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Mass crimes against humanity and genocides

Preventing future genocides

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bulletMadeleine K. Albright and William S. Cohen, co-chairs of the Genocide Prevention Task Force: "The world agrees that genocide is unacceptable and yet genocide and mass killings continue. We have a duty to find the answer before the vow of 'never again' is once again betrayed." 1


The slogan "never again," cited above, was popularized after the full extent of the Nazi genocide during World War II became known to the world. On the order of 12 million humans had been systematically exterminated by the Nazis because of their religion, nationality, sexual orientation, political ideation, or pacifism. Of these, about half were murdered simply because they were Jews. About one third of Europe's Jews -- children, women and men -- did not survive what they call the Shoa. About 500,000 Roma (a.k.a. Gypsies) and Sinti persons died in what they called "The Great Devouring." Large numbers of Poles and other Slavs, Jehovah's Witnesses, gays and lesbians were also included.

But the "never again" became "many times more" as:

bulletEast Timor: About 24% of the Christian population was murdered by the Muslim Indonesian army. The slaughter starting with the invasion of East Timor in 1975 and lasted until 1999.
bulletBosnia Herzegovina: Many tens of thousands of persons -- mainly Muslims -- were murdered -- mostly by Serbian Orthodox Christians -- in  during the 1990s.
bulletRwanda: About 800,000 Tutus and moderate Hutus were massacred by Hutus during 1994 while the world stood by and took essentially no action.

Research into the causes and prevention of genocide:

The Genocide Prevention Task Force report titled "Preventing Genocide," referred to below, commented:

"There is no consensus as to the causes of genocide and mass atrocities, nor is there one commonly agreed-upon theory that sufficiently explains the key catalysts, motivations, or mechanisms that lead to them. History has shown that genocide and mass atrocities can manifest themselves in highly variable ways, and we should not assume that future perpetrators will follow old patterns." 2

Research by the Political Instability Task Force (PITF) -- a group of academic experts studying political instability and state failure -- and others, found that the:

"... strongest and most reliable genocide risk factor is the existence of an armed conflict or a change in regime character. Virtually all instances of genocide or mass atrocities since World War II occurred coincident with or closely following a major internal conflict or the taking of power by more radical or more harshly authoritarian leaders. Examples include Cambodia, Guatemala, Algeria, the former Yugoslavia, and Sudan. Other conditions associated with elevated risk of genocide and mass atrocities include history of genocide, autocracy, state-led discrimination, and high infant mortality. ... It is worth underscoring that there is little support for the conventional wisdom suggesting that religious or ethnic diversity in itself poses risks for genocide or mass atrocities." 3

Preventing genocide and mass crimes against humanity:

A task force to find ways of preventing genocide was convened in 2007-NOV by three U.S. groups: 1

bulletThe United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "... a living memorial to the Holocaust, inspires citizens and leaders to confront hatred, promote human dignity and prevent genocide." See http://www.ushmm.org
bulletThe American Academy of Diplomacy "... promotes an understanding of the importance of diplomacy to serving our nation and enhancing America?s standing in the world." See: http://www.academyofdiplomacy.org
bulletThe United States Institute of Peace, whose goals "... are to prevent and resolve violent international conflicts, promote post-conflict stability and development, and increase peacebuilding capacity, tools, and intellectual capital worldwide." See http://www.usip.org

 The Task Force released its public report on 2008-DEC-08. 2

Key themes of the Genocide Prevention Task Force report:

A brochure by the Task Force states:


Genocide and mass atrocities threaten core American values and national interests. From the president on down, preventing genocide must be a national priority.


Preventing genocide is achievable. Working with international partners, the U.S. can take practical steps to prevent mass atrocities at every stage. The choice is not between doing nothing and large-scale military intervention.

bulletThe [US] administration should develop and implement a government-wide policy to prevent genocide and mass atrocities, including the creation of standing institutional mechanisms to ensure that the U.S. government takes timely and effective action. 1

Key recommendations of the Genocide Prevention Task Force report:

Their emphasis is on prevention of genocide and mass atrocities, by early threat detection and prevention of escalation:

bulletCreating an interagency Atrocities Prevention Committee within the National Security Council to continually analyze threats before they materialize, and consider options to prevent them from escalating.
bulletSetting up a system whereby acute warnings of potential genocide or mass atrocities automatically trigger a policy review.

Developing military guidance on genocide prevention and response; incorporate it into doctrine and training.


Prepare interagency genocide prevention and response plans for high-risk situations.


Launch a major diplomatic initiative to create an international network for information sharing and coordinated action.

bulletProvide assistance to build the prevention capacity of international partners -- including the UN and the world's regional organizations

Invest $250 million in new funds for crisis prevention and response. Make $50 million of this amount available for urgent off-cycle activities to prevent or halt emerging genocidal crises. 1

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Madeleine K. Albright & William S. Cohen, brochure, "Preventing Genocide: A blueprint for U.S. policymakers," United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, at: http://www.ushmm.org/
  2. "Preventing Genocide," report, page 23 of 174, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, at: http://www.ushmm.org/ This is a PDF file.
  3. Ibid, Page 49

Site navigation: Home page > Laws & religionGenocide > here

or: Home page > Religious violence > Genocide > here

Originally written: 2009-NOV-01
Latest update: 2009-NOV-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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