Stand against Genocide

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An independent tribunal in London will investigate the Chinese government’s alleged rights abuses against Uighur Muslims - and decide if they constitute genocide. China's treatment of the Muslim Uyghur minority today could constitute genocide.

China’s government is imposing measures intended to prevent births within the Muslim group. Uighur women are being forcibly sterilised and having forced abortions, which could constitute as a genocide of the Uighur people as set out in Article II in the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, (1948) which states acts, committed with “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, national, ethnical racial or religious groups”. This article will look at what makes genocide possible and to what extent is dehumanization a central feature of the state crime?

Firstly, for genocide to be possible there needs to be a majority and a minority. The minority must be considered ‘subhuman’ and when there are hardships and poverty the majority blame the minority who normally have less economic capital and with less economic capital the minority have fewer opportunities to resist. Dehumanisation is one of ten elements defined as a structural model towards identifying the Crime of Genocide. Dehumanization is the fourth out of ten stages for genocide to occur on Professor Gregory Stanton (2013) Ten Stages of Genocide. The ten stages are; classification, symbolization, discrimination, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, persecution, extermination and denial, each step also has a preventative measure to stop genocide. However, for a successful genocide all ten stages need to continue to operate throughout the process simultaneously. This article will briefly use The Holocausts as a case study to look at the ravages of dehumanization and the different forms of dehumanization as a feature of the State crime. The short case study will also show how the minority were considered ‘subhuman’ and with less economic capital were unable to resist their fate.

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For a historical context, Germany faced hyperinflation after the first world war, and their currency devalued to zero and the country descended into chaos, this was followed by a corresponding call for an order and that call was answered by The National Socialist Party and Hitler. Hitler then embarked on his tyranny of order. These spectacles of order then lead to what is now known as genocide. However, to begin his process to the final solution ‘genocide’ he first had to push the Jews out of the economy. To do this he encouraged the belief that Jews had grown wealthy through the theft from Aryans; therefore the Jews were called parasites and were considered ‘sub-human’. Embedded in this ideology appears to be that these people who attach themselves to the Germans are living by sucking their blood, and Hitler, therefore, stated he was entitled to punish them for theft and take it all back. Hitler issued the “Decree for the Reporting of Jewish-Owned Property”; this required all Jews in both Germany and Austria to register any property or assets valued at more than 5,000 Reichsmarks. The decree then made it easier to steal their wealth which in return made it hard for the Jewish people to resist the genocide because they had no economic capital.

Hitler's motivation was to ‘cleanse’ Germany and he did this through the guise of public health. He formulated several policies including formulating vans that went around screening people for tuberculosis (TB), and at the same time, he announced a policy to ‘beautify’ and ‘purify’ Germany. Hitler encouraged the factory owners to clean up the factories and add flowers to their decor to make the area appear clean and beautiful. The factory owners were told to use Zyklon B (a cyanide-based pesticide) as the agent for disinfecting the factories. Zyklon B was later to be used as the gas in the gas chambers, from this it can be assumed that the rats were the dominant pre-clinical model for the gas chambers and part of Hitler's dehumanization process because he started with getting rid of the rats, parasites and insects in Germany along with his public health policy. He then proceeded to move his extermination process into the insane asylums where he started with his euthanasia campaign, this was followed by Hitler moving further out into the broader political sphere where he started to target and dehumanize the people that he did not consider ‘pure’ as parasites.

Further dehumanizing tactics used by the Nazis was the forced wearing of badges. Jews were forced to wear identifying badges for their sub-human status, this was a psychological tactic aimed at isolating and dehumanizing the Jews of Europe. By isolating and categorizing into an “us and them”, to everyone else it enabled their separation from society and subsequent ghettoization, which ultimately led to the deportation and murder of 6 million Jews. Individuals who failed or refused to wear the badge risked death. However, Hitler never gave an order in his utterances or writings for the killing of Jews or others (final solution), Himmler, Bormann, Eichman just interpreted what they thought were his wishes. Although, it can be said that the Nazis stated very clearly the status of their victims. They were ‘Untermenschen’ subhumans, and were removed from the system of moral rights and obligations of the ties that bind humankind together. To the Nazis, it is unacceptable to kill a person, but acceptable to exterminate a rat.

