of the matter was that the world ignored their cries. Unfortunately, Lemkin’s work can never help with a prosecution or punishment of the Ottoman’s for this inhumane act. Because the convention was made after the Armenian Genocide, there cannot be any legal condemnation but there can be moral ones. People can still call it a genocide because it was, but they cannot try the genocide just as Article VI permits (United Nations, 1948). Lemkin’s lifelong work was very impactful because it would help define future genocides that would unfortunately occur. Without this convention and this detailed definition, crime would be punished by the victims. When Lemkin says that “crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law” it’s because the victims usually have to fight for some sort of recognition. The truth is, that the victims are tired during a genocide and even after. It shouldn’t be up to the victims to find the solution and hold the perpetrators accountable. The law should be strong enough to bring justice to those who couldn’t fight for themselves. Along with Lemkin are influential people like Henry Morganthau, Romeo Dalliare, and Samantha Power who speak out when they recognize injustices. Although they are doing the right thing, that’s not just their job alone. As humans, it is everyone’s duty to look out for other humans regardless of race, ethnicity, or distance. The well-being of someone 1000 miles away from me is just as important as the well-being of the person who sits next to me in first period. This being said, we are all responsible for holding those accountable when it comes to genocide but we cannot do it along. Romeo Dalliare noticed the patterns in Rwanda before the genocide even started but his collegeagues at the United Nations didn’t listen to him. As a result of their lack of consideration, “he watched corpses pile up around him as Washington led a successful effort to remove most of the peacekeepers under his command” (Power, 2002). There are many people who have tried to light a spark but there are many nations and organizations that have blown out the spark. On their own, individuals cannot stop a genocide but they can bring awareness and raise questions. Human rights organizations have the power and publicity to be able to prevent a genocide if they are willing to look close enough. They can stop a genocide if they choose to take action instead of waiting to watch the mourners as mass graves and providing thoughts and prayers. It is our duty as a world, to make sure that genocide never happens again.

behappy19
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

The Genocide Convention and 'A Problem from Hell'

Genocide, determined to be a crime against the humanity by the Genocide Convention is one that it hard for nations to even say. Nations often avoid uttering this term due to the implications behind it. If a nation convicts another of this atrocious crime this can be dangerous as the nation could: be strategically important, have the right to sovereignty in handling their own internal issues, or have already committed the crime. This; however, should not matter when the lives of thousands even millions could be at stake and Raphael Lemkin understood this first hand as he lost many family members to the acts of genocide as explained in Clip one from Watcher of the Sky. He once stated, “Crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law,” nations must be held accountable for their wrongdoings and it should not be left to the survivors to pick up the pieces. The victims of this crime are often left without any peace of mind as people such as Ratko Mladic, are able to kill and move on without being convicted or stopped. This shows how the law has failed us and is no longer doing what it is made to do. It is sad how the law, something that is supposed to protect people and make sure they are safe, continues to fail them over and over again. Raphael Lemkin should not have had to fight for the justice of thousands who had been brutally murdered because it is just inhumane for this to happen. People are capable of so much evil, but also so much good and if they allow for this evil to take over humanity can be easily lost. Lemkin worked so hard and spoke out for so many years in order to get genocide recognized as a crime and he did succeed, but even after doing so nations such as the United States were doing noting to prevent it from happening. Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states, “In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group…” but this continued to occur and nothing was being done. This is where the premise of sovereignty comes into play as many nations believed that they each had complete control over what happens within their borders, but if this includes the ruthless killing of innocent people then this must be changed. People have their own personal property, but if they have committed a crime then the police are able to get a warrant in order to search their home. This should be the same for nations as if one is committing the act of genocide than those around them should have the power to stop them. This issue is that even if nations do have the power to do so they still do not and this is something that Samantha Power struggled coming to terms with. Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide and former US Ambassador to the United Nations, once stated, “Genocide has occurred so often and so uncontested in the last fifty years that an epithet more apt in describing recent events than the oft-chanted "Never Again" is in fact "Again and Again."” This crime against humanity continues to happen and the cycle has not been broken because nations are ignoring the warning signs. They call it terms such as “ethnic cleansing” to alleviate themselves from the guilt they bear for standing by and letting thousands of innocent people be killed. This is why people like Raphael Lemkin, Henry Morganthau, Romeo Dalliare, and Samantha Power are so important because they do not stay silent, they speak out against what has happened in the past and what will happen in the future if things do not change. So we must listen to people like Jasmina Cesic and advocate for those who are suffering or have suffered through genocide. Speak out when we see the warning signs because we must break the cycle and if the law will not do then we have to try.

