The Prevention of Genocide: Ideas from International Politics and a Symposium on International Law (GSP 2:1)

The Prevention of Genocide: Ideas from International Politics and a Symposium on International Law (GSP 2:1)

ISSN: 1911-0359
E-ISSN: 1911-9933
This Journal is online at: GSP Online and Project MUSE
Price: $20.00
Description
Theme Issues
The Prevention of Genocide: Ideas from International Politics and a Symposium on International Law Volume 2, Number 1 / April 2007

Broadly speaking, GSP 2:1 focuses on the prevention of genocide. The lead article, by Thomas Weiss, Presidential Professor of Political Science and Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, examines genocide prevention in the real world of politics. Weiss points out that, ‘‘except for the label, the responses of the international community of states to Rwanda and Sudan were comparable.’’ He notes that ‘‘perhaps, as Scott Straus has argued in these pages, we have invested too much time and energy in parsing the ‘G-word.’’’ In this sense Weiss is a perfect supplement to David Scheffer’s arguments, originally published in GSP 1:3, concerning the need for a new category of crime. Weiss, however, is interested more in making genocide prevention a political reality than in changing the definition of the crime. His article, as he notes, ‘‘explores the chasm between norms and practice for both military and civilian humanitarians.’’ Weiss looks at what he calls ‘‘five impediments to human protection in genocidal contexts: resistance from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); blow-back from 9/11;
a distracted superpower; spoilers, war economies, and privatization; and the civilian humanitarian identity crisis itself.’’ All these, Weiss argues, constitute a threat to ‘‘international order and justice.’’ He points out how, in most instances, civilians under attack or under siege in war zones want intervention, yet rhetoric continues to replace action and the dead and dying continue to wait. It is this waiting and lack of action that motivated David Scheffer, US ambassador at large for war crimes issues from 1997 through 2001 and currently the Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw/Robert B. Helman Professor of Law and director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University,  in the lead article of GSP 1:3, to issue an exciting and interesting call for a new genre of human-rights crimes. The Scheffer article may be found in GSP 1:3 and online at http://utpjournals.metapress.com.
Scheffer argues that the term ‘‘genocide’’ imposes limitations on action to protect human rights, and he calls for a new category of international law, ‘‘atrocity crimes.’’ The purpose here, he argues, is to ‘‘simplify and yet render more accurate both the public dialogue and legal terminology describing genocide and other atrocity crimes.’’ Since the editors of Genocide Studies and Prevention found Scheffer’s proposal so interesting and innovative, we invited some of the leading scholars in the study of genocide to comment on his presentation. In the lead commentary, William Schabas, a professor of human rights law at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, closely examines Scheffer’s proposal. Schabas points out that similar ideas have been floated earlier but never appeared to gain support. He proceeds to argue that ‘‘there are many recent developments favoring this drive for greater coherence and more simplicity.’’ Schabas notes that the international tribunals, in fact, have pointed in the same direction and that, for example, ‘‘with rare exceptions, every ‘atrocity’ committed (from Editor’s Introduction by Herbert Hirsch)

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