Mukesh Kapila, Vanessa Pupavac and Rony Brauman introduced a discussion on countries seeming to get away with genocide, chaired by James Thompson
In January 2012, the French Senate voted for a bill with cross-party support to make it a criminal offence to deny the mass murder of Armenians in 1915 was genocide. Anyone who ‘outrageously’ questions the official version of events would face a one-year prison sentence. The French Constitutional Court quashed the bill, saying it represented an ‘unconstitutional attack on freedom of expression’. Nonetheless, the European Framework decision on Racism and Xenophobia says genocide denial or gross trivialisation should be a crime in all EU member states. As well as France, a number of member states have rejected this, including the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Spain. Their rejection reflects an ongoing dispute about whether historical truths should be treated as legal truths.
Concern over the problem of genocide denial can seem out of proportion to its reality. Some would describe the case of Rwanda as the last genocide of the 20th century, and the case of Darfur as the first genocide of the 21st century. The case of contemporary Nuba and relatively recent events in Srebrenica are also often analysed as related to genocides. The concept of impunity is disputed in many of these examples, and the legal aspects throw up the potential need for new laws, alongside newly evolving human rights norms, as well as the role of the great powers and other global institutions as supposedly standing by and doing nothing (the latter including the UK and the UN). The role of the International Criminal Court, is often contested politically and morally by those on trial there, reflecting a changing balance of power in the world system.
Some background readings
Misanthropy Without Borders: The International children's Rights Regime, by Vanessa Pupavac, Disasters 2001
Human Security and the Rise of Global Therapeutic Governance, by Vanessa Pupavac, 2005
Framing Post-Conflict Societies: An Analysis of the International Pathologisation of Cambodia and the Post-Yugoslav States, by Caroline Hughes and Vanessa Pupavac, 2005
In the waiting room of the Rwandan genocide tribunal, by Barrie Collins, spiked 26 May 2006
Rwanda journalists jailed for genocide denial launch supreme court appeal, by Owen Bowcott, Guardian 29 January 2012The End of the Development-Security Nexus? The Rise of Global Disaster Management, development dialogue No. 58, April 2012
See No Evil: How did genocide denial become a doctrine of the internationalist left? by George Monbiot, 21 May 2012
Watch video of discussion, thanks to Dan Clayton the documentary film maker from Leeds for producing this.
This discussion has been sponsored by the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) at the University of Manchester. The HCRI is inspired by the need to conduct rigorous research and to support postgraduate training on the impact and outcomes of contemporary and historical crises.