Genocide and crimes against humanity


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Genocide and crimes against humanity

  1. 1. Genocide and Crimes Against HumanityDiscrimination and its promotion through hate propaganda disturb peace and can pave the way tomassive human rights violations such as genocide. Hate propaganda is the public promotion orincitement of hatred against people and identifiable groups and that is likely to result in harm tothose targeted. It is directed at persons or groups based on factors such as color, race, religion,nationality, or ethnic origin.Hate propaganda causes harm to individuals by degrading them, attacking their dignity and sense ofself-worth. It also hurts society as a whole, because it destroys social harmony and encouragesdiscrimination and violence, thus creating a hostile environment for the targeted members of thatsame society. Hate propaganda is defined as a crime in most domestic law systems and ininternational law.Propaganda serves to dehumanize the members of the targeted group. It degrades them andstigmatizes them, creating the necessary illusion that the identifiable group is the enemy.Propaganda has more than once contributed to the development of a climate that led to theimplementation or toleration of exclusionary behavior, and hate speech has preceded massivephysical persecutions. Propaganda is used to trivialize the importance of crimes committed againstits targets, it confers a sense of social acceptability and even desirability upon those crimes. Thiswas the case with both the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide. Propaganda is the starting pointof the progression that leads to genocide. Beginning with limited propaganda directed at anidentifiable group, the crime moves to more systematic propaganda, then to state-sponsored hatespeech, and finally to the direct incitement to hate, ultimately giving rise to publicly-supported, masscrimes.The Role of Hate Propaganda in Causing GenocidePropaganda has a long-term effect. Its repercussions can take years to appear, making it moredifficult to regulate than direct acts and overt public incitements to genocide. Propagandist rhetoricdulls the conscience, thus furthering the development of a social psyche willing to tolerateinhumanities. It works to modify peoples normal and expected reaction, leading them to accept,rather than condemn, discriminatory behavior. The propagandist uses speech to persuade others tohis view, or at least to create a climate in which the oppression he champions is acceptable.Propaganda legitimizes aggression by conveying the message that something has to be doneregarding a targeted group. Genocide requires such a collective agreement among perpetrators andalso bystanders. Direct incitement to genocide is usually not enough, it generally needs to be basedon a pre-established ideology, shared by an indoctrinated population. In a culture already inundatedwith anti-Semitic or anti-Tutsi propaganda, and in which inter-group tensions are high, innuendosabout the killing of members of those groups may be enough to instigate violence, eliminating theneed for explicit calls to violence. In a context of economic difficulties, social and political turmoil, orduring a war, propaganda becomes even more efficient. In such situations people are often
  2. 2. disconnected from certain aspects of society, and thus cannot assess the accuracy of what they arebeing told, allowing propagandists to create rumors and invent "facts" that suit their goals.The Nazis raised anti-Semitic propaganda to an unprecedented level by turning it into a state-sponsored dogma. Nonetheless, the Nazis based their implementation of propaganda on pre-existing linguistic casuistry. They took well-known, popular anti-Jewish sentiment and systemized it,and in so doing they cleared the way for the devestation of the Holocaust. The Holocaust, in otherwords, required lengthy propaganda preparation to induce the different actors involved—theperpetrators to commit such actions and the population to be numb vis-à-vis such a catastrophe.Propaganda was the springboard from which the Nazis launched the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism wasdisseminated by many, including government representatives such as Josef Goebbels and full-timeanti-Semitic propagandists and ideologues such as Julius Streicher, the publisher of the notoriousanti-Semitic newspaper Der Stürmer. Streicher may not have been a murderer himself, but hecreated the climate for murder. After the war, Streicher was at Nuremberg for his propagandists rolein bringing about the Holocaust. Without the climate Streicher established, the court held, theHolocaust would probably never have taken place, because too many would have rejected theorders to execute Jews. Thus, the court suggested that Streicher may have been even moreresponsible for the crimes than the other defendants who appeared with him in the dock. The finaljudgment rendered by the International Military Tribunal does not explicitly note a direct causal linkbetween Streichers publications and any specific murders, but