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Past Genocides

The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was signed
in December 1948, and has been in force since January 1951. Article II of the convention
defines genocide as ANY of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or
in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group.

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical
destruction in whole or in part.

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

(e) Forcibly transferring children of one group to another group.

The United States ratified the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the
Crime of Genocide in 1987.

For information on the conflicts that have been identified as genocide, please see the links to
the right.

Genocides 1901-1951

German Southwest Africa 1904-1908: Genocide of Hereros

Ottoman Turkey 1915-1923: Ittihad Genocide of Armenians and Assyrians

USSR 1932-1934: Soviet Genocide/Famine in Ukraine (Holodomor)

Nazi Occupied Europe 1941-1945: Genocide of Jews (Shoah/Holocaust)

Nazi Occupied Europe 1941-1945: Genocide of Roma-Sinti (Parajmos)

Genocides Since 1951

East Pakistan 1971: Genocide in East Bengal

Burundi 1972: Selective Genocide of Hutus.

Cambodia 1975-1979: Khmer Rouge "Killing Fields"and Genocide

Guatemala 1981-83: Genocide in the Maya Highlands

Iraq 1987-88: Anfal Campaign in Kurdistan

Bosnia-Herzegovia 1992-1995: Serb "Etnicko Ciscenje" of Bosnian Muslims.

Rwanda 1994: Akazu "Hutu Power" Genocide of Tutsis

Bosnian Genocide
In the late-1980’s, the heterogeneous Yugoslav federation began to cleave along ethnic lines. Civil war
erupted in 1992 against a backdrop of increasingly nationalist politics, including the idea of “Greater
Serbia”. Between 1992 and 1995, Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks soldiers and paramilitaries used
widespread use of rape, torture and forcible displacement against civilians. The actions of some Serb
units were particularly heinous, featuring attempts to eliminate non-Serb culture, a tactic soon to be
known as “ethnic cleansing”. Across Bosnia and Herzegovina civilians were herded into camps as
small scale massacres were committed. The most notorious of these was the Srebrenica massacre of
July 1995, when more than 7,500 Bosniak men and boys in the U.N.-safe area, were executed by
forces under General Radko Mladic. The estimates for the human cost of the Bosnian civil wars range
from 96,000 to 200,000, with a recent University of Washington-Harvard University study placing the
fatalities near 167,000. Violence against civilians in Yugoslavia led to the creation of the International
Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia in 1993.


The Bosnian referendum for independence took place on April 6, 1992. That day, Serb militants
opened fire on thousands of peaceful demonstrators in Sarajevo, killing at least five and wounding 30.
One day later, Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic responded by blocking all roads leading to Sarajevo
and shutting down the airport. About 400,000 Bosnian residents were trapped in the siege while being
cut off from basic life necessities such as food, medicine, water, and electricity. Food shortage was a
huge issue for those who managed to survive death by ammunition. An average Sarajevan lost 30 lbs
during the siege (Donia 2006). In 1994, UN officials reported that 7,272 flights had brought in 81,948
tons of aid into Sarajevo via the humanitarian airlift. However, due to airport closings and airlift
suspensions caused by shelling and sniping attacks in the area, this effort is often suspended (UN

A number of tragic events took place during the siege. On June 1, 1993 at a soccer game, at least
fifteen people were killed and 80 more were wounded as a result of a mortar attack. Red Cross trucks
were raided and destroyed and maternity wards were hit, killing mothers and newborns alike. Many
more were killed while in line for water. On February 29, 1996, the Bosnian government declared that
the siege of Sarajevo was over but the scars still remain. By the end, its population had decreased by
over 430,000. Not all of those people died though, many were able to escape via an 800-meter wood
and iron tunnel. After opening in the summer of 1993, it was the only direct link Sarajevo had with the
outside world. It was used to transport everything from weapons to wounded people.

Other massacres included the Lasva Valley case (1991) where the first destruction of mosques and
Bosnian homes, the first murders of civilians, and the first acts of pillage occurred. Around 2,000
community members disappeared or were killed at this time.

The Ahatovici massacre of 1992 saw heavy shelling by the Bosnian Serb Army. Sixty-four males
between 15 and 75 years of age were taken away and tortured. They were put on a bus after being told
that they would be part of a prisoner exchange. The Serbs then fired on the bus with automatic
weapons and threw grenades in. Eight of them survived by hiding under the dead bodies of the other
fifty-six men.

Another atrocity, where Bosnian men were told they were part of prisoner exchange, happened on
Mount Vlasic in August 1992. 200 men were brought to the edge of a ravine at Koricani, shot and
pushed over the 100-meter high cliff. Twelve victims survived by hanging on to the bushes and hiding
in them but suffered further abuse while being treated for their wounds at the hospital.
The biggest conflict between Croats and the Bosnian government was the Ahmici massacre of Apri,
1993. No one was spared when the Croat forces shelled the Bosnian part of the village and destroyed
two mosques as the youngest victim was a three-month-old baby boy who was machine-gunned to
death in his crib. The oldest victim was a 96-year-old woman. They were two of the 120 estimated
deaths that day.

Between 1992 and 1994 in Foca, all Bosnians were expelled from the area. Some 2,704 people are
missing or were killed during the massacres period. Additionally, Serb authorities set up locations –
commonly described as rape camps – in which hundreds of women were raped. Aside from rape, the
campaign against non-Serb civilians in the region also included ethnic cleansing, mass murder, and
the deliberate destruction of Bosnian property and cultural sites.

In the early evening hours of May 25, 1995, the Army of Republika Srpska shelled a gathering of
young people in the city of Tuzla. 71 people were killed and more than 200 wounded. All of the
victims were civilians and the majority was between the ages of 18-25. Three days later they were
shelled from the same position.

With many more massacres to name, the genocide lasted from Bosnia’s secession from Yugoslavia in
1990 to the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement. In October, 1992, EU’s Lord David Owen and former I.S.
Secretary of State Cyrus Vance proposed a draft constitution organizing Bosnia into a decentralized
federation according to the “Vance-Owen” plan. Bosnian Serbs rejected this plan. Then in 1994, the
United States decided to take on a more active role, seeking to back diplomacy with the threat of
NATO air power in protecting safe areas and UN peacekeepers. That same year the US special envoy
helped to reach a cease-fire between Bosnian Croats and Muslims. Shortly after, a five nation Contact
Group (United States, Russia, Britain, France,a nd Germany) drafted the 51/49 territorial compromise
that all sides eventually accepted. The Dayton Peace Agreement allotted 51% of the country to the
Croat-Muslim Federation and 49% to Republika Srpska, or the Serb Republic. This took place from
November 1 to November 21, 1995. The main participants from the region were Serbian President
Slobodan Milosavic, Croatian President Franjo Tudman, and Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic,
with Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed “Mo” Sacirbey. After its initiation in Dayton, Ohio, the full
agreement was signed in Paris, France on December 14, 1995. Other politicians of importance that
signed the document were French President Jacques Chirac, U.S. President Bill Clinton, UK Prime
Minister John Major, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and Russian Prime Minister Vikto
Chernonmyrdin. Part of the agreement mandated international organizations to monitor, oversee, and
implement crucial parts of the agreement. One of the major criticisms of this agreement, though, is
that the current legal structure of the peace agreement does not follow some of the basic principles of
international law, thus leaving the Bosnian territorial and political situation highly unstable and
sensitive since 1995 when it was implemented.

