Evaluating the Efficacy of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia: Implications for Criminology and International Criminal Law

By Yacoubian, George, S., Jr. | World Affairs, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview
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Evaluating the Efficacy of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia: Implications for Criminology and International Criminal Law


Yacoubian, George, S., Jr., World Affairs


The Armenian massacres of 1915 are widely considered the first principal genocide of the twentieth century. (1) During the second half of the nineteenth century, Armenia fell under the rule of the Ottoman Turks. In 1908, the Young Turks overthrew the old regime and adopted "a credo based on pan-Turanism, which alleged a prehistoric mythic unity among Turanian peoples based on racial origin to be implemented by `Turkification.'" (2) Motivated by a feverish sense of jingoism, the Young Turks sought an empire that stretched from Central Asia to China. Between 1908 and 1914, the seemingly egalitarian Young Turks became xenophobic nationalists bent on eliminating the Armenian people.

By the end of April 1915, the stage had been set for the Armenian massacres. Men, women, and children were walked to secluded areas and murdered outright. Those who were not killed immediately found death by deportation. As Dadrian stated, "The Ottoman authorities ordered ... the wholesale deportation of the Armenian population of the empire's Eastern and Southeastern provinces?" (3) By the time the killings had been completed, more than 1.5 million Armenians had been slaughtered, and the Armenian question in Eastern Anatolia had been resolved.

At the time of the Armenian massacres, neither the crime nor the definition of genocide had been developed. As Yacoubian stated, "there were certain rules of war to protect civilian populations, but these regulations failed to cover a government's persecution of its own people." (4) The term "genocide" was developed in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin to denote "a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves." (5) Lemkin's efforts culminated in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, (6) which officially came into effect as a binding piece of international law on 12 January 1951. Today, 130 states have ratified or acceded to the convention, including all member states of the European Union (EU) and all permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (SC). Article II of the Genocide Convention declares genocide to mean,

   the commitment of any of the following acts
   with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a
   national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as
   such:

   a) Killing members of the group;

   b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to
   members of the group;

   c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions
   of life calculated to bring about its physical
   destruction in whole or in part;

   d) Imposing measures intended to prevent
   births within the group; and

   e) Forcibly transferring children of the group
   to another group.

No state has ever asserted that genocide is not a crime, and the definition contained in Article II is considered to be binding international law.

Despite the ratification of the Genocide Convention, genocide has been perpetrated repeatedly during the last four decades. "Its contemporary manifestation has indicated a capacity for atrocity on an unprecedented scale." (7) Victimized groups include 400,000 civilians in the Vietnam War between 1965 and 1974; (8) more than 1 million Bengali in Bangladesh in 1971; (9) 150,000 Hutu in Burundi in 1972; (10) 1.5 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979; (11) 200,000 Bosnian Muslims and Croats in the Former Yugoslavia in 1992; (12) and 800,000 Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994. (13) Genocidal events in both Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia ultimately yielded responses from the global legal community in the form of international criminal tribunals. The genocidal events, and the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda (ICTR) and the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) are discussed below.

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNALS

The popular but dangerously simplistic version of Rwanda's catastrophe is that it was a savage eruption of tribal rivalry.

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