Tuesday, November 20

Genocide - Definitional discussions

I was having a chat with a colleague on my previous post about the fact that the Communist West Bengal, India government was conducting pogroms and part genocide against the Nandigrami's. On being asked why I said part-genocide, I pointed to the definition as given in the Article II of the United Nations Genocide Convention of 1948. I quote:

Article 2
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:
(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 the group to another group.

Interestingly enough, somebody sent me a paper almost immediately afterwards on this issue. "Can there be genocide without the intent to commit genocide?" I quote the conclusion:

Intentionality is an important element in domestic law. The difference between homicide and murder, for example, turns on the degree of intent that is present in the act of taking life. The negligent killing of a pedestrian by a motorist is not the same as a deliberate assault that aims at the death of the victim. In the same way, I have argued in this essay, there is every reason not to ignore the role of intent in what is often called "the crime of crimes" - the destruction of an entire group of people or genocide. Proof of specific intent is necessary to find an individual guilty of genocide, and the role of intent is similarly crucial when the historian assesses an episode of mass death that occurred in the past. A large loss of life should be the point of departure for a searching investigation to determine responsibility, but in and by itself it should never be sufficient for a finding of genocide. The disregard of intentionality will create an incomplete or distorted picture and lead to false conclusions.
In the absence of a confession, the establishment of intent in mass deaths that occurred in the past is often difficult. Yet many times genocidal intent can be inferred from factors such as the scale of the atrocities committed or the deliberate targeting of victims on account of their membership in a particular group. "The emphasis on intent is important," Kurt Jonassohn has correctly noted, "because it removes from consideration not only natural disasters but also those man-made disasters that took place without explicit planning. Many of the epidemics of communicable diseases that reached genocidal proportions, for example, were caused by unwitting human actions."
61 To the victims it makes no difference whether they died because of a deadly epidemic or as a result of a planned programme of destruction. It does make a difference for the assignment of responsibility and guilt and, more importantly, for historical truth.

Now if this argument is valid, and there is sufficient logic and fact in it to say that it has validity, then it may well be that the Indian incidents of 1984 and 2002 do qualify as genocide. But the main quibble about 2007 would be the identification of Nandigrami's as a discreet unique group. Now there i have issues as the situation is extremely complicated by all news reports as to who all were there. One has heard reports about Maoists, normal villagers, opposition party members, etc. etc. being there. But to quote the other side, the communists actually claimed that all the people there were Maoists. So if the entire Nandigram operation was targeted at Maoists, then does it qualify fully as a genocide? Not sure.

JO - Journal of Genocide ResearchPB - RoutledgeAU - Lewy, GuenterTI - Can there be genocide without the intent to commit genocide?SN - 1462-3528PY - 2007VL - 9IS - 4SP - 661EP - 674

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

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