In 1996, SFOR (stabilization force) sent 20,000 American troops to prevent new hostilities. According
to Richard Holbrooke, the chief architect of the Dayton Peace Agreement, the country would not have
survived without the presence of the troops. Also, contrary to popular belief before their deployment,
no lives have been lost among those peacekeepers.



Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and Franjo Tudjman of Croatia used public media in their respective
domains and turned television and radio into effective propaganda tools that intensified tensions
between Serbs and Croats while demonizing the Muslims. At the same time, they were suppressing
independent media advocating for multi-ethnic coexistence. Milosevic, who is a declared war
criminal, aimed at reviving dark memories of World War II, Ustasa’s (Croatian Nazi-like movement)
killing of Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies. He did so by exhuming mass graves of Serbs and using those as
proof that the Croats are enemies thus legitimizing his attacks on their lands.
Tudjman, who also carries the title of a declared war criminal, “rehabilitated” the genocidal Ustasha
regime. He proposed that the new Croatian coat of arms look similar to the one used by Ustasha’s in
WWII. He was even a proponent of renaming streets in Croatia after Ustasha leaders.

Radovan Karadzic, president of the illegitimate Bosnian Serb Republic, joins the other two as a
declared war criminal. Bosnian Serbs operated under his leadership but he denied their involvement in
the genocide.

The Serbian perpetrators came in primarily through Eastern and Northern Bosnia. The Serb
paramilitary units crossed the rivers into Bijeljina and began a campaign of terror. Their use of force,
intimidation, and provocation was aimed at partitioning Bosnia and displacing non-Serbs from mixed
areas even if Serbs were a minority there. They murdered defenseless civilians and drove the rest from
their homes and businesses, which were then looted and destroyed. All sides of the conflict committed
the so-called “ethnic cleansing” but the scale and intensity at which the Serbs did it made it a clear
genocide against Musims. Serbs were specifically targeting intellectuals, professionals, and political
leaders in an attempt to eradicate the Bosnian Muslim culture. The UN Genocide Convention, in its
definition of genocide, considers this an integral part of a crime on a specific ethnic group.


The massacre, which occurred in Srebrenica in July of 1995, was the largest massacre in Europe since
World War II. The town was surrounded by Serb-controlled territory but was declared a UN “safe
area” thus promising the residents protection from Serb terror. Serb authorities refused the UN
permission to deliver food, medical supplies, and other humanitarian necessities to those in
Srebrenica. Not only were the residents lacking supplies, but the town was also swollen with
“cleansed” refugees from the surrounding area. Beginning on July 12, 1995, over 20,000 Bosnian
women, children, and elderly were bussed out ot the front line to Muslim-controlled territory. They
were separated from their men and boys who were taken by buses to execution sites where they were
mowed down by automatic weapons and machine guns. All in all, 8,000 Bosnian males from
Srebrenica were systematically slaughtered in this carefully planned operation. They were then hauled
to mass graves.

Of the female victims of genocide, the vast majority were Muslim men who took orders from Serb
authorities were sometimes told to impregnate the women as a means of destroying the Bosnian
Muslim people. Women and young girls were subject to rape in front of their own parents and family
members. These atrocities happened in their homes when the paramilitary units attacked their towns.
Gang rape was also common and in some camps, women were held captive for use as sex slaves.


The Yugoslav leader, Josip Broz Tito, died in 1980. This allowed Slobodan Milosevic, who became
Serbia’s leader in 1987, to also become the leader of Yugoslavia. With the power that he had,
Milosevic encouraged Serb nationalism in other Yugoslav states such as Bosnia. This resulted in
secret concentration, mass killings, as well as destruction of Muslim mosques and historic
architechture. Despite media reports of this, the world community remained mostly indifferent.

Serb-run camps in Northern Bosnia were symbolic of all that is inhumane. People were pressed
tightly into barracks and deprived of basic life necessities. Sadly, most resorted to quenching their
thirst with excretion. Not every one of the 14,000 Muslim men in the camps of Northern Bosnia was
marked for death (as was seen in the Holocaust) but due to the poor living conditions in those camps,
over 10,000 died anyways. U.S. officials became aware of these concentration camps as early as May
of 1992, but this did not prevent any of the 677 detention centers or camps to stop incarcerating
people. The worst of the camps was Omarska. Here, thousands of civilian men, both Muslim and
Croat, were held in metal cages and killed in group of ten to fifteen every few days. Serbs denied
access to all those who wanted to investigate their camps, including relief officials and journalists. As
in the Holocaust, the Serbs wanted to hide what was happening. Brutality included grinding Muslim
bodies into animal, among other atrocities.

Bosnians and Croats held Serbs in similar camps, but similar violence was not committed. In a 1993
UN document, it is reported that by late summer of 1993, 62 Serbs had died in Croat concentration
camps. This number is significantly lower than the number of deaths on the other two sides, but it is
still important to note that Serbs experience violence and death as well.

Eventually, the United Nations deployed troops to protect the distribution of food and medicine to
dispossessed Muslims. However, the troops were not allowed to interfere militarily against the Serbs,
even though the U.N. could eerily predict when each town or village was going to fall. Throughout
1993, confident that the U.N., United States, and the European Community would not take any
military action, Serbs in Bosnia freely committed genocide against Muslims. On February 6, 1994, a
plea was finally made to then-president Bill Clinton for military intervention against the Serbs after a
mortar shell struck a marketplace in Sarjevo, killing 68 and wounding over 200 people. Clinton
reacted by issuing an ultimatum through NATO, demanding that Serbs withdraw their artillery from
Sarajevo. The Serbs compiled and a cease-fire was declared.

That did not stop the Serbs from continuing the genocide. They attacked safe havens as well as the
U.N. peacekeepers. NATO’s response was to launch limited air strikes against Serbs’ ground
positions, but that did not prevent the massacre in Srebrenica from happening.

The Aftermath
Following the genocide, Srebrenica was re-inhabited by Serbs who moved in to occupy the Muslims’
homes. These Serbs were refugees themselves and were forced out of their homes by the Muslim and
the Croat units. There is not much appeal left for those who were even considering going back to
Srebrenica because their homes have been destroyed, there are no jobs, little water, and few supplies
to go around. Clearly, people have not yet recovered from internal displacement, let alone
international re-settlement.

Most places in the countryside are littered and in ruins, much like Srebrenica. Hundreds of thousands
of those Bosnians who fled violence have not yet returned and one of the reasons for that is the high
rate of unemployment that awaits them. Because most of the educated people are leaving for better
opportunities and more promising futures abroad, this is causing a “brain drain” in Bosnia that further
weakens any prospects for economic and socail recovery in the region.

While most criminals remain at large, trials were prepared for the following war criminals: Radocan
Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic, and Ratko Mladic.

