Academic journal article The George Washington International Law Review

Assessing the Genocide and Political Mass Murder Framework: The Case of Uzbekistan

Academic journal article The George Washington International Law Review

Assessing the Genocide and Political Mass Murder Framework: The Case of Uzbekistan

Article excerpt


In No Lessons Learned from the Holocaust? Assessing Risks of Genocide and Political Mass Murder Since 1955, author Barbara Harff lays out "six factors that jointly make it possible to distinguish with 74% accuracy . . . regime collapses that do and those that do not lead to geno-Xpoliticide."1 Professor Harff s article on the risks of genocide marks a new step in the study of genocide and related phenomena. It is one of the first studies to bring together a large sample of genocide cases for quantitative analysis. Harff considers a number of characteristics of states as possible precursors to genocide and seeks to determine which show statistically significant correlations to actual genocides and politicides across a large set of cases. She then analyzes current states and develops a "watch list" for countries that exhibit both armed conflict and one or more of the factors identified as precursors to genocide or politicide.2 The net result of Harff s study is a set of seven factors-one screening criterion and six evaluation criteria-that successfully identify almost three-quarters of her sampled cases.

Academic focus on Uzbekistan, and Central Asia more generally, has until recently been limited to a discrete few. Composed of states barely a decade old, the study of Central Asia requires additional emphasis to ensure the accuracy of its contributions to global comparative analyses. This Article seeks to begin that process in the exploration of genocide in global comparative studies. Uzbekistan is a particularly interesting place to apply Harff s model, as it arguably demonstrates five of the six distinguishing factors, yet Harff fails to include it on the "watch list."3 In one sense, Uzbekistan remains in the broad categories of states without genocide or armed conflict. Yet, these categorizations are debatable.

Using Uzbekistan as a case study, this Article considers HarfFs theory in light of the overarching goal of "us [ing] social science analysis to explain genocides . . . with an eye to developing early warning systems to detect humanitarian disasters in the making."4

Part II defines genocide and discusses a brief history of recent genocidal atrocities. Part III explores Harff s methodology and evaluates Uzbekistan as a genocide watch candidate in light of Harff s six factors, while also using the case of Uzbekistan to critique certain aspects of Harff s framework. It considers three weaknesses in Harff s framework: the use of "political upheaval"5 as a screening criterion for potential geno-/politicides; the explanation of the "trade openness" factor;6 and the conflation of genocide and political mass murders.7

Part III also explores the extent to which the decision not to place Uzbekistan on the "watch list" is a result of failures in Harff s framework-as well as a failure of the global databases on conflict to incorporate regional events in Central Asia-thereby demonstrating the relevance of regional expertise in applying more general comparative theories, including an exploration of how the case of Uzbekistan challenges the categorization of countries by broad political, social and economic variables implicit in Harff s model. Finally, Part III identifies important risk factors that are not used by Harff s model, but that are important considerations in evaluating potential risk, and attempts to evaluate the danger of genocide in Uzbekistan.


A. Definition of Genocide

The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention)8 defines genocide as:

[A]ny of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as: (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. …

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