seeperspective
Boston, Massachusettes, US
Posts: 8

The Genocide Convention and 'A Problem from Hell'

The man who assassinated one of the people responsible for the Armenian Genocide, was punished far more than those who committed the atrocious act. I think that when Raphael Lemkin said this, he meant that the victims shouldn’t dictate how much the crime is punished. No matter what race or religion or ethnicity, the difference in time or place shouldn’t play a factor in how much is punished. Far too many times in history, countries and governments capable of change, have failed to do what can be done to stop what happened. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (United Nations, 1948) states on page 1, “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.” The establishment of this international law is an important step because it will set a precedent for something like this, it will create a standard that will hopefully be held up and now broken or bent by anyone. If this law isn’t upheld or enforced, then countries won’t feel the need to respect and follow these laws. And especially with the lack of interference in past genocide, they may feel that they won’t face any consequences. Although Lemkin’s efforts led to the Genocide Convention, its effects remained limited because some countires hold significant political sway and importance, while others hold very little. This is concerning because if a country holds more political importance, nations that could be potentially allied with it may be hesitant to intervene in their affairs in fear of jeopardizing the relationship they have. In Article VIII of The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (United Nations, 1948), it states, “Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III.” Some countries may not want to sign on to the convention because they don’t want to potentially give up any power they have in their own nation to a country that may have taken advantage of them in the past as well. In terms of international law there seems to be a lot of red tape and gray areas.
cbgb1946
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

LTQ 9: The Genocide Convention and 'A Problem from Hell'

Raphael Lemkin dedicated his entire career to make the world a better place, calling upon the global community to act upon the crime of genocide. At the 1948 Genocide Convention, Lemkin outlined the “obligation to take measures to prevent and to punish the crime of genocide,” that each State Party was obligated to hold others accountable for (The United Nations). In the film Water of the Sky, Lemkin states that, “Crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law,” in his advocating for the accountability of nations that have committed the act of genocide. Lemkin’s remarks argue that it is not the victim’s responsibility to hold the perpetrator responsible for their actions, and instead the individual state should take responsibility to prevent and punish the crime of genocide. By establishing a uniform international law, the crime of genocide is understood universally by the global community, and an attempt for the prevention of genocide can be more affective in the global setting. The enforcement of this law is even more important because it can bring a sense of unity of peace, for each and every state of the world can agree upon the punishments and consequences of committing the crime of genocide. When the victims are the ones left to hold the perpetrators accountable, there is not as large of an affect as when the global community has a universal understanding of the crime of genocide. When the global community can agree upon keeping its citizens safe and held accountable, the act of genocide can be taken seriously when being prevented and punished.

Although The Genocide Convention created a universal understanding of the crime of genocide, the effects of the convention remain limited, despite the tremendous effort of Lemkin to incorporate it into the global community. Many nations take into account their sovereignty and autonomy when dealing with the global community, for each nation wishes to prioritize their own governmental, economic, and holistic well being, before those of any other nation. When a country ignores the act of genocide in another nation, it allows for them to remove any ties in helping the nation prevent and punish the crime of genocide. The issue of sovereignty continues to make the prevention of genocide a challenge, due to each nation wishing to keep their power and respect, in the setting of the global community. In an attempt to make it easier to stop the crime of genocide, limits on sovereignty could help, for each nation would not have to worry about the consequences of their providing of help and aid, as this is one of the main factors that hold nations back. Ties and alliances between nations can be disrupted during times of war, which hold back the nations of the world from interfering with the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide.

Individuals such as Lemkin, Henry Morganthau, Romeo Dalliare, and Samantha Power, all play key roles in holding people accountable for the crime of genocide. Lemkin’s catalyst event of The Genocide Convention set the standard for all individuals to follow, in their attempts to make the global community a more accountable place. Henry Morganthau and Romeo Dalliare both made their marks in communicating the acts of genocide back to their nations, allowing for the states of Armenia and Rwanda to be held accountable for their crimes of genocide. Through their global affairs, they recognized Article II of The Genocide Convention’s presence in the nations that they were dealing with abroad from The United States. Article II of The Genocide Convention outlines acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, 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; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” (Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide). Morgenthau and Dallaire understood these acts to be taking place right in front of them, and they took action in every way that they could to prevent the continuation of the crimes of genocide in Armenia and Rwanda. In the documentary Watcher of the Sky, Samantha Power demonstrated her work to expose the crimes of genocide that were taking place in the Yugloslav region of Europe, through the media and journalism. In a new age of technology, Power took steps to expose the Bosnian Serb’s committing of “(a) Genocide; (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide; (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide; (d) Attempt to commit genocide; (e) Complicity in genocide,” that are outlined in Article III of The Genocide Convention (Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide). Through individuals such as Lemkin, Henry Morganthau, Romeo Dalliare, and Samantha Power, the act of genocide can further be prevented and punished in the global community, with the nations who are committing the crimes being held responsible in the global setting.