Radovan Karadzic is charged with a wide range of crimes, from genocide to crimes against humanity
to grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The formal ccharge of 1995 was for administering the
killing of thousands of people by sniping and shelling in the siege of Sarajevo, and later for the
Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 men and boys. He was arrested in Belgrade after being on the run for 13

Slobodan Milosevic was indicted in May, 1999, but was found dead in his cell at The Hague on March
11, 2006. Therefore, his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity has ended without a verdict.
Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladic has been indicted with genocide, extermination, murder,
deportation, inhumane acts, and other crimes against Bosnian civilians, committed during the 1992-
1995 Serbian aggression against Bosnia. A fugitive from the ICTY, he is suspected to be hidning
either in Serbia or in Bosnia’s Republika Srpska. Pressure has been put on Serbia to hand him over to
the court by halting negotiations with the EU regarding membership.
Currently, Bosnia is largely peaceful and troops are finally pulling out. Regardless, relations between
the two newly created entities of Bosnia and Republika Srpska (Serb Republic) are still strained and
cooperation is minimal at best.

*Majra Mucic of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies researched and wrote this
description. CHGS is a partner of World Without Genocide.

1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the
Crime of Genocide, signed the current accepted definition of
1951 Definition of genocide is in force
1980s Milosevic expanded his power base and promoted Serbian
1991 Breakup of Yugoslavia into Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and two
autonomous provinces within Serbia: Kosovo and Vojvodina
1991 Lasva Valley case
1/1992 Serbs retaliate against Bosnia: declare Serbian Republic of
4/1992 Bosnia’s independence recognized by EC and United States
and war broke out two days later on April 8, 1992
1992 Reports of “ethnic cleansing,” concentration camps, mass
1992 Ahatovici massacre (56 dead)
4/1992 Siege of Sarajevo begins
8/1992 Shocking pictures of emaciated Muslims being held in
Omarska camp
8/1992 Mount Vlacis massacre – “prisoner exchange” (200 dead)
92-93 Gas, water and electricity service are at best sporadic in
4/1993 The U.N. Security Council declares six “safe areas” for
Bosnian Muslims: Sarajevo, Tuzla, Bihac, Srebrenica, Zepa
and Gorazde
1993 Sarajevo tunnel opens
4/1993 Ahmici massacre – two mosques destroyed (120 dead)
6/1993 Mortar attack at a soccer game in Sarajevo (15 killed, 80
2/1994 NATO jets shoot down four Serb aircraft over central
Bosnia; marks alliance’s first use of force since it was
founded in 1949.
2/1994 Mortar attack at a marketplace in Sarajevo (68 dead, 200
3/1994 US-arranged peace accord is signed by Bosnian Muslims and
1992-1994 Foca massacres– rape camps, destruction of cultural sites
and Bosnian property (2,704 missing or killed)
1994 Bihac is shelled and bombed relentlessly. NATO “strikes
back” and bombs the runways in the Serb held airport in
Krajina from which bombing raids are flown. Serbs hold
over 300 UN troops hostage against further air raids.
1/1995 1000th day of the siege of Sarajevo
2/1995 United Nations tribunal on human rights violation in the
Balkans charges 21 Bosnian Serb commanders with
genocide and crimes against humanity. This action marks the
first time that a Western political body openly charged Serbs
with genocide.
3/1995 CIA report completed earlier in the year has concluded that
90% of the acts of “ethnic cleansing” were carried out by
5/1995 Serbs ignore a U.N. order to remove heavy weapons from
Sarajevo; NATO aircraft attack a Serb ammunition depot. In
retaliation, Serbs begin shelling Muslim safe areas.
5/1995 Tuzla shelling (71 killed, 200 wounded). Happened again
three days later.
6/1995 Serbs seize Srebrenica and Zepa
7/1995 Srebrenica massacre – largest massacre in Europe since
World War II (20,000 Bosnian women, children and elderly
bussed out; 8,000 boys and men systematically slaughtered
and placed in mass graves)
9/1995 Foreign ministers of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia agree to
divide Bosnia into Serb and Muslim-Croat entities.
12/1995 First official NATO peacekeeping troops arrive in Sarajevo
along with some other 13,000 American soldiers
12/1995 Peace agreement signed in Paris
2/1996 Siege of Sarajevo ends
1996 The International Criminal Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia begins work in the Hague
1996 SFOR sent 20,000 American peacekeeping troops to Bosnia
1998 The first Bosnian Muslims and Croats are convicted of war
crimes in the Hague.
1999 Slobodan Milosevic indicted
8/2001 Hague war crimes tribunal finds Bosnian Serb Gen. Radislav
Krstic guilty of genocide for his role in the massacre of
thousands of men and boys in Srebrenica. Krstic sentenced
to 46 years.
6/2006 Largest war crimes trial to date over the 1995 Srebrenica
massacre opens at the UN tribunal in the Hague
2006 Slobodan Milosevic found dead in his cell at The Hague –
trial ended without a verdict
2/2007 The International Court of Justice rules that the 1995
Srebrenica massacre constituted genocide, but clears Serbia
of direct responsibility.
7/2008 Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, wanted on
war crimes charges, has been arrested in Belgrade after
nearly 13 years on the run
Genocide in Bosnia
The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, signed in
December 1948, and in force from January 1951, provides the current accepted definition:

Article II

In the present Convention, genocide means ANY of the following acts committed with intent to
destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

Genocide Definition What happened in Bosnia

(a) Killing members of the group 200,000 lives were lost in the time
period between 1992 and 1995
(b) Causing serious bodily or Concentration camps, mass
mental harm to members of the executions, and rape were widely
group used
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the Serbs prevented entry of aid to
group conditions of life calculated cities like Srebrenica where
to bring about its physical residents needed food and
destruction in whole or in part medical services
(d) Imposing measures intended Men and women were separated
to prevent births within the group to be killed and raped
respectively; Serb forces
impregnated Muslim women to
make them have Serb children
(e) Forcibly transferring children The forgotten “rape babies” do
of the group to another group not exist in the eyes of the law
and are unacknowledged by their
families. Most grow-up in a state-
run orphanage in Zenica, a run-
down building with broken
According to Gregory H. Stanton, the President of Genocide Watch, “Genocide is a process
that develops in eight stages that are predictable but not inexorable. At each stage, preventive
measures can stop it. The later stages must be preceded by the earlier stages, though earlier
stages continue to operate throughout the process” (1998). While the first stages precede the
later stages, they stay in effect throughout the genocidal operation. They are all reinforced by
each other and a strategy aimed at prevention should target each stage. The eight stages are
classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation,
extermination, and denial.In the following table we see the 8 stages of the BOSNIAN
GENOCIDE and the fact that no preventative or reactionary steps were taken by anyone.
1. Classification:Us versus them Prevention:Develop Institutions for unification
based on ethnicity, race, religion, universalistic institutions that were unsuccessful because
or nationality transcend ethnic or racial people joined nationalistic
divisions, unify, and promote political parties out of fear
tolerance and understanding and memory of the 1945
2. Symbolization:Does not result Prevention:Legally outlaw Bosnia had a law banning
in genocide unless it leads to symbols and provide support nationalistic symbols, but
dehumanization through pop-culture after Yugoslavia fell apart,
there was no way of
controlling that. The main
symbols that were used
were religiously affiliated –
cross or the crescent moon
and star.
3. Dehumanization:Equating “the Prevention:Make hate speech Hate speech was seen as a
others” with animals, insects, or unacceptable, ban hate natural reaction. It
diseases until it overcomes propaganda, shut down hate reaffirmed the opposition
normal human revulsion against radio stations, and punish of the ethnic groups. The
murder politically controlled media
produced not only hate
speech but also lied about
what was going on at the
time. The news networks
remain nationalistic to this
4. Organization:Trained and Prevention:Outlaw membership Serb tactics in different
armed army unites and militias in these militias, impose arms cities were all the same,
make plans of genocide embargos and investigate suggesting that the ethnic
violations cleansing and military
attacks were pre-planned
and highly organized.
5. Polarization:Laws may forbid Prevention:Security protection There were no other strong
intermarriage or social for moderate leaders because thepolitical figures at that time
interaction moderates in perpetrators’ group who could organize people
are the ones who are most able behind them in a unifying
to stop genocide and moderate way. The
factions were too polarized
as a result of the
charismatic leaders.
6. Preparation:Victims are Reaction:Declare Genocide Early on, international
segregated and deported into Emergency and prepare humanitarians did not try
concentration camps; starved international intervention; to organize refugee camps.
organize humanitarian Bosnians were forcibly
assistance for the tide of displaced in large numbers
refugees to come with no safe places to go.
Concentration camps were
prepared and more than
19,000 non-Serbs (mostly
Bosnians) were interned in
these Omarska, Keraterm,
Manjaca, and Trnopolje
7. Extermination:Mass killings of Reaction:Rapid armed The largest mass killing
dehumanized victims intervention; establishment of occurred in Srebrenica,
safe areas and escape corridors which was declared a safe
for refugees with heavily armed area by the UN and
international protection experienced a mass killing
of 8,000 men and boys.
The aggressors had no
troubles attacking even
with UN troops there.
8. Denial (follows):Dig up Reaction:Punishment by the Mass graves were moved,
graves, burn bodies, cover up international tribunal or national making it very difficult to
evidence; sure indicator of courts prove what happened and
further genocidal massacre to identify the bodies.
Some war criminals were
prosecuted in The Hague
but others are still at large.