Despite Stanton's preventative measures in his (2013) model, this article will show that Hitler’s genocide was preventable another way; although it would not be considered ethical, he could have enslaved the gipsies and the jews and had them work to the benefit of the victory of the war. However, instead, he devoted a substantial proportion of his war resources whilst losing the war to accelerate the rate of which the extermination of the gipsies and the Jews was taking place and that was financially counterproductive to his diminishing economy. Therefore, Hitler had an ‘ulterior intent’ to commit genocide and cause maximum mayhem in the shortest period possible. From this, it can be argued that The holocaust was a systematic, one-sided mass killing of Hitlers ‘undesirables’. What can be seen in this short case study is the different forms of dehumanization running through the genocide process rather than dehumanization being a single phenomenon that can be localised to one developing stage in the genocide

Raphael Lemkin

Sociologists Chalk and Jonassohn define genocide as ‘the systematic, one-sided mass killing of persons selected based on their perceived membership of an ethnic or communal group, with the aim either of eliminating the group in its entirety or of eliminating whatever threat it is perceived to pose’. However, the term genocide was first coined by Raphael Lemkin in his book Axis Rule In Occupied Europe: Laws Of Occupation, Analysis Of Government, Proposals For Redress (1944) after the Holocaust. He was a Polish-Jewish jurist who initiated the Genocide Convention. He says that genocide is "a coordinated strategy to destroy a group of people, a process that could be accomplished through total annihilation as well as strategies that eliminate key elements of the group's basic existence, including language, culture, and economic infrastructure". A year after defining genocide in his book The International Military Tribunal held at Nuremberg, Germany, charged top Nazis with ‘crimes against humanity’. The word ‘genocide’ was included in the indictment but as a descriptive and not a legal, term. Genocide was codified as an independent crime under international law in 1948, after The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948.

The definition of the crime of genocide, as set out in The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), has been widely adopted at both national and international levels, including in Article 6 of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1948 says ‘genocide in the current Convention means the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’ such as The killing members of the group, Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

However, the Crime of Genocide needs to be read in context with other laws that circumscribe the Crime of Genocide, which are found in The Rome Statute 1998, which is a Treaty which also established the ICC in The Hague to prosecute such cases. These definitions of the crimes also distinguish between the boundaries that each section or Treaty protects and it helps define the mischief that the statute was intended to prevent. They are Crimes against humanity (Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court ), War Crimes (Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court) and Crimes of aggression (Article 8 bis of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court).

Article 7 concerns Crimes against humanity (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 1998). which means acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 1998). Article 8 concerns War crimes (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 1998). This means there has been a violation of norms of the international humanitarian law applicable in armed conflict. For this statute ‘war crimes’ means grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, of what acts against persons or property protected under the provisions of the relevant Geneva Convention (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 1998).

Article 8 bis concern Crimes of aggression (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 1998). This is the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations. “Act of aggression” means the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 1998). Though there are similarities between these crimes to some extent, they have different specifications for the elements of the crime and many of the crimes listed overlap with each other. However, there are different levels of thresholds between the definitions of these crimes and what appears to be an interesting distinguishing fact between the different Articles is the criminal intent that is required for genocide.

Explanations and interpretations of these crimes appear close and similar to each other and can often cause serious academic discussions and criticism. Though there are similarities between these crimes to some extent, they have different specifications for the elements of the crime and many of the crimes listed overlap with each other. There are also different levels of thresholds between the conventions. Furthermore what appears to be an interesting distinguishing fact between the conventions of the Rome Statute is the criminal intent that is required for genocide.

A genocide offence has two separate mental elements; 'general intent' and ‘’intent to destroy’. ‘General intent’ relates to all objective elements of the offence definition (actus reus). 'Intent to Destroy' creates an additional subjective requirement that complements the general intent and goes beyond the objective elements of the offence definition, more specifically an ulterior intent. Genocide is, therefore, a crime of ulterior intent . However, there is not a required criminal intent for crimes against humanity and War Crimes there needs to be a war and evidence of armed conflict before the basic threshold is met. However, Before a human group is about to be decimated it is explicitly denied its humanity.

Psychologist Nick Haslam

Before identifying dehumanization this paper will clarify what humanness is. Psychologist Nick Haslam says that humanness has two distinct senses; one representing properties that are unique to our species, and the other—human nature—those properties that are essential or fundamental to the human category. Dehumanization is then defined by Haslam as the process of depriving a person or group of positive human qualities and the perception consists of a denial of victims' “identity” and “community''. However, if Haslam argues that there are two forms of humanness then there needs to also be two forms of dehumanization, they are; denying others human uniqueness implies likening them implicitly or explicitly to animals (animalistic dehumanization) whereas denying them human nature likens them to objects, automatons, or machines (mechanistic dehumanization). Haslams dual model shows the diverse forms that dehumanization may take.

The founding president of Genocide Watch Gregory Stanton says dehumanization is where ‘One group denies the humanity of the other group’. Members of it are equated with ‘animals’, ‘vermin’, ‘insects’ or ‘diseases'. During the Holocaust, Nazis referred to Jews as rats. Slave owners throughout history have used an ‘us and them’ mentality by considering slaves as subhuman animals and Hutus involved in the Rwanda genocide called Tutsis cockroaches. Stanton further states “dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder At this stage, hate propaganda in print and on hate radios is used to vilify the victim group. The majority group is taught to regard the other group as less than human, and even alien to their society. They are indoctrinated to believe that “We are better off without them. The powerless group can become so depersonalized that they are given numbers rather than names, as Jews were in the death camps. They are equated with filth, impurity, and immorality. Hate speech fills the propaganda of official radio, newspapers, and speeches”. From Stanton’s (2013) definition, it can be said dehumanization is a very negative phenomenon that also has functional elements.

