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Genocide Prevention

What is genocide?

According to the 1948 Article 2, UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Genocide is defined as acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. It could be killings, causing serious physical or mental harm, deliberately inflicting conditions that lead to destruction, imposing measures to prevent births, and forcibly removing children.

There are also other terms for crimes that do not fall under the definition of genocide, but are still grave and violent, such as crimes against humanity, war crimes, mass killings and ethnic cleansing.

How do we prevent genocides?

Based on research made by Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, President of Genocide Watch in 1996, there are ten stages of genocide. This stage model of the genocidal process was initially only eight stages, first set forth in 1987 as a briefing paper. The two following stages have been added to the 1996 model. The purpose of the model was to place the risk factors in Barbara Harff’s pioneering analysis of country risks of genocide and politicide, into a processual structure. Professor Alan Whitehorn of the Royal Military College of Canada, and Professor Elisa von Joeden-Forgey improved the model by noting the gendered aspects of genocides.

The ten stages make it possible to predict the process of gencide. The stages can happen in various orders and can occur simultaneously. If we can predict genocide, we can stop it using preventive measures.


All cultures have categories to distinguish people by ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality.  One of the most important classifications is citizenship in a nationality.  Removal or denial of a group’s citizenship is a legal way to deny the group’s civil and human rights.

Preventive measures include developing institutions that transcend these divisions, a common language to transcend national identity, and laws that provide routes for citizenship to immigrants and refugees.


We name groups of people, distinguish them by color or dress, and/or apply symbols to members of groups. Symbolization does not necessarily result in genocide, unless it is combined with hatred, are forced upon groups of people and/or leads to dehumanization.

To combat symbolization, hate symbols, hate speech and group markings/gang clothing can be legally forbidden.


A dominant group uses law, custom, and political power to deny the rights of other groups.

To prevent against discrimination, all groups in a society need full political empowerment and citizenship rights, discrimination on the basis of nationality, ethnicity, race or religion should be outlawed, and people should have the right to sue the state, corporations, and other people if their rights are violated.


One group denies the humanity of the other group. The other group is thought of as less than human, and even alien to their society. At this stage there is typically hate propaganda. Indoctrination prepares the way for incitement.

To combat dehumanization, local and international leaders should condemn the use of hate speech and make it culturally unacceptable, leaders who incite genocide should be prosecuted in national courts, be banned from international travel and have their foreign finances frozen,  hate propaganda should be banned, and hate crimes and atrocities should be promptly punished.


Usually genocide is organized by the state, often using militias to provide deniability of state responsibility. Sometimes organization is informal or decentralized. States organize secret police to spy on, arrest, torture, and murder people. Arms flows to states and militias facilitate acts of genocide.

To combat organization, membership in genocidal militias should be outlawed, their leaders should be denied visas for foreign travel and their foreign assets frozen, national legal systems should prosecute and disarm groups that plan and commit hate crimes, and the UN should impose arms embargoes on governments and citizens of countries involved in genocidal massacres, and create commissions to investigate violations.


The dominant group passes emergency laws or decrees that grants them total power over the targeted group, by eroding fundamental civil rights and liberties. Targeted groups are disarmed to make them incapable of self-defense, and to ensure that the dominant group has total control. Extremists drive the groups apart with propaganda, laws forbid intermarriages and/or social interaction. Moderates from the perpetrator group are most able to stop genocide, meaning they are the first to be arrested and killed, and next are the leaders in the targeted groups.

Prevention could come in the form of security protection for moderate leaders or assistance to human rights groups, assets of extremists should be seized, visas for international travel denied, coups by extremists should be opposed by international sanctions and regional isolation of extremist leaders, objections should be raised to arrests of members of opposition groups, national government leaders should denounce polarizing hate speech, and educators should teach tolerance. If necessary, targeted groups should be armed to defend themselves.


National or perpetrator group leaders plan the “Final Solution”. They use euphemisms to cloak their intentions, indoctrinate the populace with fear of the victim group, and/or disguise genocide as self-defense. They increase use of inflammatory rhetoric and hate propaganda, build armies, buy weapons and train their troops and militias. Political processes that threaten the dominance of the ruling group may trigger genocide.

Prevention may include arms embargoes and commissions to enforce them, and prosecution of incitement and conspiracy to commit genocide.


Victim groups are identified and separated out. Their most basic human rights are systematically violated through extrajudicial killings, torture and forced displacement.  Death lists are drawn up, they are forced to wear identifying symbols, their property is expropriated, they are segregated into ghettos, deported to concentration camps, confined to a famine-struck region and starved, they are deprived of resources, programs are implemented to prevent procreation, and/or children are forcibly taken from their parents. Genocidal massacres begin.

A Genocide Emergency must be declared, the great powers, regional alliances, or international alliances needs to mobilize, vigorous diplomacy, targeted economic sanctions, and armed international intervention should be prepared, assistance should be provided to the victim group to prepare for its self-defense, humanitarian assistance should be organized by the U.N. and private relief groups for the inevitable tide of refugees to come.


Extermination begins, and quickly becomes the mass killing legally called “genocide.” The goal of total genocides is to kill all the members of the targeted group.  But most genocides are genocides ”in part”; all educated members, all men and boys of fighting age may be murdered and all women and girls may be raped, cultural and religious property is destroyed to annihilate the group’s existence from history.

In order to stop ongoing genocide, a multilateral force authorized by the U.N. should intervene if politically possible, the Standing High Readiness Brigade, EU Rapid Response Force, or regional forces should be authorized to act by the U.N. Security Council, the UN General Assembly may authorize action under the Uniting for Peace Resolution G A Res. 330 (1950), regional alliances must act under Chapter VIII of the U.N. Charter, and/or real safe areas or refugee escape corridors should be established with heavily armed international protection. If strong nations will not provide troops to intervene directly, they should provide the airlift, equipment, and financial means necessary for regional states to intervene.


Denial is the final stage that lasts throughout and follows genocide. The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence, intimidate the witnesses, deny that they committed any crimes, blame what happened on the victims, disguise acts of genocide as counter-insurgency if there is an ongoing armed conflict or civil war,  block investigations of the crimes, and continue to govern until driven from power by force, when they flee into exile where they remain with impunity, unless they are captured and a tribunal is established.

The best response to denial is punishment by an international tribunal or national courts, where the evidence can be heard, and with the political will to arrest and prosecute them, some may be brought to justice. Local justice, truth commissions and public school education are also antidotes to denial, as they can lead to reconciliation and preventive education.