Armenian Genocide

Beginning in 1915, ethnic Armenians living in the Ottoman empire were rounded up,
deported and executed on orders of the government. The combination of massacres,
forced deportation marches and concentration camp deaths due to disease is estimated
to have resulted in the deaths of more than 1 million ethnic Armenians and Assyrians
between 1915 and 1923.


Known also as the “Armenian Holocaust,” the “Great Calamity,” and the “Armenian
Massacres,” the Armenian Genocide refers to the forced deportation and massacre of between
500,000, to 1.5 million Armenians during the First World War, in the Anatolian region of the
Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey).

The Ottoman Empire had existed in the Balkan region of the Middle East from 1300-1923. In
the sixteenth century, the Ottoman conquest of Armenia and Cilicia brought the vast majority
of the Armenian population under Ottoman rule. During the time of the genocide, the
Ottoman Empire bordered Bulgaria and Greece in the west, the Mediterranean Sea in the
south and southwest, the Black Sea in the North, Iraq and Syria in the Southwest, and the
Russian empire in the East and Northeast. The topography of the region features a high
central plateau (Anatolia), a narrow coastal plain, and several mountain ranges. The climate is
hot and dry, with mild, wet winters.


Concurrent with the Muslim dhimmi system, Armenians, as Christians, had always been
treated as second-class citizens in the Ottoman Empire. Armenians were allowed the freedom
to practice their faith; however, mass persecution of Armenian citizens was a regular
occurrence. Moreover, the Armenians were often blamed for misfortunes which befell the
Ottoman Empire. Many times, this resulted in rioting, burning of Armenian property, rape,
and mass killing. Despite the history of Armenian demise in Anatolia, April 24, 1915, is
commemorated as the official date for the unfolding of the “Armenian Genocide.” The bulk
of the killing was carried during World War I, between the years of 1915 and 1918. The end
of World War I in 1918 brought about a brief lull in the massacres- they could no longer be
carried out under war-time concealment, and the world had been made aware to the Ottoman
atrocities. However, after little more than a year of calm, the killings were renewed between
1920 and 1923 when the fledgling Armenian Republic was destroyed by a reinvigorated
Turkish nationalist movement. The killings ended in 1923 when the newly founded Republic
of Turkey was virtually free of all Armenians, and laws were enacted to prevent displaced
Armenians from returning to their former homes.



The “Young Turks” were a reformist and nationalist party, founded in the latter part of the
19th century, which became the dominant political party in Turkey during the period from
1908 to 1918. In 1908, the Young Turk Revolution deposed the previously ruling Ottoman
monarchy of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, and as a result, brought about the gradual creation of a
new governing elite, which had established its control over the Ottoman civil and military
administration by 1913. It was also during this time that the Young Turks began to base their
nationalist ideology on the new, pseudo-scientific race theories of Europe; the term
“Ottoman” was to be replaced with “Turk.” What this meant for the Armenians, among other
ethnic minorities in the Anatolian region, was that they were ethnically inferior to the
superior Turkish race – much like the “inferior” Jews and gypsies in Nazi Germany. “The
Three Pashas”, also known as the “dictatorial triumvirate,” were the dominant political
figures of Ottoman Turkey during World War I. Following the war, the Pashas were held
responsible for involving Turkey in the War, and the Armenian massacres were rendered as a
consequence of their corruption. All three were tried in the Turkish Courts-Martial of 1919-20
and sentenced to death. However, the revival of Armenian killing in 1920 due to Greek
insurgencies, suggests that the Armenian genocide was more reliant on widespread pan-
Turkic ethnic and religious nationalism, rather than the responsibility of just a few


The Armenians are an ancient people that have lived on the Armenian Plateau for more than
4,000 years. The Armenian homeland is located on the Armenian plateau, central and eastern
Anatolia and southwestern Caucasia-in the highlands above Greater Syria and Mesopotamia
to the south. Their continual presence in the Ottoman Empire came to an abrupt end when the
Young Turk regime targeted the Armenians for their non-Turkic ethnicity, their Christian
faith, and their alleged affiliation with Russia, the sworn enemy of the Ottoman Empire. As a
result, the majority of the Armenian people were either killed outright or “ethnically
cleansed” (removed by force) from their ancestral homeland; others escaped to neighboring
countries, or remained in the newly established Soviet Republic of Armenia. According to the
same pan-Turkic, nationalist ideology, ethnic Greeks and Assyrians were also targeted and
massacred in the genocide.

By 1914, Ottoman authorities had created an empire-wide propaganda piece in which
Armenians were presented as backstabbers of Ottoman Nationalism, in league with the
Russians, and a threat to state security. On the night of April 24, 1915, Ottoman authorities
arrested 250 Armenian leaders and intellectuals at Constantinople. The Armenian people had
no leadership, no governmental representation, and were left without defense to the Ottoman
Turks. From May to September, 1915, legislations were enacted to discharge all Armenians
from military service, to deport Armenian citizens out of the Anatolian region, and to sanction
government confiscation of all Armenian land and property. The Ottoman military removed
Armenians from their homes and forced them to march for hundreds of miles, without food or
water, to the desert of modern-day Syria. Hundreds of thousands of people died on these
forced marches. People were massacred indiscriminately: men and women, old and young.
Mass shootings occurred at random. Pillaging, persecution, torture, rape and other sexual
abuses were commonplace. Winston Churchill tactfully defined the massacres as an
“administrative holocaust” when he said,

“…the clearance of (The Armenian) race from Asia Minor was about as complete as such
an act could be… There is no reason to doubt that this crime was planned and executed for
political reasons. The opportunity presented itself for clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race
opposed to all Turkish ambitions.”