characterizes his work as a poison"injected into the minds of thousands of Germans which caused them to follow the NationalSocialists policy of Jewish persecution and extermination." Streicher was found guilty of crimesagainst humanity because of his propaganda.Form, Means, Strategy and Diffusion of PropagandaHate propaganda takes many different forms. It can be disseminated in public meetings, throughradio, television, movies, books, pamphlets, graffiti, governmentsponsored messages, telephonemessages, gestures, signs or other visible representations. More recently, the Internet has becomea popular medium for the dissemination of hate propaganda.Propagandists prefer simple and clear arguments and descriptions over complex ones. It targets theemotions of its audience, rather than the intellect, and it seeks to build up a disdain for rationaldissenting arguments or explanations. Propagandists are often charismatic orators. They tend to usestraightforward, colorful language. They employ images, symbols, and evocative examples. Effectiveracist propaganda is usually couched in simple terms, and touches citizens emotionally throughexamples and stories to which they can relate. Streicher, for example, used caricature and cartoonsto represent Jews, and argued that the hard times that Germans were suffering were all caused bythe Jews.Propaganda themes are repeated frequently, preferably using all forms of the media. Exclusionaryspeeches, constantly repeated, break down the normal resistance of their audiences, and peoplesoon begin to wonder if what is being said about the targeted group might actually be true. Such
  3. 3. speeches are not intended to convert their listeners with genuine arguments; rather, they are aimedat creating a kind of emotional and intellectual numbness. As the message spreads through thevarious media, the messages become so omipresent that their truth begins to appear self-evident.Key words are repeated to remain in the listeners minds. The technique is to hit the same themesover and over again, until the audience internalizes the major points. In the Rwanda genocide, apropagandist named Mugesera constantly repeated the warning that Hutus beware thattheInyenzi (cockroaches, an epithet used against the Tutsis of Rwanda) and their accomplices.Listeners were gradually conditioned to associate the Tutsis with the Front PatriotiqueRwandais(FPR), a rebel faction that was accused of wanting and trying to overthrow the Hutu leadgovernment. By constantly linking the term Inkotanyi (infiltrators, a term for the FPR) with Inyenzi, heeffectively accused all Tutsis of being infiltrators as well. The intent was to blur the distinctionbetween the rebels and Tutsi civilians in order to justify the widespread killing of Tutsis as apreventive measure.Der Stürmer worked in much the same way. The publication helped the Nazis persuade as manypeople as possible that first, there was a problem in regard to the Jewish question, and second, thatit was absolutely critical to solve it. The concept, reproduced in many different ways, was that theJews were responsible for all the evils of the world in general, and for Germanys misfortune inparticular, and that the world would therefore be better off if all the Jews were wiped out.Propagandists use various techniques and media to make their statements more appealing. Sex andhorror stories in which Jews were portrayed as evildoers were frequently added to DerStürmer, allowing Streicher to sell more copies and reach an even broader audience. The cinemaplayed a central role in the Nazis propaganda strategy, as well. It reached a large audience andcould add the power of visual imagery to the propaganda message. The Nazis spread propagandaby shooting fictional films and false documentaries such as Der ewige Jude, depicting Jews in veryunfavorable ways. Goebbels himself ordered the creation of such films. Graphic representations,cartoons, and manipulated photographs of the targeted group are also common in thepropagandists arsenal. Der Stürmer, in Nazi Germany, and Kangura, the anti-Tutsi newspaper inRwanda, both employed these media. The "Fips" cartoons, which portrayed Jews in the mostexaggerated stereo-types, were a regular feature in Der Stürmer. In Rwanda, Kangura regularlyfeatured cartoons of Prime Ministers Uwilingiyimana, Twagiramungu, and General Dallaire (who leadthe UN peacekeeping force), depicting them in unfavorable situations and employing popularstereotypes.The use of stereotypes furthers the audiences acceptance of propaganda because the images areso familiar. Stereotypes provide the audience with a common denominator. The Nazis based theidentification of the Jews on exaggerated physical attributes. Propagandists added to thestereotypes by describing Jews as cockroaches, vermin, rats, and spiders. In Der Stürmer, Jewswere described as bent-nosed, fat, and having unpleasant features. It then attempted to establish alink between stereotypical impressions of Jews with current or historical events. Forinstance,DerStrürmer accused Jews of conducting ritual murders during which Christians werekilled.