asdfghjkl;'
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

The Genocide Convention and 'A Problem from Hell'

Raphael Lemkin is an advocator for international law, the 1948 Genocide Convention, which defines and calls on the global community to act in the face of genocide. As a survivor of the Holocaust himself, he believes the killing of these innocent lives are not a war crime rather its own offense. During the film, "Watcher in the Sky" Lemkin goes on to state, “Crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law.” Through this claim he is conveying that these acts occuring during genocide are not war crimes, and therefore can not be “punished by victims” as there is are oppressors committing these offenses. The groups are not equal as seen in “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” where the law states, “killing members of the group” and “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” Each of these show the unfair power dynamic between the two masses. Due to the oppression, they were unable to prevent this mass destruction of their kind. Since it is unpreventable by the victims there must be international laws set in place. These laws would prevent what the victims are unable to, genocide. Lemkin goes on to state in the film that genocide is not a war crime rather, “another crime, an graver one.” This is due to the power imbalance. It is not war crimes, so the international law would punish the crimes of the oppressors and prevent genocide from occuring in the future. However, issue of sovereignty continue to make it challenging to prevent genocide. This is because many countries that were under the forces of imperialism are not comfortable with signing off on the law. It is not because they want genocide to remain in the world, rather, they do not want to be constricted once again by more powerful countries. These newly sovereign nations feel the need to rule themselves as they were unable to for the years prior. Therefore, this has become a challenge to prevent genocide as these nations want to make laws for themselves, and not be held under the power of stronger countries.

cranberryjuicelover6000
West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 10

Genocide Convention

Raphael Lemkin was a Polish-Jewish lawyer and scholar who worked hard to solidify the word the term "genocide" to describe atrocities that have a certain structure to them. He dedicated much of his life to advocating for the recognition and prevention of this crime through international law. This was done by the 1948 Genocide Convention, also known as Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, where the definition and the punishment became solidifed globally. In the film Watcher in the Sky, Lemkin states that “Crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law”. This statement allowed for Lemkin to really emphasize the need for a legal framework and international law to address and punish crimes like genocide. In many cases throughout history, victims of genocide and mass atrocities have sought retribution and justice through personal or group vendettas, which can perpetuate cycles of violence. Lemkin believed that justice should be administered through a formal legal process, rather than through personal justice. The establishment of this as international law was an important step because it provided a clear definition of genocide. This recognition is crucial for identifying, condemning, and preventing genocide that may happen in the future. The Convention also places an obligation on states to prevent and punish genocide. It creates a global standard and commitment to act against genocide. By criminalizing genocide and making it punishable under international law, the Convention underscores the importance of protecting fundamental human rights and the dignity of individuals. It also puts more emphasis on the nations themself and their interconnectedness. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocidestates itself that its purpose is “Recognizing that at all periods of history genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity, and being convinced that, in order to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge, international co-operation is required”. To punish these crimes and ensure that similar things don’t happen again, nations have to unite and react accordingly for those citizens. How nations react is the most essential part. The enforcement of this law serves to discourage potential perpetrators. When individuals and states know that there are consequences for committing genocide, they may be less likely to engage in such acts. Enforcement ensures that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions, providing justice for the victims and their families. Punishing genocide can contribute to the restoration of peace, stability, and reconciliation in post-conflict societies. It can help in healing the wounds of the affected communities and preventing further violence. Upholding and enforcing the Genocide Convention reinforces the rule of law at both national and international levels. It demonstrates that no one is above the law and that international norms and standards must be respected and adhered to.

