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AIPR: Working To Change How We Prevent Genocide


by Kelly Bonner and Harold Williford1 T


he problem of genocide is older than most people think – dating back to the ancient world. Sadly, even after repeated instances of genocide during the 20th


century, including the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, and the horrors of Rwanda and Bosnia, responses to genocide typically have remained re- active: After actual atrocities have begun, prevention becomes the process by which the international community uses military interven- tion, economic sanctions, and/ or international criminal justice to end the killing. Recent examples include Rwanda, the Balkans, and Darfur, where international mea- sures were implemented only af- ter large-scale violence occurred.


Enter the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR). AIPR hopes to change the para- digm for responses to genocide by focusing policies related to genocide on true prevention, as opposed to reaction. In doing so, AIPR is trying to help policy-makers better com- prehend the process of genocide in societies so that they may understand how their actions may at various points interrupt cycles that can culmi- nate in destructive violence.


during the war. Lemkin argued that there were certain crimes that had not previously been rec- ognized under international law which bring harm not only to individual human rights, like the slave trade or human trafficking, but that also “under- mine the fundamental basis of the social order.” What Lemkin termed “Acts of Barbarity” later be- came known as genocide.


AIPR defines prevention as the sum of actions taken to ensure that all communities participate in society


and are not victimized. Key elements of prevention within this framework are good governance, sustainable development, and the rule of law, with a focus on group dynamics


to prevent marginalization. Thus, AIPR seeks to expand the role of real prevention and thereby reduce


instances where crisis management becomes the only option.


Lemkin said that genocide must be a crime under in- ternational law because its common feature “is to en- danger both the existence of the collectively concerned and the entire social order.” In a prescient observation about the nature of genocide Lemkin wrote:


Considering the contagious character of any social psy- chosis, actions of this kind directed against collec- tivities constitute a general transnational danger. Simi-


The term “genocide” entered the lexicon follow- ing World War II. Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer who lost nearly 50 family members in the Holo- caust, coined the term to describe a historical process that he discussed in writings before and


lar to epidemics, they can pass from one country to another. The danger formed by these actions has the tendency to become stable since the criminal effects, which can- not be addressed as an isolated punishable act, require, on the contrary, a whole series of consecutive responses.


After World War II, Lemkin campaigned tirelessly for the Convention on the Prevention and Pun- ishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was adopted in 1949. The Convention established


ILSA Quarterly » volume 22 » issue 4 » May 2014


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