Hundreds of eyewitnesses, including government representatives of the United States,

Germany, and Austria-Hungary, recorded and documented the state-sponsored massacres.
Many foreign officials spoke out for the sake of the Armenians, including Pope Benedict XV,
whose claims were rejected and denied by the Ottoman administration. The massacres
continued under the cover of World War I, until the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed on
October 30, 1918. Despite international awareness, an armed intervention to stop the
genocide never occurred.

The Aftermath

Contemporary scholars estimate that as many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the
genocide. There were also thousands of displaced Armenians, along with approximately
500,000 Assyrian deaths, and 350,000 Anatolian Greek deaths. The displaced survivors were
largely unable to return to their former homes, as their land and property now belonged to the
new Turkish government, or the Soviet state of Armenia. The “Armenian Diaspora” is the
most visible, contemporary effect of this disaster; of the estimated 9 million Armenians
worldwide, almost 8 million live outside of the Armenian homeland in Anatolia. As the first
genocide of the 20th Century, the Armenian Genocide served as a measuring stick for other
instances of mass atrocity to come. Less than a decade later, The Armenian Genocide
influenced Adolf Hitler- he often made references to the Ottoman onslaught. In a speech
given prior to his invasion of Poland in 1939, Hitler said the following:

I have issued the command — and I’ll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism
executed by a firing squad — that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but
in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation
in readiness — for the present only in the East — with orders to them to send to death
mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and
language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after
all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?
Polish- Jewish professor Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term “genocide” in 1943, has
claimed that he did so with the massacre of the Armenians in mind. Based on the actions of
the Young Turks, Lemkin’s definition of genocide is still widely used in contemporary
scholarship and Human Rights. To this day, The Republic of Turkey’s official stance is that
the deaths of Armenians during their “relocation” cannot accurately be deemed as
“genocide,” essentially denying the intentional nature of the atrocities. This denial has
dramatically hindered Turkish foreign relations, and is currently a leading factor in Turkey’s
restriction from the European Union. Most scholars around the world acknowledge that the
tragedy was, indeed, genocide.

Cambodian Genocide

When the Khmer Rouge took control of the Cambodian government in 1975, they
declared the beginning of a new age dedicated to a peasant-oriented society. After
outlawing education, religion, healthcare and technology, the Khmer Rouge ordered the
evacuation of Cambodia’s cities and forced these residents to labor without adequate
food or rest. At the same time as summarily executing those who were unable to keep
up, the Khmer Rouge began to target suspected political dissidents. These citizens,
including doctors, teachers and those suspected of being educated were singled out for
torture at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison. In four years, between 1.7 and 2 million
Cambodians died in the Khmer Rouge’s ‘Killing Fields’.


The Cambodian Genocide refers to the attempt of Khmer Rouge party leader “Pol Pot” to
nationalize and centralize the peasant farming society of Cambodia virtually overnight, in
accordance with the Chinese Communist agricultural model. This resulted in the gradual
devastation of over 25% of the country’s population in just three short years.


Cambodia, a country in South East Asia, is less than half the size of California, with its
present day capital in Phnom Penh. In 1953 Cambodia gained its independence from France,
after nearly 100 years of colonialist rule. As the Vietnam War progressed, Cambodia’s elected
Prime Minister Norodom Sihanouk adopted an official policy of neutrality. Sihanouk was
ousted in 1970 by a military coup led by his own Cambodian General Lon Nol, a testament to
the turbulent political climate of Southeast Asia during this time. In the years preceding the
genocide, the population of Cambodia was just over 7 million, almost all of whom were
Buddhists. The country borders Thailand to its west and northwest, Laos to its northeast, and
Vietnam to its east and southeast. The south and southwest borders of Cambodia are coastal
shorelines on the Gulf of Thailand.


The actions of the Khmer Rouge government which actually constitute “genocide” began
shortly after their seizure of power from the government of Lon Nol in 1975, and lasted until
the Khmer Rouge overthrow by the Vietnamese in 1978. However, the genocide itself, and
other mass losses of Cambodian lives, emanated from a harsh climate of political and social
turmoil. This atmosphere of communal unrest in Cambodia arose during the French
decolonization of South East Asia in the early 1950s, and continued to devastate the region
until the late 1980s.



The Khmer Rouge guerrilla movement, founded in 1960, was considerably undermanned in
its early days. The movement’s leader, Pol Pot, had been educated in France and was an
admirer of “Mao” (Chinese) communism- Pol Pot envisioned the creation of a “new”
Cambodia based on the Maoist-Communist model. The aim of the Khmer Rouge was to
deconstruct Cambodia back a primitive “Year Zero,” wherein all citizens would participate in
rural work projects, and any Western innovations would be removed. Pol Pot brought in
Chinese training tactics and Viet Cong support for his troops, and was soon successful in
producing a formidable military force. In 1970, the Khmer Rouge went to civil war with the
U.S. backed “Khmer Republic,” under lieutenant-general Lon Nol. Lon Nol’s government
had assumed a pro-Western, anti-Communist stance, and demanded the withdrawal of North
Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces from Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge guerillas were finally
successful in deposing Lon Nol’s government in 1975. Under Pol Pot’s leadership, and within
days of overthrowing the government, the Khmer Rouge embarked on an organized mission:
they ruthlessly imposed an extremist program to reconstruct Cambodia on the communist
model of Mao’s China. It was these extremist policies which led to the Cambodian genocide.


In order to achieve the “ideal” communist model, the Khmer Rouge believed that all
Cambodians must be made to work as laborer in one huge federation of collective farms;
anyone in opposition to this system must be eliminated. This list of “potential opposition”
included, but was not limited to, intellectuals, educated people, professionals, monks,
religious enthusiasts, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, ethnic Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and
Cambodians with Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai ancestry. The Khmer Rouge also vigorously
interrogated its own membership, and frequently executed members on suspicions of
treachery or sabotage. Survival in Khmer Rouge Cambodia was determined by one’s ability
to work. Therefore, Cambodia’s elderly, handicapped, ill, and children suffered enormous
casualties for their inability to perform unceasing physical labor on a daily basis.


