Why Hitler, The Guatemalan Government and the Hutu committed crimes against us
The ‘International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and the Prevention of such Crimes’ will be marked for the first time on December 9. This day also marks the anniversary of the adoption of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
It wouldn’t be wrong to consider genocide as the penultimate form of terrorism. Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states, “Genocide is an act committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.
“Not much will remain of the Jews. On the whole it can be said that about 60 percent of them will have to be liquidated whereas only 40 percent can be used for forced labour” (The Goebbels [Reich Propaganda Minister] diaries, March 27, 1942. The Goebbels Diaries 1942-1943 - L.P. Lochner, Doubleday & Co., 1948, p. 147-148)
Perhaps the most infamous incident that springs to mind in relation to genocide would be the Holocaust. The systematic extermination of some 5.8 million Jewish men, women and children was an attempt at annihilatining anyone Jewish with no exceptions. By 1941 this desire was to kill off Jews all over the world and would become evidence of the first “universally conceived genocide” as Professor Yehuda Bauer a scholar of the Holocaust describes.
“When we win the war we will ask all the countries of the world to treat the Jews how we treat them here,” said Hitler.
The reason for this hate was a mixture of events and ideas including Germany’s defeat in World War I and the lack of confidence that people had in the entire system. Within this void Hitler rose to unify all of Germany capitalizing on the Christian prejudice of Jews by spreading conspiracies, perverting Darwinian theories by referring to the Aryans as the superior race and using the media to depict Jews as the cause of all German problems.
In 1933 the first concentration camp at Dachau, was founded after extensive powers were given to Hitler and his ever loyal SS, following the destruction of Parliament in a fire. The SS led a boycott of Jewish businesses and used propaganda to fuel acts against this “anti-race”.
“In Rwanda that genocide happened because the international community and the Security Council refused to give, again, another 5000 troops which would have cost, I don’t know, maybe fifty, a hundred, million dollars”- Lakhdar Brahimi, Algerian United Nations diplomat.
Colonization and the Belgians decided on an approach of ‘divide and conquer’ by using the Tutsi minority as the colonial elite in Rwanda. Race was introduced and legal distinctions were made between the Tutsi and the Hutu.
Hutu emancipation led to the Rwandan Civil War in 1990 between the Rwandan Patriotic Front and the Hutu Government in Rwanda and in 1992 and 1993 ceasefire agreements and peace talks ensued, resulting in the Arusha Accords signed in 1993. However the threat of peace was greater than the threat of war since both parties couldn’t compromise on power sharing. As a result of the tension, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), a peacekeeping force, arrived in the country under the assumption that this would be a routine peacekeeping operation. It turned out to be quite the opposite.
“We did not act quickly enough after the killings began” admitted President Bill Clinton four years later in Rwanda.
There is evidence of information given by the UNAMIR to the United Nations of the plan by the Hutu to exterminate the Tutsi. The response was to avoid any action that would entail the use of force. The UN later admitted that they didn’t give the information the necessary importance at the time.
The fate of Rwanda would be decided as much by the United Nations as the Hutu themselves.There would be no support provided to aid the UNAMIR forces on the ground. The lack of numbers and the specific orders not to use force led to several personnel of the UNAMIR being killed by the Hutu and this in turn resulted in the withdrawal of the troops.
Mr. David Golding a PhD student at Lancaster University and a visiting lecturer at the University of Colombo has worked as a human rights observer in Guatemala in 2009 and 2010.
“Witnesses in the national and international genocide cases had requested an international presence for their safety. Many of them had experienced harassment and violence by the Guatemalan military, who worked to silence the voices of those who survived its genocide.
The Guatemalan military conducted a genocide against the country’s Mayan population, committing its most serious crimes against humanity in the early 1980s. The communities I worked with personally were those who had survived the Rio Negro Massacre, in which the military killed 5,000 Mayan people in rural villages.
Sri Lanka has also had allegations of genocide being committed on the Tamil population during the armed conflict. However using the term for its literal worth and using it in a strict sense intending legal consequences are different. The legal implications of any such genocide can only be decided by the law and using it as a reference to incidents may be misleading. Furthermore looking at these claims in light of genocides that have occurred it may be hard to see these alleged actions being directed at the Tamil population as a whole. Therefore it is important that violations of rights and genocide are not used as synonyms or for convenience.
The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was drafted soon after the Nuremberg trials, serves to be the controlling force against these atrocities and has both pros and cons.
It thrusts upon the states a duty to intervene and stop genocide in any country. The inclusion of intent into the definition allows early detection of possible Holocausts. It also taken under its ambit many types of crimes that may constitute genocide and speaks of genocide as an international crime via the International Penal Tribunals.
The Convention is however unclear on the status of soldiers involved in armed conflict with an enemy state. There is some debate as to the effectiveness of the Convention with many of the countries that have signed the convention having failed to draft corresponding domestic laws without the inclusion of Universal Jurisdiction which needs to be included to allow perpetrators to be tried wherever they are arrested.
But as Professor Jonathan Haidt said, “Morality binds people into groups. It gives us genocide, war and politics. But it also gives us heroism, altruism and sainthood.”