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Turkey’s Ethnic Armenians Wary About Future

Armenian flags in front of a mosque in Lebanon during an anti-Turkish protest. Image: Harout Arabian/Flickr

This article was originally published by EurasiaNet on 14 April 2015.

The 100th anniversary [on April 24th] of the Medz Yeghern, or the “Great Catastrophe,” [has] highlight[ed] the mixed feelings that Turkey’s tiny ethnic Armenian minority has for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration.

On April 24, Armenians around the world [marked] the World-War-I-era deaths of hundreds of thousands ethnic Armenians in Ottoman-era Turkey. It is a tragedy that for many historians and analysts constitutes an act of genocide.

Turkey denies the claim of genocide. On April 12, Ankara withdrew its ambassador from the Vatican after Pope Francis termed the massacre “the first genocide of the 20th century.” » More

Rwanda: How to Deal with a Million Genocide Suspects

Skulls of victims of the 1994 genocide. Image: Steve Evans/Flickr

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 7 April, 2015.

Twenty-one years ago – on April 7, 1994 – the genocide that would kill up to one million people in Rwanda began. Another million individuals would be implicated as perpetrators, leaving Rwandans and many others to ask: how does a country begin to bring so many suspects to justice?

In 2002, the Rwandan government created the gacaca – or “grass” in the country’s official language of Kinyarwanda – court system to tackle this enormous problem. Based on a traditional form of community dispute resolution, the gacaca courts functioned for ten years – until 2012.

Despite receiving much international attention at their outset, little is known about what the courts actually accomplished. This is surprising. For the past three years, I have been analyzing court data and conducting research in Rwanda to better understand this unique legal system whose punishments for the “genocidaires” (or those involved in the genocide) would likely be seen as light in many other countries. » More

Time to Abandon the Greed-Grievance Debate

Police confront rioters during 2012 Rohingya riots in Burma. Image: Hmuu Zaw/Wikimedia

Over the past ten years, the question of whether violent conflicts are the result of genuine grievances or the product of an environment in which rebellion is an attractive and/or viable option has been  at the heart of a fierce theoretical controversy known as the greed versus grievance debate. The debate was sparked when Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler claimed that rebellion cannot be explained by grievances resulting from ethnic animosities or economic and political inequalities, because situations in which people want to rebel are ubiquitous, whereas the circumstances in which people are able to rebel (weak states, rough terrain, the presence of lootable resources etc.) are sufficiently rare to constitute the explanation.

This claim and its morally charged phrasing in terms of “greed” and “grievance” posed a tough challenge to the dominant view of many political scientists and to conventional wisdom more generally. While many scholars subsequently shifted their attention to studying the opportunities for conflict, others put their efforts into finding better ways to measure people’s grievances. An award-winning book on Inequality, Grievances, and Civil War, published in 2013, testifies to the fact that the jury in this debate is still out. » More

Dancing with the Word “Genocide”

Photo: flickr/Trocaire

Twenty years after the Rwandan genocide, and despite so many pledges from states, multilateral institutions, and nongovernmental organizations, there is no real sign the world would step in quicker and more determined if genocide were to happen today. To be clear on this, there has not—fortunately—been another genocide since Rwanda, if genocide is understood as targeting an identifiable group with the aim of destroying it, as defined by the international convention. There have been numerous conflicts, wars, and other instances of organized and/or political violence, and many of them have certainly been comparatively cruel, devastating, and deadly for victims, survivors, refugees, and even bystanders to some extent. But the Darfurs, Colombias, Congos, Sri Lankas, Yugoslavias, Afghanistans, and others have not had the very same surgical precision that genocide had in Rwanda. The last time genocide, as so defined, happened before that was most certainly the Holocaust. So, what are the implications? » More

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Never Again to Genocide Trials

Srebrenica massacre memorial gravestones 2009

Srebrenica massacre memorial gravestones 2009. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

HEIDELBERG – Rarely does one read such hopeful news: in late June, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) acquitted former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić of genocide. That might sound like a bad thing: Karadžić, who once warned Bosnia’s Muslims that war would lead them down the road to hell, surely deserves to be sentenced for the acts of which he was just acquitted – murder, siege, and slaughter almost beyond naming. But for genocide? Better not.

In fact, we would be better off getting rid of genocide as a crime altogether. The legal concept of genocide is so incoherent, so harmful to the purposes that international law serves, that it would be better if we had never invented it. Karadžić’s acquittal – precisely because he is still on trial on other counts related to the same atrocities – is an opportunity to move toward the sensible goal of retiring it. » More

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