  4. 4. In Rwanda, the Tutsis were stereotyped as inherent liars, thieves, and killers. Kangura also depictedthe Tutsis as biologically distinct from the Hutus and as being consumed by malice and wickedness.Radio Télévision Libra Mille-Collines (RTLMC), the local media outlet, joined in the propagandaeffort, accusing the Tutsis of being plotters and parasites, and using the Tutsis historical dominationof Rwandan politics and society as a propaganda tool: Tutsis were still perceived as "the ones whohave all the money," a reference to the fact that a Tutsi royalty once ruled Hutus. Tutsi women werestereotyped as tall and slim with a "beautiful nose," thus very attractive to male Hutus. Tutsi women,because of these alleged attributes, were accused of being enemy agents, used by the Inyenzi todeprave Hutu men.Propaganda seeks to reverse normal allocation of the burden of proof, forcing their targets onto thedefense. It also seeks to generate the sense of constant threat, so that its audience is forced to bevigilant vis-àvis the targeted group. By spreading fear, propagandists gather ever larger groups ofsupporters. Kangura persistently conveyed the message that Tutsis intended to conquer the countryin order to restore the Tutsi feudal monarchy, subduing all Hutus. Kangurarepeated that the enemywas among them, waiting to strike, and that the day would come when Hutus would have to defendthemselves. RTLMC also played on the publics fear of an armed Tutsi insurrection. In a speech,Mugesera made repeated references to this fear, not to ease it but to inflame it. Mugesera pleaded,"the one whose neck you dont cut is the one who will cut your neck."The Role of Propaganda in the Holocaust and the RwandanGenocideThe Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide are two of the clearest examples of propagandistexploitation of racist beliefs among the broader popularion. In both cases, the propagandists workpaved the way to genocide.Propaganda in GermanyThe Nazis exploited racist ideology and economic hardship to influence a nation to persecute aminority. It offered a scapegoat to a population that had been defeated in World War I and wassuffering under the burden of a devastated post-war economy. Germanys disastrous situation wasportrayed as mono-causal: the Jews were to blame for everything. Anti-Semite propaganda hadbecome common even before Hitler came to power.The source of much of this early propaganda, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion—a famous anti-Semitic document—was widely circulated. It is a work of fiction that allegedly contains the minutes ofa meeting held by a shadowy group of Jewish Elders, and sets forth their fictional plan to take overthe world. The document employed all the commonly used religious and physical stereotypesassociated with the Jews. Judeophobia, inflamed by documents such as The Protocols, proved aneffective tool for bringing together a broad cross sampling of German society, drawn from religious,intellectual, and political walks of life. That the document was exposed as a fraud in the early 1920sdid not stop anti-Semites from referring to it. In fact, it is still used by Holocaust deniers to supporttheir claim that the Holocaust is just another myth created by the worlds Jewry to achieve theirultimate goal of global domination.