Many of the strides in recognizing genocides as such has stemmed from individual efforts. Individuals like Raphael Lemkin and Samantha Power have played crucial roles in raising awareness, advocating for action, and holding individuals and nations accountable for the crime of genocide. Their efforts have been instrumental in shaping international policies, mobilizing public opinion, and pressuring governments and international bodies to act. Human rights groups have also played significant roles in this. In Samantha Powers’s A Problem from Hell she describes how these groups reacted following the news of Bosian Serbs being killed by the Serbian nationalist government. She recounts, “Human rights groups were quicker than they had ever been to document atrocities. Helsinki Watch, the European arm of what would have become known as the human rights watch, had begun dispatching field missions to the Balkans”. These people being so quick to act helped expedite more of the world learning about these crimes being committed. In only four months of the war beginning, the Helsinki Watch had uncovered “systematic executions, expulsions, and indiscriminate shelling attacks” (A Problem from Hell 257). These things being exposed allowed for the general public and world leaders to see what was going on in Bosnia. The efforts of individuals are crucial in both the recognition and also the punishment of genocide.

Bingus_the_cat
US
Posts: 10

Genocide and the UN


Although many countries seem to support the genocide convention, it can be hard to enforce. The idea of national sovereignty throws a wrench into the gears of this practice. As seen in the genocide convention, which does not mention sovereignty, it causes problems similair to the Armenian Genocide, in which the Ottomans argued that because it happened on their own land, they should not be punished. In my opinion there should be a committee created to determine whether national sovereignty should be violated as national sovereignty is a very touchy subject and it is not in most countries interests to lose national sovereignty. However, holding people accountable for genocide is incredibly important as it creates a standard that can be continued to be upheld. Lemkin really helped create a standard of holding countries accountable after, but other people such as Samantha Power have helped to attempt to hold countries accountable during the genocide. Samatha Power’s work on the Bosnian genocide is remarkable as it allowed people to see a genocide taking place in real time. However because the genocide convention has not really been changed, it is incredibly difficult for the UN to respond to genocide in real time. Despite the role of individuals and NGO’s in the prosecution of genocide, it really is up to nations to truly stop genocide. NGOs can provide support and aid, but they do not have the true power that countries have. Only nations can truly punish other nations for their role in genocide through sanctions or threat of military sanctions. In A Problem from Hell the way that the Cambodian genocide is solved is through Vietnam invading Cambodia. At the time it must have been very ironic due to the fact that they were both ‘communist’, but it also shows how even countries with somewhat similar values can have the relationship changed when genocide is brought into the equation. Overall, despite UN support, genocide can only really be stopped through governments and the use of legistlation to change national sovereignty.

supercoolguy5000
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

A Problem From Hell

The Genocide Convention provided a specific outline of the newly defined international crime, yet in many countries the use of this Convention is harshly avoided. For the international community it was easier to compartmentalize the events and of the Bosnian Genocide when “genocide” was not in the question at all. Now that “genocide” exists as a term, countries like the U.S. know they must avoid identifying such events so that they can avoid intervening. This leaves it up to the likes of Lemkin and Power to incite the voice of the people so that they can stir those in power to action. These people stepping forward when not many others are creates the potential to start a chain reaction and lead to change not only in one nation, but worldwide, like the Genocide Convention.

For Raphael Lemkin, he knew he wanted to fight against this crime when his family was displaced during the Holocaust. In the film Watcher of the Sky, Lemkin’s college professor told him that human lives are truly nothing more than chickens in the face of sovereignty. This means that when countries are in charge of themselves, in theory they can do whatever they want to the people inside of their country. Limits on sovereignty would be extremely risky because in some instances power imbalances would form and some countries would gain more power over others. It is still the case that some countries are more powerful, but what would the point of sovereignty be if a power like the U.S. could control other smaller countries and their populations? Instead of placing specific limits on sovereignty, the limits should be more explicit in the treatment of human life in general. An agreement should exist that when mistreatment of any human being reaches a certain extent, any other country has the legal right to intervene.

