Does the criminalization of genocide actually matter, or does it create more complication than it resolves?

Turabian Format

This week we deal with the complicated problems insuring human rights and security around the world in a system characterized by anarchy and led by sovereign states for any number of reasons unevenly committed if at all to the wellbeing of citizens of other states. Many of these reasons you have already learned in previous modules and cases of states either unable or unwilling to make the sacrifice necessary to ensure the safety and security of threatened populations not belonging to them.

While the UN and powerful states have the authority if not the power in some cases to intervene militarily for humanitarian reasons, this does not seem to be the norm—again for many reasons. While much has been said and done after WWII to try to protect vulnerable peoples within bad acting, failing, or failed states, including anti-genocide legislation and the more recent R2P (the right to protect) convention, we are still likely to see a failure to prevent human rights abuses either within or between states.

Your paper will be a response to the film, Ghosts of Rawanda, a film revisiting the 1994 genocide committed by Hutu militias against rival Tutsi tribespeople resulting in nearly 500,000–800,000 civilian deaths.

In a world where most students have heard the post-Holocaust mantra “Never Again,” repeatedly trumpeted, pay special attention to the stories and reminiscences of former participants in the event—UN officials from the Sec. General to Peacekeepers on the ground, key presidential and state department officials in Washington, other diplomats from both developed and developing countries, US and other international journalists, and local officials on the ground in Rawanda.

One stunning takeaway from this event is a tragic ‘success’: all of the people, states, and institutions involved forged a successful temporary alliance to avoid a policy of humanitarian intervention that might have saved tens of thousands of lives!

Your job is to apply what you have learned in the course readings to the case of the Rwandan massacre to explain how and why this happened and is likely to happen again.


In 5-7 double spaced pages in Turabian format, not including additional pages for title and references, answer the following prompts below separately in a single document using all learning available this session including biblical and extra-biblical resources, your own research, and the important chapter 10 material on Human Rights

. You may write more pages if necessary. At least 7 sources must be used and may include the course text, Bible, and scholarly articles.

 How and why did it happen?

 With so much talk of “Never Again” as well as human rights law criminalizing genocide, how and why did so many good, responsible people, states, and institutions agree to do nothing in the face of mass murder?

Does the criminalization of genocide actually matter, or does it create more complication than it resolves?

 Were some international actors or people more culpable than others?

 Did the media play a role here as an early warning system, or worse, as an aid to the killing?

 Does the current international norm known as R2P (the Right to Protect) seem a robust deterrent likely to change the desirability of states for military-based humanitarian intervention?

 More recently, Yale Holocaust historian Tim Snyder has attempted to explain how so many civilians became complicit in helping Nazis commit mass murder in Eastern Europe. Massive numbers of civilians have been killed in Darfur (beginning in 2003, also referred to as genocide) and the Syrian civil war, with little robust willingness on the part of developed nations to militarily intervene—is there a pattern of conditions or behaviors here that triggers a ‘bystander’ policy for states and international institutions?

 Finally, why do you think Christian Churches, statesmen, and NGOs were not particularly different than others in their response to the Rwanda crisis?

The Jewish and Christian faith traditions have traditionally asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”, a rhetorical question signaling our moral responsibility to safeguard the lives of humans as humans. But in cases like these it needs to be asked—why has the organized Church been slow to mobilize?

Apart from humanitarian aid assistance, did they mobilize for Darfur and Syria?