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NAME: Jannik S.

DATE: 8th May 2018
Word Count: 1290

Article Review of two Further Reading Texts

The first text, the introduction to William A. Schabas’s Genocide in International Law: The

Crime of Crimes, begins with a brief history of how genocide has been approached in the

context of international law: Schabas argues that, before the First World War, those that

committed Genocide were very rarely held accountable for their actions, neither domestically

nor internationally, out of “respect” for the sovereignty of states.1 Schabas claims, however,

that this has since changed significantly, and that Genocide has become a key component of

international law, most importantly due to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and

Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. 2 This Convention was included in the statute of the

International Criminal Court and in two key international tribunals concerning the conflicts in

Rwanda and Yugoslavia. 3 Furthermore, many states have included or even expanded upon

the convention in their criminal codes, and the convention has been described as a

“quintessential human rights treaty”. 4 Despite this, however, Schabas argues fervently that

the Convention has historically been too restrictive, and that it has failed to cover many

examples of mass murder, particularly those that have been committed in modern times, such

as in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. 5 Specifically, Schabas posits that this has occurred due to the

1 Schabas, “Genocide in International Law”, 1-2.

2 Ibid, 3.
3 Ibid, 5.
4 Ibid, 5-7.
5 Ibid, 8-9.
Convention specifying that Genocide applies only to “national, racial, ethnical and religious

groups”. 6 Schabas lastly points to the fact that, in recent years, the international community

has begun to draw distinct boundaries between the specific crime of genocide and the more

general category of “crimes against humanity” in order to address the limitations of the

convention. 7 Schabas compares the contrast between the two to a distinction found in

domestic law: if a crime against humanity is homicide, then genocide is premeditated murder

– both are severe crimes, but genocide remains the “crime of crimes”. 8

In general, I agree with Schabas’s argumentation – I believe that it is true that the way

the international justice system has approached mass murder and genocide has much

improved in recent years. To me, this is most evident in the way that accountability for such

crimes has changed. The modern approach to prosecuting crimes against humanity and

genocide is best seen in the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia,

which have been very effective: the ICTR has sentenced 32 individuals to prison terms, many

of whom were convinced on counts of Genocide. 9 The ICTY, meanwhile, sentenced 81

individuals to prison terms, including the most prominent perpetrators of that genocide. 10

These effective tribunals stand in stark contrast to how peacetime genocide was dealt with in

the past, which to me is most obvious in the response (or lack thereof) to the Genocide in

Cambodia. This genocide was perpetrated from 1975 to 1979 by the Khmer Rouge

government of Cambodia and resulted in the deaths of 1.5-3 million Cambodians, yet resulted

in very little response from the United Nations or any other international body – it took until

2001 for a tribunal to be established, and only 3 perpetrators have been sentenced. 11 As a

6 Schabas, “Genocide in International Law”, 10.

7 Ibid, 11-14.
8 Ibid, 15.
9 Legacy Website of the ICTR, “Key Figures of Cases”.
10 ICTY, “Judgement List”.
11 USHMM, “Cambodia 1975-1979”.
result, it’s obvious that genocide and crimes against humanity are much more effectively

prosecuted internationally today than they were in the past, and that the international

community has rectified the restrictive approach to genocide that was prevalent in the past. I

believe, however, that Schabas could have devoted more attention to the progress and

efficacy of modern tribunals such as the ICTY and how they distinguish between Genocide

and Crimes Against Humanity, in order to more effectively support his argumentation.