This leaves the question of ethics when it comes to international intervention in conflicts such as the Bosnian Genocide. In Sarajevo, when “Serb snipers took target practice on bundled old ladies hauling canisters of filthy water” or when the number of children killed surpassed 16,000, there should have been more ways for the international community to intervene besides the UN simply acting as bystanders (A Problem From Hell: Preface). The U.S. had many arguments as to why they did not want to intervene with troops. From not wanting “another Vietnam” to not wanting to engage in a “complex” conflict that would result in any danger to Americans, Clinton gave the citizens of America false hope about any action that may happen (A Problem From Hell: Chapter 9). If this Bosnian “situation” was so uncertain to the U.S. government, then how did they have such ease going into Vietnam, intervening with the country’s sovereignty, and losing the lives of many American soldiers? The ugly truth is that America, and other countries will do whatever serves their selfish purpose. Since the Vietnam War was carried out to prevent communism, the government did anything it could to send troops out. When other smaller countries are in need of assistance, however, their pain and suffering suddenly becomes a “complex” situation that will put the U.S. in jeopardy if it intervenes. In reality, as one of the most powerful nations in the world, America has a duty to save lives and intervene, and has all the resources it would need to push back any retaliation towards this.


pigeondrivesabus
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

Raphael Lemkin dedicated his life to trying to stop genocide, and this is something that is rare, as many people don’t believe that they can stop something as big as genocide and thus, don’t try. Lemkin stated in the film Water of the Sky that “Crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law.” What he means is that there should be rules set in place that punish people who commit war crimes and genocide, and victims shouldn’t have to bear the burden of getting justice. On page one of The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, it says 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.” As seeperspective stated, it is important to set a precedent for the fact that people will be punished for their crimes no matter what, assuring that no one will get away with their heinous war crimes. There are people who try to stop genocide such as Morgenthau and Dallaire who tried to prevent crimes in Armenia and Rwanda. The efforts of individuals and human rights organizations are equally as important as the roles of nations in preventing and punishing genocide because if everyone works together, there will be a standard that is upheld, as opposed to everyone ignoring the rules because nobody enforces them with violence. Moreover, The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide says that “Recognizing that at all periods of history genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity, and being convinced that, in order to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge, international co-operation is required.” This means that in order to recognize and punish genocide and war crimes, communities across the world must come together and agree, which is difficult especially with countries who are not allies or countries that are currently in wars. Limits on sovereignty should theoretically be implemented in order to keep the international community following the same rules and regulations, however they cannot realistically be implemented because of so many conflicts.

pinkavocados
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

International law is essential because it provides a standard that every country, every nation, every people is expected to adhere to. Though not always perfectly effective or enforceable, international law sets moral expectations and legal standards that create a bar for what is acceptable, and the framework enables people to understand international actions and put countries' decisions into context. International recognition of crimes such as genocide gives name to a problem and puts it on the radar of the global population, and that holds a lot of importance.

In “A Problem from Hell” Samantha Power emphasizes the importance of language and giving name to terrible things occurring. She explains how during the Bosnian Genocide, among media and government officials, overtime words such as “ethnic cleansing” and “war crimes” lost meaning and weight because of how normalized they became, and how accepting of the reality people chose to be. Thus, the existence of trials and courts which litigate real charges of these crimes renews meaning and draws people back to the enormity of the situations the world is facing.

When Raphael Lemkin says “Crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law” he emphasizes the role the international community plays in holding people accountable for harm. Lemkin emphasizes the idea that it should not be the victims job to ensure that the perpetrators get punished; that is deeply unfair. Instead, Lemkin suggests that society as a collective has a responsibility to hold perpetrators accountable; we need to watch out for each other because if something happened to us, we would want others to have our back. It is impossible to go about the process of accountability and punishment alone, especially when facing crimes of such magnitude, and thus it should be a responsibility of the international community to aid in these processes. Once codified, enforcing law is crucial because it demonstrates to countries that they are not immune, or above any other nation in the world. The law reminds leaders that the world is watching their actions, and that their choices have real consequences.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

Genocide Convention and "A Problem from Hell"

Raphael Lemkin’s influence in the creation of the 1948 Genocide Convention cannot be understated. This is an incredibly powerful piece of international law that sets precedents for the identification and punishment of the crime of genocide. However, this convention is also often misinterpreted and misused. When building the idea for the convention, Lemkin said that “crime should not be punished by victims but should be punished by law.” Here he states one of the main purposes for the convention’s creation, the prevention of genocide before it is too late. We can not let genocides persist for so long that the victims end up becoming the ones who are really punished. Instead, there must be a groundwork that allows us to identify genocides when they are still in their early stages, and put an end to them before they can begin. This is a very important step because previously there was no international law about this, meaning that if a country began taking the steps of genocide within their own borders there was nothing that other countries could do to stop or punish them. With this law, as with many laws, enforcement is very crucial. If we let countries commit atrocities such as genocide without punishment, it sets a precedent for the future and allows genocides to continue happening. If the convention is properly enforced, however, this is not as much of a problem because countries know what will happen if they break the convention, and that is a price that most are not willing to pay. It is for this very reason that the effects of the Genocide Convention remain limited.

