Genocide is not an accusation or charge which should be taken lightly. Too many times politicians have used the term "genocide" to whip up the masses into a frenzy, in order to justify their own dictatorships and atrocities. Case in point: Serb politicians during the late 1980s and early 1990s. These politicians manipulated and exploited the very real genocide faced by the Serbs (and others) by the Ustasha regime; by convincing the public that they were under the threat of a "genocide" today by a united Ustasha/Islamic Fundamentalist front. Add to that a Blatant propaganda campaign of lies and manipulations; some good old fashion religious demagoguery and ultra nationalism; and you have a situation where far too many good people; people like you and me, stood by and did nothing as their neighbors were rounded up, put in camps, raped, killed, or kicked out of homes.
The politicians used a false charge and accusation of genocide to get public support behind their own genocidal campaign against the Bosniaks.
Therefore, claiming that an event is an act of genocide needs to be make cautiously.
That is why when a genocide has and does take place; we must do everything in our power to stop the atrocities and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Genocide is truly the crimes of crimes; because, as the Kristic appeals verdict noted; at the root of genocide is a desire to destroy a human group. That destruction, whether partial or attempted has a ripple effect on all of mankind; far beyond the group slated for destruction.
That is why genocide denial irkes me so much. The very motive behind this blog in the first place was because I was disgusted by the number of Bosnian genocide denial and justification found on the internet. And the only thing I find more disgusting than outright genocide denial are the people who seek to justify mass slaughter; as if such a thing could ever be justified.
So, while acknowledging my rather emotional p.o.v. on this subject, I still want to know why do people deny genocide?
I suppose to obvious answer would be: they don't think genocide occurred.
Which of course prompts me to ask an even more obvious question, why not?
Before we look at why people deny genocide, it is important to understand how people deny genocide:
On the web, I found this copy of a college lecture that compares genocide denial and looks at the forms genocide denial has manifests itself.
Copy found here:
Genocide Denial Summary
What I found most interesting was the list of common tactics used by those who deny genocide.
1. The civil war argument: all sides were equally guilty for crimes/equally victimized.
2. Blaming the victims: They were "dangerous" "violent" and provoked the perpetrators.
3. The absence of a centrally planned genocide, or of motive to commit genocide: The crimes were spontaneous acts of violence.
4. The victim group lied and manipulated evidence to justify intervention/gain sympathy.
5. The number games: How many were killed etc.
6. Insufficient evidence: There isn't the forensic or historical evidence to support a claim of genocide.
7. Definitionism: Those who claim that the mass slaughter that occurred was not an act of genocide. In other words, a misunderstanding of the Genocide Convention.
Although the lecture never mentions the Bosnian genocide in the summary; every single one of these tactics have been used by genocide deniers/justifiers with regard to Bosnia.
Now, it is time to look at why people deny genocide/justify genocide This is the million dollar question. And there is no single answer.
Some people are not what I would call genocide deniers per se, but those who do not understand what genocide is. In my opinion, if we simply educate them on the provisions of the Genocide Convention, then they wouldn't hesitate to call genocide a genocide.
Then there are also people who are motivated by external political concerns. These are the people who can't find Bosnia on a map; but the minute NATO intervened, suddenly sought to deny the genocide against the Bosniaks.
Then there are the people who are motivated by a phobia or hatred of the victim group. For example, these would be the Islamophobes or racists.
There are certainly other motives as well, but these were the top ones I thought of on the top of my head.
UCLA has an excellent page looking at the reasons why genocide denial of Armenia, the Holocaust, Rwanda and Darfur have and continue to take place.
Next, is what we can do to combat genocide denial. This is difficult, after all the person who is convinced that the Holocaust was a result of a Jewish conspiracy theory, is probably not going to be swayed by a little something called 'evidence.'
And I'm aware, that no matter how much evidence one has, there are still going to be people who deny genocide. But, I still think there are some tools we can use.
1. Teach people about the genocide convention and the legal definition of genocide. Teach them what constitutes genocide. This is the most important, because so much denial, especially with regard to Bosnia is stemmed from a lack of understanding of the Genocide Convention.
2. Show the historic evidence of how the genocide was planned. Especially with regard to Bosnia, there are people who still see the war as a civil war. By showing evidence of the propaganda and planning of the genocide; we can combat this.
3. Show the evidence, especially neutral evidence like forensic and DNA evidence that supports evidence of a mass slaughter. Denial or manipulation of evidence is a key tactic of genocide denial.
4. Take every argument made by the genocide denial (and not genocide "Denmark" as the spell check said ;-) ) and show point by point where they are wrong.
I don't think any one is going to be motivated to change their mind; but it is still important to consistently speak out against genocide denial and to show that genocide occured.
I'm interested in knowing what do other people think are the causes for genocide denial. Is there anything we can do to combat that denial, or is it a lost cause?
What ways are most effective to combat genocide denial?