At the onset of the Cambodian civil war in 1970, the neighboring country of Vietnam was
simultaneously engaged in a bitter civil war between the communist North Vietnamese, and
the U.S. backed South Vietnamese. Under the Khmer Republic of Lon Nol, Cambodia
became a battlefield of the Vietnam War; it harbored U.S. troops, airbases, barracks, and
weapons caches. Prior to the Lon Nol government, Cambodia had maintained neutrality in
the Vietnamese civil war, and had given equal support to both opposing sides. However,
when the Lon Nol government took control of Cambodia, U.S. troops felt free to move into
Cambodia to continue their struggle with the Viet Cong. As many as 750,000 Cambodians
died over the years 1970-1974, from American B-52 bombers, using napalm and dart cluster-
bombs to destroy suspected Viet Cong targets in Cambodia. The heavy American
bombardment, and Lon Nol’s collaboration with America, drove new recruits to Pol Pot’s
Khmer Rouge guerilla movement. Many Cambodians had become disenchanted with western
democracy due to the huge loss of Cambodian lives, resulting from the U.S.’s involving
Cambodia in the war with Vietnam. Pol Pot’s communism brought with it images of new
hope, promise, and national tranquility for Cambodia. By 1975, Pol Pot’s force had grown to
over 700,000 men. Within days of the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in 1975, Pol Pot
had put into motion his extremist policies of collectivization (the government confiscation
and control of all properties) and communal labor. Under threat of death, Cambodians
nationwide were forced from their hometowns and villages. The ill, disabled, old and young
who were incapable of making the journey to the collectivized farms and labor camps were
killed on the spot. People who refused to leave were killed, along with any who appeared to
be in opposition to the new regime. In this manner, entire cities were emptied of all their
populations. All political and civil rights of the citizen were abolished. Children were taken
from their parents and placed in separate forced labor camps. Factories, schools, universities,
hospitals, and all other private institutions were shut down; all their former owners and
employees were murdered, along with their extended families. Religion was also banned:
leading Buddhist monks and Christian missionaries were killed, and temples and churches
were burned. While racist sentiments did exist within the Khmer Rouge, most of the killing
was inspired by the extremist propaganda of a militant communist transformation. It was
common for people to be shot for speaking a foreign language, wearing glasses, smiling, or
crying. One Khmer slogan best illuminates Pol Pot’s ideology:

“To spare you is no profit, to destroy you is no loss.”

Cambodians who survived the purges and marches became unpaid laborers, working on
minimum rations for endless hours. They were forced to live in public communes, similar to
military barracks, with constant food shortages and diseases running rampant. Due to
conditions of virtual slave labor, starvation, physical injury, and illness, many Cambodians
became incapable of performing physical work and were killed off by the Khmer Rouge as
expenses to the system. These conditions of genocide continued for three years until Vietnam
invaded Cambodia in 1978 and ousted the Khmer Rouge government. To this point, civilian
deaths totaled well over 2 million.

The Aftermath

Cambodia lay in ruins under the newly-established Vietnamese regime. The economy had
failed under Pol Pot, and all professionals, engineers, technicians and planners who could
potentially reorganize Cambodia had been killed in the genocide. Since Cambodia had now
fallen under Vietnamese (Communist) control, foreign relief aid from any western,
democratic state was unlikely. Throughout the 1980s, the U.S. and U.K. instead offered
financial and military support to the Khmer Rouge forces in exile, who had now sworn
opposition to Vietnam and communism. The Vietnamese occupation and the continual threat
of Khmer Rouge guerilla forces preserved Cambodia in underdeveloped and prehistoric
conditions- until Vietnam’s eventual withdrawal in 1989. In the following military conflicts
of 1978-1989, an additional 14,000 Cambodian civilians perished. In 1991, a peace
agreement was finally reached, and Buddhism was reinstated as the official state religion. The
nation’s first true democratic elections were held in 1993. On July 25, 1983, the “Research
Committee on Pol Pot’s Genocidal Regime” issued its final report, including detailed
province-by-province data. Among other things, their data showed that 3,314,768 people lost
their lives in the “Pol Pot time.” Beginning in 1995, mass graves were uncovered throughout
Cambodia. Bringing the perpetrators to justice, however, has proved to be a difficult task. The
UN called for a Khmer Rouge Tribunal in 1994; the trials finally began in November of 2007,
and are expected to continue through 2010. Many suspected perpetrators were killed in the
military struggle with Vietnam or eliminated as internal threats to the Khmer Rouge itself. In
1997, Pol Pot himself was arrested by Khmer Rouge members; a “mock” trial was staged and
Pol Pot was found guilty. He died of natural causes in 1998. The last members of the Khmer
Rouge were officially disbanded in 1999. Currently, the state of affairs in Cambodia is
relatively tranquil. Today, Cambodia’s main industries are fabrics and tourism; foreign
visitors to Cambodia surpassed 1.7 million in 2006. However, the BBC reports that
corruption remains a serious issue in Cambodian politics. International aid from the U.S. and
other countries is often embezzled by bureaucrats into their private accounts. This illegal
seizure of foreign aid has greatly added to the widespread income disparity which affects
most Cambodian citizens today.

The Holocaust
After coming to power in 1933 on the basis of providing an ethnic and political
scapegoat for Germany’s post-World War I problems , the Nazi Party implemented a
highly organized strategy of the persecution and murder of “undesireables” including
Jews, Slavs, Roma, the disabled, Jehovah’s Witnessess, homosexuals, as well as political
and religious dissidents.
The Nazis promulgation of the Nuremburg Laws stripped citizenship from German
Jews on the basis of their religious identity. Shortly thereafter, in November 1938, the
organized pogrom of Kristallnacht signaled a change in policy, featuring the mass
deportations of German Jews to concentration camps. As the Nazis conquered large
areas of Europe, Jews and other undesirables across Nazi-controlled areas were
similarly deported. When the German Army invaded the Soviet Union, it soon gave rise
to Einsatzgruppen, mobile killing squads operating throughout Eastern Europe and
Russia, killing more than one million Jews and tens of thousands of other civilians. In
1942, a conference at Wansee developed the Final Solution to the Jewish Question, the
systematic extermination of European Jewry. The construction of extermination camps
at Auschwitz-Birkanau, Treblinka, Belzec, Chelmno and Sobibor enabled the Nazis to
kill 2.7 million Jews and other “undesirables” through the use of cyanide gas, summary
executions and medical experimentation. Poor living conditions in non-extermination
camps led to the deaths of millions more. It is estimated that 6 million Jews, two out of
every three living in Europe, and another 5 million undesirables were killed by 1945.

The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of
approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. "Holocaust" is a
word of Greek origin meaning "sacrifice by fire." The Nazis, who came to power in Germany
in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed
"inferior," were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.

During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups because of
their perceived "racial inferiority": Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic
peoples (Poles, Russians, and others). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological,
and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and

In 1933, the Jewish population of Europe stood at over nine million. Most European Jews
lived in countries that Nazi Germany would occupy or influence during World War II. By
1945, the Germans and their collaborators killed nearly two out of every three European Jews
as part of the "Final Solution," the Nazi policy to murder the Jews of Europe. Although Jews,
whom the Nazis deemed a priority danger to Germany, were the primary victims of Nazi
racism, other victims included some 200,000 Roma (Gypsies). At least 200,000 mentally or
physically disabled patients, mainly Germans, living in institutional settings, were murdered
in the so-called Euthanasia Program.