  5. 5. When the Nazis came to power, propaganda became a government policy, used to create a climatethat would support the genocidal plans of Hitler and his followers. Goebbels, serving as the Ministerof Information and Propaganda, controlled all of Germanys media outlets and later assumed thesame control over media in the occupied territories. Goebbels was the father of propagandiststrategies such as the "Big Lie Theory," in which he argued that by repeating lies about the Jews andprogressively magnifying these lies, he could increase public acceptance of the lies and mobilizepublic support for Hitlers policies.Public boycott campaigns against Jewish businesses were made possible through propaganda.Legislation was passed to isolate and stigmatize all Jews. This was followed by state-sponsored,anti-Semitic propaganda to galvanize the intolerance of the non-Jewish population. This approachled to Kristallnacht, an anti-Jewish riot organized by Goebbels. The strategy was extremelysuccessful. Beginning on November 9, 1938, and continuing well into the next day, German citizenswho had been exposed to hate propaganda directed at Jews exploded into the streets to burnsynagogues, destroy Jewish properties, and kill Jews.Propaganda in RwandaThe newspaper, Kangura, and the audio-visual media controlled by RTLMC were instrumental insystematically spreading propaganda against the Tutsis. Kangura published cartoons and editorialsthat inflamed Hutu prejudices against Tutsis, and ultimately published the so-called Hutus TenCommandments, which comprised a blanket condemnation of all Tutsis on the sole basis of theirethnicity.Rwandas high illiteracy rate meant, however, that Kangura could reach only a limited audience. Fornonreaders, the radio played a significant role both before and during the genocide. RTLMC wasused to broadcast orders and detailed information on the positions and names of Tutsis to be killed.United States–based NGOs pleaded to have the airwaves jammed during the genocide, but the U.S.government opposed the idea.After the genocide was ended, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) broughtcharges against the management of both the RTLMC and Kangura. The court held that both mediaoutlets indulged in ethnic stereotyping in a manner that promoted hatred for the Tutsis, and werethus implicated in the genocide.Leon Mugeseras SpeechOn November 22, 1992, Leon Mugesera made a speech that was repeated on Rwandan radio andin which he frequently uttered incitements to hatred for the Tutsis. In January 1993, an internationalhuman rights fact-finding mission to Rwanda found the country in a state of turmoil and agitationprovoked in part by Mugeseras speech. Mugesera eventually fled Rwanda to take refuge in Canada,but the Canadian authorities tried to deport him for having committed a criminal act before obtaininghis permanent residence. The criminal act to which they referred was the speech he had given, backin 1992.In his speech, Mugesera claimed that FPR rebels were in secret collusion with all of RwandasTutsis. Mugeseras speech was made two years after the Hutus Ten Commandments had appeared
  6. 6. in Kangura, at a time when other propaganda outlets were increasingly active in the attempt toisolate all Tutsis. Mugeseras speech was intended to build upon that propaganda effort, toencourage Hutus to seek out and kill Tutsis, civilian or otherwise, because they were all, in hiswords, infiltrators and traitors to Rwanda.The Canadian courts failed to recognize the true meaning of Mugeseras speech, and declined todeport him. The court failed to recognize Mugeserasgenocidal intent because he couched hisincitements to violence in indirect and figurative language, but the incitement he intended wasnonetheless clear to Rwandas Hutus as a call to mobilize against all Tutsis. The court onlyconsidered the literal content of the speech, and lacked the understanding of the social context inwhich the speech was made. It did not recognize that there was a direct link between the speechand the genocide that ensued eighteen months later. It could not understand that thousands ofkillers were following orders passed by various means after a propaganda campaign initiated yearsbefore. Mugesera was not deported, but the prosecution has filed an appeal to challenge the courtsdecision.Legal Issues Facing the Regulation of Hate PropagandaMeasures to eradicate harmful propaganda are controversial. Hate propaganda undermines thehumanity of those targeted, but democratic societies are reluctant to pass laws limiting the freedomof expression. Freedom of expression is probably the most universally recognized human right. Mostinternational human rights instruments, as well as numerous national constitutions, containprovisions protecting it. The freedom to express ones opinion constitutes one of the basic conditionsfor societys progress and for the development of every human being. Unfortunately, such freedom isnot always used for the benefit of that society. History, in many circumstances, has demonstratedthat harmful propaganda has led to tragic events such as crimes against humanity and genocide. Inmost cases, propaganda is in fact the prerequisite for such crimes. That is why freedom of speechcomes with duties and responsibilities.Most international human rights instruments and international jurisprudence recognize that languagecan cause severe social harm, and that the suppression of hate speech is warranted when it isneeded to protect other rights, such as equality. