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Mass crimes against humanity and genocides

Atrocities since World War II

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The descriptions below, of mass crimes against humanity, are sorted by the starting date of the atrocity. The numbers of victims are not particularly accurate; often records are very incomplete.

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1949 to 1987 China Communists Chinese public 40 million

Mao was responsible for about 40 million total deaths of which most were lost during the Great Leap Forward "which created a famine that killed some 30 million. If we confine our indictment to deliberate killings..." Mao was responsible for about 10 million deaths. 11

"From 1949 onwards, through a succession of failed economic experiments, notably the calamitous 'Great Leap Forward,' and ever more Byzantine political campaigns to suppress 'counter-revolutionaries' - code for anyone perceived to be against the Chairman [Mao Ze Dong]- the citizens of the People's Republic of China went to their deaths in their millions, by execution, starvation or despairingly by their own hands in repeated waves of suicide."

About half starved to death during 1959 and 1960.

In addition, Mao Ze Dong

"launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1966, in what appeared to be a massive cleansing policy to ensure the final victory of Mao and his clique over the rest of the Chinese Communist party. Over the next decade, literally millions of people were sacked, imprisoned and otherwise reviled for hitherto hidden 'bourgeois tendencies' while tens of thousands were executed." 1

His successors continued the bloodletting, but at a much slower rate. Recent examples are the massacre at Tiananmen Square, and the current imprisonment, torture and execution of persons who practice Falun Dafa -- a Chinese meditation/exercise technique.

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1975 to 1979 Cambodia Khmer Rouge Public 1.7 to 2 million

This massacre of almost 25% of the population of Cambodia was perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge during the Democratic Kampuchea (DK) communist regime headed by the late Pol Pot. 2 Their goal was to forcibly convert Cambodia into a peasant state.

Intellectuals were particularly targeted. "The Cambodian genocide is unique, though, in that for many years it remained largely undocumented, and is only now being investigated for the purposes of bringing its perpetrators to justice." 3 Tens of thousands of pages of records, over 10,000 photos, and other material are being systematically documented by specialists at Yale University, the Documentation Center of Cambodia, and the University of New South Wales. Included are maps showing the locations of more than 5,000 mass grave sites -- the "killing fields."

After a delay of almost three and a half decades, genocide trials began on 2009-FEB-17 with the trial of Kaing Kech leu, a.k.a. Duch. He headed the S-21 torture center in Tuoi Dlrnh during the 1970s. Between 1975 and 1979, about 17,000 men, women and children were sent to the interrogation center. Only 14 adults and 5 children survived. Four other trials will follow: Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's "Brother Number Two"; Ieng Sary, the Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister; his wife Ieng Thirith, who was Minister of Social Affairs; and Khieu Samphan, who served as President. 15 The Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, died peacefully in 1998 without having been brought to justice.

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1975 to 1999 East Timor Muslims Roman Catholics 200,000

In 1974-APR, the overthrow of Portuguese dictator Marcelo Caetano led to self-government for East Timor, a Portuguese colony. On 1975-DEC-7, Indonesian army invaded East Timor and took over control of the half-island. About 100,000 of the original population of 600,000 died during the first year of occupation. The military

"used harsh tactics to coerce cooperation from the people and solidify Indonesian rule. These methods have included forced migration, rape and forced sterilization, forced military service, torture, murder, and harassment." By 1999, "One in four East Timorese is thought to have lost his or her life in the struggle." 4

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1985 Sudan Mainly Muslim militia and government Initially, mostly Animists & Christiaas; now mainly Muslims About 200,000 deaths; millions dislocated

The country has had a series of military conflicts since the late 19th century. Its most recent civil was was partly triggered by the discovery of oil in southern Sudan and an increase effort by the Muslim government in the North to convert residents in the south from Animism and Christianity to Islam by force. A fragile peace agreement was in place by 2004. However, it did not include the Darfur region in western Sudan.

An armed rebellion in Darfur by the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement has been countered mainly by Arab "Janjaweed" -- a militia group armed by the central government. On the order of two million people in Darfur have been displaced. The number of deaths is unknown; the central government estimates 9,000 civilians killed. The UN estimates 200,000 deaths. Other estimates range as high as 400,000. 13,14

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1994 Rwanda Mainly Hutus Mainly Tutsis; some moderate Hutus about 800,000

