Genocide and crimes against humanity are two concepts in international law; created in response to the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis against the European Jewry. Hersch Lauterpacht shaped the concept of ‘crimes against humanity’ and Raphael Lemkin coined the term ‘genocide’. But what is the difference between these two?
Guest Post by Vasilina
The aim of this post is to show the importance of the United Nations (UN) in inter- and intrastate conflicts on the example of Myanmar. The article will focus on the work of the UN and its agencies as well as their impact on the conflict in Myanmar.
“East West Street. On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.” by Phillipe Sands
“East West Street” is a really interesting and revealing book by Phillipe Sands, which consists of two main stories: the first one is Sands’ personal family story and about the lives of his Jewish relatives before, during and after the Holocaust. The second story is about the beginnings of international law in context of the Holocaust and how it formed our modern understanding of human rights.
Here you can find a non-exhaustive reading list of books on genocide. We will continually add to the list, but if you have book tips please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What can the international community, governments, intergovernmental organisations and non-governmental organisations do to prevent genocide and to build resilience to genocide in at-risk states?
The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation published a Policy Brief by Dr. Deborah Mayersen with ten practical and evidence based measures towards genocide prevention: http://www.auschwitzinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/AIPR-Brief-Building-Resilience-to-Genocide.pdf
The Holocaust is viewed as the exemplary model of a genocide and is often used as a comparison for judging the different defining characteristics of a genocide. Even the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was passed on the 09th December 1948 under the motto “Never again” in response to the Nazis’ destruction of the Jews. Since the Holocaust plays a central role in genocide research, you can find various articles about this subject on our blog.
We will begin with the persecution and discrimination of the Jews between 1933 and 1941.
Despite homosexual activities being punishable acts in the Weimar Republic, the homosexual scene in Germany flourished. The social acceptance of gay men and lesbian women grew: associations were founded, bars and clubs were opened, and magazines were published. The Nazis viewed this as decadent and felt responsible for eradicating the vice of homosexuality. Beginning with the take-over of power in 1933, the Nazis started to persecute homosexual men. Hundreds were sent to concentration camps, associations and societies were disbanded, bars and clubs were closed, any gay publications were prohibited and homosexuals were forced into hiding.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered America – or rather the Caribbean islands; the American mainland was ‘discovered’ shortly after that. It was, however, by no means uninhabited. The American indigenous population, colloquially known as ‘Indians’, colonised the continent more than 12,000 years ago when northeast Asian inhabitants crossed the Bering Strait.
The Rohingya are a Muslim minority of Myanmar. They are mainly located in the northern state of Rakhine, near the border to Bangladesh. For decades, they have been systematically discriminated against by law and by the Buddhist population of the country. The 1982 nationality law does not recognise the Rohingya as citizens, even though they have been living in the Myanmar for generations. They are therefore considered stateless and are, consequently, often deprived of their fundamental human rights. They are denied an identity and a home; they are not allowed to study, work, travel, marry or to practice a religion. They are not given any identity documents and can therefore not apply for citizenship or refugee status. Because of their situation, they are often exploited or abused.
In terms of absolute taboos, torture comes a close second only to genocide. It is a crime against humanity with the sole purpose of deliberately and systematically putting another person through as much pain as possible. The consequences don’t only affect the victims and their families, but society as a whole. Torture is one of the most violent attacks on human dignity and human rights in general. It is therefore officially prohibited according to various national and international conventions and agreements and cannot be ignored, even in the extremest of situations.