Stacey M. Mitchell & Carrie Booth Walling
Created in the United Kingdom at the request of the World Uyghur Congress, the People’s Uyghur Tribunal investigated alleged crimes, including genocide, perpetrated by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) against Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang since 2016. On December 9, 2021, it rendered a judgment against the PRC for torture, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The judgment shines a light on the brutal conditions of incarceration and processes of indoctrination perpetrated by the Chinese government against minority Muslim groups to eradicate their identity, language, culture, and religion. The Tribunal’s brief describes a genocide by attrition and demonstrates how powerful countries use the guise of national security to evade responsibility for their perpetration of systematic and widespread crimes against marginalized populations within their borders. The Tribunal’s judgment highlights that genocide refers to the social destruction of groups and not only their physical annihilation. States and international organizations should take steps to stop the atrocity crimes underway in Xinjiang and punish their perpetrators.
The Implications of Genocide Designations
Carrie Booth Walling
Definitions matter in politics. They help policymakers understand causes of political problems, contextualize their dynamics, and identify appropriate policy responses. The Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin created the term genocide in 1944 to describe a horrendous crime that had no name. Lemkin argued that the intentional destruction of groups by people with power had to be named before it could be prevented, stopped, or punished through law or policy. Research by contemporary policy experts like Deborah Stone, demonstrate there is a direct connection between how a political problem gets defined by decision-makers and the policy options that follow. Carrie Walling’s research on United Nations Security Council responses to mass atrocity suggests that how decision- makers characterize the causes and possible solutions of mass violence shape the Council’s willingness to respond to it. Yet naming a situation genocide alone does not substitute for effective policy response. And debates about whether mass atrocity crimes meet the legal definition of genocide can detract from substantive policy debate about how to stop the killing. Whenever populations are at risk of atrocity, governments and multilateral organizations should quickly make an atrocity crime designation and pursue robust preventive and responsive action to save lives. When appropriate, genocide designations can follow.
After Genocide: Memory and Reconciliation in Rwanda
In the wake of unthinkable atrocities, how do communities move forward without forgetting the past? Simply remembering the past can, in the shadow of mass death and other abuses, be retraumatizing. So how can such momentous events be memorialized in a way that is productive and even healing for survivors? Nicole Fox’s 2021 book After Genocide: Memory and Reconciliation in Rwanda (University of Wisconsin Press) investigates such questions through extensive interviews with Rwandan survivors decades after the genocide ended. Through qualitative research at national memorial sites throughout Rwanda, After Genocide reveals the relationship survivors have to memorial spaces and uncovers those voices silenced by the dominant narrative—arguing that the erasure of such stories is an act of violence itself.
Tigrayan Civilians and Oromo Detainees in Areas Under Ethiopian Government Control
Bridget Conley, Alex de Waal, Deborah Mayersen, and Hollie Nyseth Brehm
The war between the Ethiopian government, its allied militias, and the Eritrean military against Tigrayan armed forces is now entering a new, extremely dangerous phase that presents a high risk of mass atrocity. As Tigrayan forces approach Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian government has begun taking action that raises alarms about potential mass atrocities in and around the city. Specifically, the Ethiopian government has escalated hate speech against Tigrayans, mobilized neighborhood militias to fight the war, and arbitrarily arrested at least 30,000 Tigrayan civilians in Addis Ababa. These civilians—in addition to Tigrayan soldiers held in detention centers since the war began in November 2020, imprisoned Oromo political leaders, and Oromo civilians who refuse to join militias—are all at heightened risk of atrocities. Additionally, there are reports of ongoing massacres of Tigrayans who live in Western Tigray, which is still under government control. We call for the United Nations, the African Union, and all states that are parties to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to fulfill their obligation to act now by 1) Demanding all armed actors in Ethiopia abide by their obligations to protect civilians under international law; 2) Demanding an immediate end to hate speech, incitement to violence, and inflammatory public statements, as well as the release of detainees; and 3) Imposing an arms embargo and calling out arms suppliers as potentially at risk of being accomplices to the crime of genocide.