The functional elements of dehumanization enable powerful individuals such as Hitler to make decisions in a detached, cold, and rational manner. Dehumanizing language is still used by powerful individuals around the globe today. In America, President Trump has stated conflated undocumented migrants and asylum seekers to members of transnational gangs like MS-13 and stated, “these aren’t people. These are animals”. He has also often referred to immigrants as ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals’. Trump's use of language follows a history of genocidal governments using similar terms to describe unwanted populations. It can be argued that these dehumanizing metaphors have also historically enabled violence when drawing on the Holocaust, Rwanda and the history of slavery.

Psychologist Jordan Peterson says there is a link between dehumanizing metaphors and violence. Hitler's disgust towards the Jewish community can be seen in extracts from his dehumanizing writings and speeches in Koenigsberg (2007) book, Hitler's Ideology: Embodied Metaphor, Fantasy and History, his Ideologies were also all diseased metaphors, for example ‘the jew must take care that the plague does not die’. Peterson says the link between the dehumanizing metaphors which enables violence is caused because ‘considering human beings as parasites and rodents capitalise on people's behavioural immune system and peoples intrinsic sense of disgust” . Although several academics have debated whether dehumanization is a psychological prerequisite of mass violence. Johannes Lang has stated that the emphasis on dehumanization obscures the true horror of such atrocities. Lang argues that the role of dehumanization in genocide is exaggerated. Lang believes the psychology of human destructiveness has become distorted by assigning more than what is necessary of genocidal violence to dehumanization. Lang views genocide violence as a way for some humans to exert power over others rather than as behaviour that requires strong inhibitions against harming others to be overridden by dehumanizing ideologies. Lang's ideas raise the question, What makes good people commit evil acts?

Psychologist Jordan Peterson

Philosophers, dramatics and theologians have engaged in a complex debate with the question; What makes good people turn bad? Leading Psychologist Philip Zimbardo says good and evil is the ‘yin and yang’ of the human condition. He argues that humans are complex beings with positive and negative personality traits that emerge or not, depending on the circumstances and that the line between good and evil is movable and permeable and good people could be seduced across the line under the ‘right’ circumstances’. Zimbardo called this The Lucifer effect.

Zimbardo defines Evil as the exercise of power and further states that power enables others to intentionally harm other people psychologically, physically, to dehumanize and to commit crimes against humanity. Zimbardo's psychological concept is supported in Fredrich Nietzsche’s philosophical writings ‘the will to power’. Nietzsche says the desire for power is found within every living organism, and every organism’s pursuit is instinctively a desire for more power. This endeavour includes growing in scope, influencing one’s surroundings and oneself. When looking at genocide Zimbado says the question needs to be; ‘What is responsible?’ Not ‘Who is responsible?’ Social psychologists Zimbardo says, "people are the actors on the stage, but you'll have to be aware of the situation. Who are the cast of characters? What's the costume? Is there a stage director?". What Zimbardo is asking is; what is forming the structural contributing factors? He goes on to argue that power is found embedded in the system and it is the system that generates the situation that corrupts the individuals, and the system is the legal, political, economic, cultural background. Stanley Milgram defines evil as the willingness of people to blindly obey authority.

Stanley Milgrim carried out a social-psychological processes study in 1963, known as The Stanford Prison Study. The study is about an individual's authority to control other people and it is also a study of the power institutions have to influence an individual's behavior. A research group was randomly taken from ‘normal, fit and healthy’ students who were described as ‘good people’. Half of the research group were told to play the role of prison guards and the other half were told to play the prisoners. It is at this juncture that it can be said that Milgram's study placed ‘good people’ into a bad situation where they were given too much power and that the ‘guards’ did not know how to psychologically deal with that power and that was the catalyst for the abuse in the mock prison where prisoners were dehumanized by the guards and were made to carry out dehumanizing tasks. However those playing the role of prison guards were not motivated by racism or other biases. Nevertheless in the study prisoners were dehumanized and made to carry out dehumanizing tasks, and the prisoners also became numbers.

Perhaps it can be said that it would take one act of ‘heroism’ in one of Stantons (2013) ten preventative measures that could prevent genocide, a ‘good person’ waiting for the ‘right’ situation to come along to act heroically in. The Uighur Muslims await their hero. Where are the black lives matters protesters and human rights props for the silenced Uighur Muslims?


Read 912 times Last modified on Thursday, 01 October 2020 10:21
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