The second text, From Armed Conflict to War: Ethnic Mobilization and Conflict

Intensification, by Kristine Eck, poses the question of whether or not ethnic conflicts more

likely to experience intensified violence than non-ethnic conflicts. Specifically, Eck focuses

on ethnic mobilizations, that is to say conflicts in which rebel groups form along ethnic lines,

and on the escalation of violence from an armed conflict to a war, and on intrastate conflicts

of rebel groups fighting against a government. 12 Eck’s main argument is that the ascriptive

nature of ethnicity makes it easier for people to be recruited into rebel groups, thus leading to

an intensification in violence. 13 By “ascriptive”, Eck is arguing that ethnicity, unlike

ideology, is easy to deduce, due to factors such as physical attributes, names, language,

government records, and others, and that ethnicity is far harder to obscure or cover up than

ideology is.14 Eck further argues that rebel groups in intrastate conflicts are almost always

weaker than the government they are facing, and are thus heavily dependent on recruiting

new members as effectively as possible. 15 Because ethnicity is easily identifiable, groups can

effectively target and focus their efforts on the ethnicity they are seeking to recruit, and

because members of ethnic groups often share a trust and respect for each other, leaders will

be able to more easily convince members to support the group’s cause. 16 Furthermore,

12 Eck, "From Armed Conflict to War”, 370.

13 Ibid, 371-372.
14 Ibid, 372-373.
15 Ibid, 373.
16 Ibid, 373.
members will find it more difficult to leave the group as they may face retribution from the

ethnic group as a whole for abandoning the cause. 17 Lastly, Eck argues that the approach of

recruitment along ethnic lines implicates entire ethnic groups into the conflict and makes

entire groups targets for government retribution, thus intensifying the conflict, and the

increased power of the rebel groups due to the more effective recruiting will lead to an

intensification of the conflict. 18

Eck’s argument is effective and well-supported – it explores the dynamics of ethnic

groups, as well as the contrast between the identifiability of ethnicity and ideology, and

effectively relates these concepts to the recruitment process of rebel groups involved in an

intrastate conflict. Eck considers not only the practical aspects of war, such as the need for

manpower in rebel groups facing a more powerful foe, but considers human nature and social

capital by analysing the mutual trust formed by a shared ethnicity and the way leaders can

manipulate followers by exploiting this trust. Despite this, however, I don’t entirely agree

with her assessment, mostly because I believe it ascribes too much importance to power of

ethnicity in recruiting people to a cause. I do believe that ethnicity can be a powerful force in

unifying people, but I also believe that this not often actually the case in armed conflicts.

Instead, I believe that recruitment in armed conflicts today is much more often based on

ideology or religion than on ethnicity – three prominent civil wars in recent years have been

those in Syria, Libya, and Ukraine, and in all three rebel groups formed based on ideology or

religion, not ethnicity. In the case of Ukraine, it could be argued that Ukrainians of Russian

ethnicity would be more inclined to support the pro-Russian side in the conflict, but despite

the fact that ethnicity is easy to identify, it’s difficult to determine whether someone made the

decision to join a rebel group based on their ethnicity or on their ideology. This is where, to

17 Eck, "From Armed Conflict to War”, 373.

18 Ibid, 374.
me, the flaw in Eck’s argumentation lies - even if someone of a certain ethnicity joined a

rebel group composed of members of their ethnic group, it’s very difficult to determine

whether or not that person joined the group based on their ethnicity or because they support

that group’s ideology.

In conclusion, I agree with Schabas’s assessment more, and I believe his

argumentation is stronger than Eck’s, but both text assess important ways in which ethnicity

plays a role in modern geopolitical issues: both in crimes committed against certain

ethnicities and in how ethnicity intensifies conflicts. With tensions growing across the world

in many different way, it’s important that we analyse the factors that can lead to violence in

detail – both of these texts do so in how they address one of the historically biggest drivers of

violence: ethnicity.

Works Cited:

Eck, Kristine. 2009. "From Armed Conflict to War: Ethnic Mobilization and Conflict
Intensification." International Studies Quarterly 53: 369-388.

Schabas, William A. 2009. “Genocide in International Law: The Crime of Crimes”. 2nd ed.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ‘Introduction’, pp. 1-16.

"Key Figures of Cases." Legacy Website of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Accessed May 08, 2018.

"Judgement List." International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Accessed May
08, 2018.

"Cambodia 1975–1979." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Accessed May 08,