Pogroms and Massacres

submitted by International Human Rights Association Bremen

Massacres, Pogroms, Destruction of property, Sexual violence and Assassinations of civil society leaders

Discussing Raphael Lemkin’s contribution in drafting the UN Convention on Genocide, William Schabas writes: “Lemkin’s broad view of the nature of genocide was reflected in the original draft convention, proposed by Saudi Arabia in late 1946. Article I contemplated mass killing, destruction of ‘the essential potentialities of life’, ‘planned disintegration of the political, social or economic structure’, ‘systematic moral debasement’ and ‘acts of terrorism committed for the purpose of creating a state of common danger and alarm…..with the intent of producing [the group’s] political, social , economic or moral disintegration.’1 Lemkin’s thinking on the crime of genocide demonstrates much broader understanding about the nature of the crime apart from reflecting his deep sensitivity towards the plight of the victim group. At the same time, his long and detailed formulations – which were largely left out in the final draft – clearly manifested his determination to avoid leaving any loophole that would allow perpetrators to walk free.

Lemkin’s fears seem to be well justified when we scrutinise the UN Convention’s track record in terms of practical applicability and preventive capacity since its adoption in 1948. Various state perpetrators who carried out genocidal attacks against victim groups have long enjoyed impunity as they have been always provided with legal escape routes despite the magnitude and the nature of their crimes. One reliable way is to conceal and legitimise the crimes using the argument of ‘rights of a sovereign state’ while making any atrocity appear as ‘collateral’ rather than ‘intentional’. Sri Lankan state stands out as an example of callous cruelty and ability to enjoy international impunity which re-confirms Lemkin’s fears.

This report intends to present a brief but comprehensive account on the brutalisation of the Tamil population, within the framework of the UN Convention.

The full document can be downloaded here: Massacres, Pogroms, Destruction of property, Sexual violence and Assassinations of civil society leaders [pdf: 95 kb]