As Nazi tyranny spread across Europe, the Germans and their collaborators persecuted and
murdered millions of other people. Between two and three million Soviet prisoners of war
were murdered or died of starvation, disease, neglect, or maltreatment. The Germans targeted
the non-Jewish Polish intelligentsia for killing, and deported millions of Polish and Soviet
civilians for forced labor in Germany or in occupied Poland, where these individuals worked
and often died under deplorable conditions. From the earliest years of the Nazi regime,
German authorities persecuted homosexuals and others whose behavior did not match
prescribed social norms. German police officials targeted thousands of political opponents
(including Communists, Socialists, and trade unionists) and religious dissidents (such as
Jehovah's Witnesses). Many of these individuals died as a result of incarceration and

In the early years of the Nazi regime, the National Socialist government established
concentration camps to detain real and imagined political and ideological opponents.
Increasingly in the years before the outbreak of war, SS and police officials incarcerated
Jews, Roma, and other victims of ethnic and racial hatred in these camps. To concentrate and
monitor the Jewish population as well as to facilitate later deportation of the Jews, the
Germans and their collaborators created ghettos, transit camps, and forced-labor camps for
Jews during the war years. The German authorities also established numerous forced-labor
camps, both in the so-called Greater German Reich and in German-occupied territory, for
non-Jews whose labor the Germans sought to exploit.

Following the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing
units) and, later, militarized battalions of Order Police officials, moved behind German lines
to carry out mass-murder operations against Jews, Roma, and Soviet state and Communist
Party officials. German SS and police units, supported by units of the Wehrmacht and the
Waffen SS, murdered more than a million Jewish men, women, and children, and hundreds of
thousands of others. Between 1941 and 1944, Nazi German authorities deported millions of
Jews from Germany, from occupied territories, and from the countries of many of its Axis
allies to ghettos and to killing centers, often called extermination camps, where they were
murdered in specially developed gassing facilities.

In the final months of the war, SS guards moved camp inmates by train or on forced marches,
often called “death marches,” in an attempt to prevent the Allied liberation of large numbers
of prisoners. As Allied forces moved across Europe in a series of offensives against Germany,
they began to encounter and liberate concentration camp prisoners, as well as prisoners en
route by forced march from one camp to another. The marches continued until May 7, 1945,
the day the German armed forces surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. For the western
Allies, World War II officially ended in Europe on the next day, May 8 (V-E Day), while
Soviet forces announced their “Victory Day” on May 9, 1945.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, many of the survivors found shelter in displaced persons
(DP) camps administered by the Allied powers. Between 1948 and 1951, almost 700,000
Jews emigrated to Israel, including 136,000 Jewish displaced persons from Europe. Other
Jewish DPs emigrated to the United States and other nations. The last DP camp closed in
1957. The crimes committed during the Holocaust devastated most European Jewish
communities and eliminated hundreds of Jewish communities in occupied eastern Europe

Rwandan Genocide

Since independence, Rwandan society featured tensions between the Tutsi minority and
the Hutu majority, leading to massacres amd expulsions in 1959 and 1963. On April 6,
1994, Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, was killed when his plane was shot
down outside of the country’s capital, Kigali. Habyarimana’s assassination provided the
spark for an organizated campaign of violence against Tutsi and moderate Hutu
civilians across the country. In 100 days, extremist Hutu groups, including the
Interahamwe and the Presidential Guard, used radios to direct the killings of civilians
across the country. Despite the efforts of the UNAMIR Peacekeepers, extremists were
able to kill between 800,000 to 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days. In 1994,
the United Nations created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR),
dedicated to bringing those responsible for the genocide to justice. While slow, the ICTR
has determined that the widespread rapes committed during the Rwandan genocide
may also be considered an act of torture and genocide on their own.


The “Rwandan Genocide” refers to the 1994 mass slaughter in Rwanda of the ethnic Tutsi
and politically moderate Hutu peoples. The killings began in early April of 1994 and
continued for approximately one hundred days until the “Hutu Power” movement’s defeat in
mid-July. The genocide was carried out primarily by Hutu supremacist militia groups, co-
perpetrated by the state government of Rwanda, the Rwandan Army, and Rwandan civilians
in compliance with the “Hutu Power” movement. By its conclusion, at least 500,000 ethnic
Tutsis were murdered, along with thousands of Tutsi sympathizers, moderate Hutus, and
other victims of atrocity. Some estimates claim anywhere between 800,000- 1,000,000 killed,
with another two million refugees (mostly Hutus fearing the retribution of the newly-
empowered Tutsi rebel government) packed in disease-ridden refugee camps of neighboring
Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and former Zaire.


Rwanda is a very small country (about the size of Maryland), located near the center of
Africa, a few degrees south of the Equator. It is separated from the Democratic Republic of
Congo (former Zaire) by Lake Kivu and the Ruzizi River valley to the west; it is bounded on
the north by Uganda, to the east by Tanzania, and to the south by Burundi. The capital,
Kigali, is located in the center of the country. According to the 1991 national census, the total
population of Rwanda was 7.7 million, with 90 percent of the population in the Hutu ethnic
group, 9 percent Tutsi, and 1 percent Twa. The Rwandan Genocide itself began with mass
killings in Kigali, but over the course of its 100-day duration, killing spread to all corners of
the country.

The Rwandan genocide took place over a time span of only 100 days, between April and July,



Hutu nationalist group Parmehutu led a social revolution which overthrew the Tutsi ruling
class, resulting in the death of around 20,000 Tutsis and the exile of another 200,000 to
neighboring countries. Rwandan independence from Belgium would follow in 1961, marking
the establishment of a Hutu-led Rwandan government. The Tutsis remaining in Rwanda,
mostly due to intermarriage or other family ties, would be discriminated against as racially
“lesser” citizens by the new Hutu government. The RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) was
formed in 1985 as a political group of Tutsi nationalist exiles who demanded the right to
return to their homeland as citizens and an end to social discrimination against the Tutsi in
Rwanda. The RPF rebels invaded Rwanda from neighboring Uganda in October of 1990, re-
igniting Tutsi hatred throughout Rwanda. It was this act of Tutsi aggression, coupled with
decades of discrimination and fear for a loss of power, that paved the way to genocide. Killed
alongside the Tutsi people were those native Rwandan Hutu, who sympathized with their
Tutsi neighbors and resisted by defending, hiding, or providing aid to their Tutsi neighbors.
Moderate Hutus, many of whom refused to take action against their Tutsi neighbors, were
also victimized in the genocide.


Most of the killing was carried out by two Hutu radical militant groups: the Interahamwe and
the Impuzamugambi. Armed, backed, and led by the government of Rwanda (MRND), the
Interahamwe are remembered today as the driving force of the genocide, comprised mostly of
young Hutu men, brainwashed by the “Hutu Power” ideology. Springing from a separate
political entity, the CDR, the Impuzamugambi was made up of members of the CDR’s youth
wing. These forces were fewer in number than those of the Interahamwe. The “more-
extreme” anti-Tutsi agenda of the CDR reflected on the Impuzamugambi; their killings were
often regarded as less organized, and more vicious. The genocide was obviously supported by
the Hutu-led government (MRND) and members of the Rwandan army: they armed and
directed militias, dispatched killing orders, and even participated in the rounding up of
victims themselves. The most unsettling co-perpetrators of the genocide, however, were those
Rwandan civilians who collaborated with and supported the genocide. Many Tutsis and
moderate Hutus were handed over and/or killed by their own neighbors, also bent on anti-
Tutsi sentiment.