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil andPolitical Rights (ICCPR) states that freedom of speech may be subject to restrictions when they arenecessary to guarantee respect for the rights of others. Similar to the Convention for the Protectionof Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention), the ICCPR contains aprovision that nothing in the instrument should be interpreted as granting any person the right toengage in an activity aimed at the destruction of any of the other rights recognised by the ICCPR.International bodies such as the European Court of Human Rights have developed a considerablejurisprudence on the limitation of freedom of expression. When faced with restrictions of thatfreedom, the court views that it is not faced with two conflicting rights, but with a freedom ofexpression that is subject to a number of exceptions, which, in turn, need to be interpreted narrowly.There are two opposing approaches concerning the regulation of hate speech and propaganda. Thecausationist approach, supported mainly by the United States, requires that a direct causal link be
  7. 7. proved to exist between the expression and the harm such expression has allegedly caused.Without that link, there can be no limitation imposed on the freedom of speech. The correlationistapproach, supported by a broad international consensus, requires the regulation of hate speech ifthere is a rational correlation between the expression and the harm that ensues afterward.Hate Speech Regulation in International LawThe regulation of hate speech revolves around the interplay between and the reconciliation of thefreedom of expression and the right of equality. There is an international consensus that hatespeech threatens democracy, justice, and equality, which is why so many countries attempt toprohibit it. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide declaresdirect and public incitement to commit genocide is a punishable act, but goes no further, and it omitshate propaganda in its list of crimes. Two subsequent international instruments have gone a stepfurther than simply acknowledging the limits of the freedom of speech by requiring states to penalizehate propaganda.Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that any propaganda forwar and any advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement todiscrimination, hostility, or violence shall be prohibited by law. Article 4 of the InternationalConvention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination (CERD) is even more precise. Statesthat are party to the convention must adopt positive measures to eradicate incitement todiscrimination, and must declare a punishable offense all dissemination of ideas based on racialsuperiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, as well as all acts of violence or incitementto such acts against any race or group of persons of another color or ethnic origin. The United Statessigned the document in 1966, but ratified it only in 1994. Ratification was made with reservations toprotect the freedom of speech doctrine developed in the United States, thus making the ratificationof that point almost pointless.International jurisprudence recognizes the possibility, even the obligation, of limiting free speechwhen faced with expressions of negative value, like hate speech. The ICCPR Committee hasaffirmed the duty of states to restrict the freedom of expression in order to assure the protection ofothers rights. In a case involving Holocaust denial, which is viewed by France as a subtle form ofanti-Semitic propaganda, the committee expressed the view that the prosecution of the defendant,Faurisson, did not breach his fundamental right of freedom of expression.The European Convention does not contain any specific provision dealing with hate propaganda. Innumerous cases, the European Commission of Human Rights has nonetheless excluded hatepropaganda from the protection of Article 10, which otherwise safeguards the freedom of speech.For the commission, hate propaganda is contrary to the text and spirit of the European Conventionand contributes to the destruction of the rights and freedoms set forth therein.In two cases, the European Court of Human Rights has dealt explicitly with hate propaganda andhas made it clear that hate speech regulation was compatible with the European Convention.Recognizing the utmost importance of the freedom of speech, the court nonetheless agreed that the
  8. 8. convention should be interpreted, whenever possible, in a way reconcilable with the CERD, whichexplicitly prohibits hate speech. Denial of the Holocaust and the justification of pro-Nazi policies wereconsidered to be a form of hate and racist propaganda that was not protected by the free-expressionprovisions of Article 10 of the convention.