Before 1994, about 85% of the population of Rwanda was Hutu, of Bantu origin; 10 to 14% were Tutsi, of Catalonian origin; fewer than 3% were Twa, of Pygmoid origin. During the early 1990's, the government of Rwanda carried out a program of ethnic division, raising hatred against the Tutsi minority in the country. On 1994-APR-6, president Juvenal Habyarimana was killed in a plane crash. Tutsi extremists are believed to have been responsible. The Rwandan Armed Forces and Hutu militia immediately started to systematically murder Tutsis and moderate Hutu politicians. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda, a peacekeeping force, was ordered to not intervene, because that would violate their limited, monitoring mandate. French, Belgium and American citizens were airlifted from the country. Two weeks later, the International Red Cross (IRC) estimated that tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Rwandans had been killed. The UN pulled 90% of its peacekeeping troops out of the country. When the killing finally stopped, about 800,000 Rwandans had been murdered in 100 days; almost all were Tutsis. Unlike many other incidences of mass crimes against humanity in the 1980's and 1990's, there was a strong ethnic component to the slaughter. 5  In 1999-MAR, the "...Human Rights Watch release[d] a report titled, 'Leave None to Tell the Story.'.. It...criticizes the U.N., the U.S., France and Belgium for knowing about preparations for the impending slaughter and not taking action to prevent the killings." 7 " The Organization of African Unity commissioned a seven-person panel to study the genocide. In its 296 page report issued in mid-2000, and titled "Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide," they determined that, among influences external to Rwanda, the United States, Belgium and France were primarily culpable. However, "within Rwanda itself, those with the heaviest responsibility were the Catholic and Anglican hierarchies and the French government." The report notes that:

"Church leaders failed to use their unique moral position among the overwhelmingly Christian population to denounce ethnic hatred and human rights abuse." 10 " ...both Anglicans and RCs [Roman Catholics] were widely seen as siding with the Hutu killers, as a result of which their sanctuary status was lost. A number of bishops and priests were killed by the re-invading Tutsi. It can be said that Islam alone (1% of the population) has consistently supported the interests of all ethnic groups equally." 6

About 75% of the Tutsi population were killed in the genocide. Court trials are underway. 

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Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1995 to 1999 Bosnia Herzegovina Serbian Orthodox Christians (mainly) Muslims (mainly) 200,000 

For historical reasons, almost all of the population of the former Yugoslavia follow one of three faith groups. Two are Christian groups: Serbian Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism; the third is Islam. Throughout the 1990's, Slobodan Milosevic and other politicians exploited long standing religious divisions in the country, in order to promote their nationalistic aims. 

The Bosnian Serbs, mainly followers of the Bosnian Orthodox church, more than the other groups in the country, first adopted a policy of "ethnic cleansing." In reality, it was actually religious cleansing. This involved the forced relocation of the mostly Roman Catholic Croats and the Muslims. As a precursor to this policy, non-Serbs were identified as traitors, and a massive propaganda campaign started. A program of ethnic cleansing was started: Non-serbs were removed from their homes and forcibly relocated. Ethnic cleansing evolved into religious genocide, with systematic destruction of libraries and mosques, mass, systematic rape of women, and mass killing of non-Serbs. The world viewed a scaled-down version of the Nazi holocaust, involving "civilian and POW non-Serbs, primarily Muslims, in sealed freight trains to camps where starvation, regular beatings, lack of shelter, torture, and occasional mass shootings made life expectancy short." 8

The United Nations decided to establish "safe areas" inside Bosnia. However, these were hopelessly understaffed with troops. They were often over-run and the inhabitants were exterminated. NATO military intervention, coupled with diplomatic and economic pressure from the west resulted in all of the belligerent parties accepting the Dayton Accords in 1995-NOV. The war and genocide stopped; peace remains elusive. 8.9 International peace-keeping troops will probably have to be stationed there for decades.

Slobodan Milosevic died of an apparent heart attack during 2006-MAR while in prison near the end of his four year trial on multiple counts crimes against humanity. The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) wrote:

"....it is now more than ever crucial that the international community bring other indicted war criminals to justice in order to bring about a much-needed process of truth and reconciliation....The European Union has given the Serbian government until April to hand over Ratko Mladić, military leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 war, who is accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes for the siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of thousands of Muslim men and boys around Srebrenica in July 1995. The Bosnian Serbs' wartime political leader, Radovan Karadžić, also has yet to surrender to the Hague tribunal. Both men have been fugitives for more than 10 years. Capturing and trying Mladić and Karadžić should be an immediate priority of the international community in order to deliver long overdue justice that is crucial in order to begin the heal the scars faced by those who witnessed the Balkan genocide firsthand." 12

As of 2009-FEB, Mladić and Karadžić remain at large in spite of a U.S. government reward of $5 million and a Serbian government reward of €1 million for information leading to their arrests. A poll has revealed that as many as 65% of Serbs would not reveal information leading to their arrests.