Too often since its creation have nations been allowed to get much too far through a genocide without intervention or punishment. This sends a message to other countries that this is something they can also get away with. In addition to this, the methods by which the convention is enforced give some countries unequal effects of the punishments and allows them to get away with more. For example, the US holds a large amount of power within the UN and on the world stage in general. For this reason, other countries are afraid of punishing the US for crimes they may have committed because they don’t want to lose the US’s valuable favor. The issue of sovereignty also makes it difficult to punish these crimes, as the UN respects countries’ sovereignty which therefore makes it difficult for them to investigate and punish countries who are committing acts of genocide within their own borders. Limits on sovereignty may be a good idea in select circumstances when reasonable suspicion can be given that points towards a possibility of an atrocity such as a genocide happening, which would be imposed by the UN and the powerful countries that it is made up of.

Individuals absolutely have the ability to influence a genocide. This mostly takes the form of finding and spreading information about atrocities that may not be spread everywhere otherwise and raising awareness about the issue. This will lead to the formation of larger groups, which can bring the fact that the people are unhappy and want intervention to the eyes of the government. This demonstration of public interest will make the government much more likely to listen and take action against such atrocities. Nations, however, are where the real power comes in, as they are the ones who have the power, both diplomatic and military, to bring an end to a conflict and make a real change. So it comes down to both groups, as the public and its significant figures must convince the government that intervention is worthwhile to their nation, and then the government must make the decision to follow the desires of the public and actually make a stand against the genocide.

bumblebeetuna
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

Genocide

Genocide involves the most disgusting and brutal crimes against humanity - babies being murdered, families being separated, bodies being bulldozed. When the world witnesses these unspeakable crimes, nations enter a state of shock, telling themselves “this can’t be happening, not again, not when there are whole museums dedicated to it, not when we have a genocide convention.” But it is one thing to look back at past history and declare something a genocide, from the safety of courts and with the full weight of heart wrenching testimonies. It is much harder to actually call out genocidal acts in real time and take action, because nations don’t want to ruin allyships, send troops abroad, and risk false accusations. It’s frustrating, but countries act on behalf of their own country. If they feel that taking action doesn’t align with the current political desires, economic interests, and morals of the nation, they will not act. Take the US, for example, in Bosnia. After the Cold War, US citizens were tired of being in a war like state and were jubilant to a future without conflict. Furthermore, the army didn’t want to involve itself in another Cold War by taking action in former Yugoslavia. Thus, even when barbaric images from Bosnia appeared in the press, the US “render[ed] the bloodshed two-sided and inevitable, not genocidal.. insist[ing] that any proposed US. response will be futile. May even do more harm than good, bringing perverse consequences to the victims and jeopardizing other precious American moral and strategic interests.” This has definitely played out in Palestine. Although Israel had the right to defend itself against the October 7th attacks, it became clear quickly that the actions far surpassed self defense. And the ICJ ruled that Israel’s actions could amount to genocide. But the US refused to take action because Israel is a very close ally. To justify this, the US paints the issue as “extremely nuanced” - which yes, it is as a whole, but also, nuance doesn’t mean we should veto calls for ceasefire, which the US has done. The situation can be nuanced, but the overwhelming evidence of death, destruction, and yes, dehumanization of the Palestinians, is not. And if we are to trust international powers, which is kind of the whole point of this convention, we should take the ICJ’s word as good. Only trusting these international bodies when it fits the US’s narrative is hypocritical. As Powers reiterates many times, the US and other countries do not have to send armed troops to stop genocide. The first step is to simply call out what is happening. The focus on specific language is certainly important, but there should not have to be 100 percent certainty that something is a genocide for international action to occur. When so much life is being lost, when there are clear conditions for a group“ calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;” the international community MUST act. These are real lives at stake. And individuals hold power. They do. It can be tempting to think that the government doesn’t hear our desires. But the government is made up of people as well, people with hearts and minds. Lemkin was able after years and years to get the international community to recognize the horrors of the Holocaust and create a fitting crime: genocide. Powers wrote down her stories in Bosnia and now plays a part in educating us student about the Bosnian genocide. And we now too have power to stop current and future genocides.

posts 1 - 15 of 24