Unlike other genocides of the 20th century, the Rwandan genocide unfolded before the eyes
of the national media. Journalists, radio broadcasters, and TV news reporters covered the
events live from Rwanda, until the violence escalated to fanatical levels and all foreigners
were encouraged to evacuate. In short, the world knew of the genocide from its first day up
until its conclusion. Mark Doyle, a reporter for the BBC in Kigali, tried to explain the
situation to the world in late April 1994 as follows,
“…you have to understand that there are two wars going on here. There’s a shooting war
and a genocide war. The two are connected, but also distinct. In the shooting war, there are
two conventional armies at each other, and in the genocide war, one of those armies, the
government side with help from civilians, is involved in mass killings.”

UNAMIR, the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda, was present on the ground throughout the
course of the genocide. With disregard to the violence portrayed in the national media,
France, Belgium, and the United States declined to send additional support, despite
UNAMIR’s specific warnings to the UN Security Council in early 1994, describing the Hutu
militia’s plan for extermination. The Security Council denied UNAMIR’s request to
intervene, and in early April, the Belgian contingency of UNAMIR’s force were pulled out,
due to the murder of ten Belgian soldiers. Almost overnight, 4500 UNAMIR peacekeepers on
the ground were reduced to a mere 260. Not until mid-May (approx. 500,000 Rwandans had
already been killed) did the UN recognize that “acts of genocide may have been committed,”
at which point the UN pledged to send in 5,500 troops and 50 armored personal carriers. This
force, however, was further delayed due to continuing arguments between the UN and the
U.S. army over the cost of the Armored Personnel Carriers. The genocide would be ended by
the RPF overthrow of the Hutu Regime in July; the UN intervention never occurred. The state
support for the genocide in Rwanda was no doubt one of its primary engines. The Hutu-led
government provided arms, planning, and leadership for the militias. It also funded the
RTLM “Hutu Power” radio broadcast, the primary source of “brainwashing” for the Rwandan
civilians who also took part in the genocide.

The Aftermath

Immediately following the RPF takeover, around 2 million Hutus (perpetrators, bystanders,
and resistors to the genocide) fled into the neighboring countries to avoid potential Tutsi
retribution. Thousands died of epidemics, which spread like wildfire through to overcrowded
refugee camps. The refugee presence in Zaire, among other factors, led to the first Congo War
in 1996 and the formation of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Due to worsening
conditions in the DRC and Tanzania, more than a million Rwandan refugees would return
home by 1997. Back in Rwanda, the fully regenerated “UNAMIR 2” assumed control until
March 8th, 1996. They faced the enormous task of cleaning up a war-torn country side, and
dealing with the bodies of more than 1 million victims of genocide and war. The “machete”
would become a symbol, synonymous to the Rwandan genocide for its widespread use by
untrained civilians, to hack their neighbors to death. With the return of the refugees, the long-
awaited genocide trials could proceed. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda,
located in Arusha, Tanzania, began proceedings in 1996. To date, the Tribunal has completed
21 trials and convicted 28 persons guilty of war crimes, acts of genocide, rape, and the
creation of “hate media.” Eleven trials are currently in progress, 14 accused criminals await
trials in detention, and another 18 criminals remain at large, mostly presumed dead.

*Luke Walker of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies researched and wrote this
description. CHGS is a partner of World Without Genocide.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

*This paper was written by Ina Ziegler, a University of Minnesota Alumnus

On November 2, 2007, I had the honor of visiting the International Criminal Tribunal for
Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. I attended with twenty-seven other university students as part of
the International Honors Program, a study-abroad program focusing on issues of
globalization. At the tribunal, we received an initial briefing about its purpose. It was created
November 8, 1994, by the United Nations, to prosecute those responsible for orchestrating
the murder of more than 800,000 Rwandans during that same year. The first trial began in
January 1997; since then, twenty-seven judgments have been made, involving thirty-three
accused persons. Twenty-eight were convicted, and five acquitted. Twenty-seven accused
persons are being tried now, and eighteen indicted remain at large. This brings the total to
seventy-eight indictments.

We were able to sit in on the trial of a man named Bikindi. Mr. Bikindi is a musician and
performer, and he is accused of creating songs and dances that encourage people to kill Tutsis
and commit other acts of violence. It’s a fascinating case and the decision will set a strong
precedent for the future; it brings in issues of free speech, artistic license, and responsibility
and accountability for artistic creation. It is also a reminder of the enormous power that
music, dance, and other art forms have, and how that power can be exploited and used in
dangerous and deadly ways.

During the portion of the trial we attended, Mr. Bikindi was being asked by the prosecutor
about his ties to the government, and about a particular photograph which showed members
of his dance troupe wearing uniforms of the interahamwe, the Hutu militia. A long discussion
ensued, in which Mr. Bikindi argued at length about the meaning of the words uniform and
costume, and whether the photograph therefore revealed that his dancers were part of the
militia or simply acting, providing entertainment.

It was at that point that the reality of the situation overwhelmed me. I was sitting behind a
soundproof glass window, looking at ten or twelve judges and court officials surrounding this
one man, Mr. Bikindi, seated at the witness stand in the center. I was listening to an inane
conversation about costumes versus uniforms, translated carefully and rapidly into my
headset. Fifteen minutes later, I left the room and had pastries and coffee in the cafeteria. Is
this justice? Is it really? Nearly a million people are dead. Will the conviction or acquittal of
this one man, who has the confidence to sit in this place and quibble over semantics, really
matter? The justice of this court can only be, at best, symbolic. And it is not that the symbols
do not matter; they do, tremendously. Of course it matters that this trial is taking place; of
course it matters that the rules of law, which are all we have, are being followed. Of course
we have a desperate need for symbolic meaning, and this court offers that to the world, to
humanity, in the best way that it can. If it is this or nothing, semantics or silence, I choose
semantics. But it is not enough. It can never be enough. The only justice that would be
enough is too great for me to fathom. It would indict all of us, every human being on this
planet. Every person who has participated in or benefited from colonialism, which in many
ways created this whole mess. Every person who killed another. Every person who supplied
arms to combatants. Every person who remained silent when the genocide was happening.
Every person who remains silent now, when it is still going on. The scale of guilt, of sin, is
too great. No human justice can ever be great enough to encompass it. The blood of our
brothers and sisters is crying out, to whatever God can hear, from the ground where our
apathy, our greed, our silence, has spilled it, not just in Rwanda but in Iraq, Afghanistan,
Guatemala, El Salvador, Vietnam, Laos, Bosnia, Germany, Poland, the United States—
everywhere. No justice will ever be enough. I am left to wonder what, then, could possibly be
great enough. We are here, and we have to survive somehow, with this burden. What can we
do? I come to mercy—forgiveness—love. I don’t know if I have the right to use these words;
my family has not been killed, or deported, or imprisoned. Would I still use these words if
they had? I don’t know. All I know is that for now they are the only words I have. What else
is there? I’m open to suggestions. Perhaps we can think about the words of Mr. Adama
Dieng, the registrar of the tribunal. He shared with us a proverb from Senegal, his home: “A
human being is a remedy for humanity.” The only remedy we have for the ills of this world is
to be human, to feel and to love and to live. It is the only hope I have for the future. I hope
that we can strive to reach the power behind the words of mercy, and love, and forgiveness; to
find out what it means and to live it. We can strive to hear the voices that are crying out. We
can strive to change those things that hurt us, that take away our humanity. What else is
there? I see no other way to live.

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