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1998 to 1999 Kosovo Mainly Serbian Orthodox Christians Mainly Muslims 400,000 displaced; deaths unknown

By 1998, the former Yugoslavia had shrunk to three political divisions: Serbia, Kosovo and a semi-autonomous district, Montenegro. The mainly Muslim Albanian rebels in Kosovo were fighting for independence. The central government in Belgrade, mainly controlled by Serbian Orthodox Christians, had attempted to crush the rebellion. They "used excessive force against the Albanian civilian population, destroying villages and driving people from their homes...By September 1998...there was a full-blown humanitarian crisis in Kosovo." 5 At its peak, 300,000 Kosovars had fled their homes. 60,000 had no shelter. With the onset of winter, it was feared that many would die. NATO threatened air strikes against Serbia if it did not comply with a U.N. resolution calling for a ceasefire. Serbia appeared to comply. "...the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), representing 54 states, entered into an agreement with [Serbian president Slobodan] Milosevic that would establish the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), composed of at least 2,000 unarmed verifiers from the member states." 5 After many cease-fire violations (mostly by Serbian forces) and a massacre of 45 unarmed ethnic Albanian civilians by Serbian forces in the village of Racak on 1999-JAN-15, the situation degenerated seriously. The U.S. and Russia called on both sides to adhere to previous agreements. NATO threatened to take military action if that was not done. By early 1999-FEB almost 400,000 Kosovars (almost 20% of the population) had been displaced. President Milosevic's intransigence ultimately forced NATO to take military action. After destruction of much of the infrastructure of Serbia, the central government withdrew its troops and police from Kosovo. 

An uneasy peace currently exists between the minority Serbian Orthodox population and the majority Albanians, who are mostly Muslim. International peacekeepers attempt to maintain stability. The United Nations has assumed administrative responsibility for Kosovo. More details.

This tragedy is believed to be the first international war action in history that was mounted in order to return human rights to a oppressed population.

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1997 to present Democratic Republic of the Congo Government, army, army irregulars and rebels. General public About 6 million killed. Others suffered rape, destruction of property. etc. Deaths continue.

According to Human Rights Watch:

"Laurent-Desire Kabila took control of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997 after a bloody war in which his supporters and Rwandan and Ugandan allies killed tens of thousands of civilians. He defended his regime in a second war after his erstwhile allies, Rwanda and Uganda, invaded the country in 1998. In this second war, Kabila's forces, like those of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Congolese rebels allied with them, have all engaged in indiscriminate attacks on civilians, extrajudicial executions, rape, and destruction of property, with the result of massive displacement of population."

"During his nearly four years in power, Kabila regularly and ruthlessly violated the human rights of the Congolese people, killing, torturing, imprisoning, and causing the "disappearance" of any who he thought threatened him or his regime. Among those who suffered most were political opponents, leaders of civil society, human rights activists, and journalists."

The Second Congo War (a.k.a. Africa's World War and the Great War of Africa) resulted in the deaths of about 5.4 million people -- mostly by starvation and disease -- between 1998-AUG and the date that it officially ended in 2003-JUL. The death toll was the highest of any war since World War II. By late 2009, about a half million people were still dying each year.

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
2010 (if a proposed law is passed) Uganda Judicial murder Lesbians, gays, & bisexual adults who engage in same-sex sexual behavior If detected, about 5% of the adult population may be legally murdered

A bill has been proposed to execute lesbians, gays, and bisexuals who engage in same-sex behavior. Religious groups in the country support the bill enthusiastically. Much of the inspiration of the bill came from American fundamentalists and other evangelicals.

Copying a policy of Nazi Germany, the bill stipulates that if any adult is aware of someone engaging in same-sex sexual behavior, they must report them to the police within a short time interval or face a lengthy jail sentence.

The bill has yet to become law. More details.


  1. Philip Short, "Mao: A life,"
  2. Ben Kiernan, "The Pol Pot regime: Race, power and genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge," 1975-9," 0300070527
  3. "Welcome to the Cambodian Genocide Program," at: http://www.yale.edu/cgp/  
  4. "East Timor index page," at: http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/ 
  5. "The Triumph of Evil,"  PBS/Frontline, at: http://www.pbs.org/
  6. "Rwanda and Zaire: Comprehending the crisis," at: http://www.chesterwdf.org.uk/
  7. "Leave none to tell the story: Genocide in Rwanda," Human Rights Watch, at: http://www.hrw.org/
  8. K.V. Lawrence, "International dimensions of genocide," at: http://members2.boo.net/
  9. "Bosnia: Psychology of genocide," at: http://www.megastories.com/ 
  10. "Rwanda: The preventable genocide," Vision TV, at: http://www.visiontv.ca/. This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  11. "Question: Who was the Bloodiest Tyrant of the 20th Century? Answer: We don't know," Twentieth Century Atlast, at: http://users.erols.com/
  12. "After Milosevic, other war criminals must be captured and tried," MPAC News, 2006-MAR-14, at: http://app.e2ma.net/
  13. "Probe into Sudan genocide claims," CNN, 2004-APR-22, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  14. "Darfur conflict," Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  15. Anne Barrowclough, "Survivor of Khmer Rouge death camp to give evidence at trial," Times Online, 2009-FEB-16, at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/

Site navigation: Home page > Laws & religionGenocide > here

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Copyright © 2001 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JAN-1
Latest update: 2009-NOV-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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