Human-Induced Famine in Tigray: A Potential Act of Genocide
Since the fighting erupted in Tigray in November 2020, there have been serious concerns regarding the commission of mass atrocities. The UN Human Rights Office, senior UN officials and NGOs such as Amnesty International have identified that war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing may have occurred or be underway. There have been credible arguments that the situation may comprise genocide. In late June, the US State Department advised that an assessment as to the appropriate term/s to describe the atrocities was well advanced, but no determination has yet been made public. Since then, however, the crisis has taken a dramatic and deadly turn. The Ethiopian government’s blockade of Tigray has prevented most humanitarian aid from reaching the region. Tigray was already experiencing famine as a direct result of the conflict, and it is now estimated that one person is dying of starvation every two minutes there. Calls by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and other senior UN officials to allow humanitarian access have been disregarded. There is a strong prima facie case that this blockade constitutes an act of genocide. The UN, AU, US and other relevant stakeholders should intensely focus on ensuring the Ethiopian government ends the blockade and allows immediate and unfettered humanitarian access to Tigray, in accordance with international humanitarian law and independent of any other developments with respect to the conflict.
The Ongoing Genocide of South America’s Guarani-Kaiowa
Antonio Augusto Rossotto Loris
The ongoing genocide of the Guarani-Kaiowa indigenous people demonstrates a disconcerting face of export-oriented agribusiness production in the center of South America. Although it often fails to attract the same headlines as terrorism, climate change or religious fundamentalism, indigenous genocide remains a recurrent and devastating problem especially in mining and agribusiness frontiers. The opening of new economic frontiers typically involves a combination of greed, power and intolerance that, depending on the circumstances, can lead to the annihilation of the native population. Important to emphasize that the occurrence of an indigenous genocide, as in relation to frontier-making, is independent of the deliberate intention or explicit purpose to eliminate indigenous communities. Indigenous genocides presume a brutal mechanism of ‘othering’ through arbitrary ethnic and social references that exclude and penalize those considered to be inferior. Consequently, as much as addressing the causes of and responsibilities for indigenous genocides, it is necessary to investigate its genesis and space-time junctures.
On October 15, 1944, Piroska Dely led a paramilitary unit to kill and rob Jewish inhabitants of Csengery 64 in Budapest. Although the massacre was memorialized by the first private Holocaust memorial erected in Budapest on October 15, 1945, little work has been done to create a full accounting of the incident, in particular, a gendered one. The stories of Piroska Dely and the other female participants in the massacre have been largely forgotten. Much of this is attributable to the way their prosecutions were handled by the people’s tribunal of Hungary following World War II. In The Forgotten Massacre: Budapest 1944 (DeGruyter, 2021), Andrea Pető uncovers the gripping history surrounding the violence that unfolded in Csengery 64. By examining the contextual factors that influenced the shaping of the history of this event, Pető contributes to the creation of a much-needed gendered explanation about a controversial segment of Hungary’s past. In so doing, she expands our comprehension of the conditions that continue to impact Hungary’s understanding of its past.
In “‘Is Help Coming?’ Communal Self-Protection During Genocide,” Deborah Mayersen examines whether communal self-protection offers a viable strategy for vulnerable groups attempting to mitigate the impact of genocide. Communal self-protection is defined here as cooperative communal activities undertaken by civilians to avoid or mitigate genocidal oppression. Despite recent initiatives in atrocity prevention, including the Responsibility to Protect principle, vulnerable groups continue to experience genocide. Some, such as the Yazidis in Iraq in 2014, have attempted to mitigate the impact of genocide through self-protection strategies. Yet communal self-protection is only feasible as a strategy in limited circumstances. Even in a best-case scenario, attempts at self-protection can only offer a temporary and highly precarious reprieve from genocide. Ultimately, groups attempting self-protection are reliant upon external rescue for survival, which may or may not be forthcoming. Therefore, communal self-protection should not be considered as a viable strategy to mitigate the impact of genocide in any circumstances. This is an important consideration for policymakers and practitioners responding to genocide, or the threat of its imminent onset.
Stacey M. Mitchell and Úrsula Oswald-Spring
In “A New Paradigm: Engendered-Sustainable Peace and Security,” Úrsula Oswald Spring and Stacey M. Mitchell propose a new way in which to conceive of peacebuilding, different from the conceptions of peacebuilding proposed by policymakers and scholars influenced by Realism, Liberalism, Constructivism, Cosmopolitanism, and even Feminism. From a policymaking perspective, thinking of peacebuilding through the lens of a holistic engendered, sustainable peace and security (ESPS) improves on extant paradigms that approach peace largely as a matter of institutional change, norm revision, the absence of conflict, and/or neoliberal economic reforms, and all through a worldview created and dominated by men. By shifting the focus towards addressing the larger, systemic causes of violence and inequality, an ESPS provides the framework for a gender-egalitarian positive peace.