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Mass crimes against humanity and genocides

1987 to 2008: Discouraging future
genocides by punishing past perpetrators

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Timeline of attempts to hold perpetrators responsible:

If genocides and mass crimes against humanity cannot be eliminated, then at least the perpetrators can be hunted down, arrested, tried, and imprisoned. Steps have been taken in this area. Some of the major ones between 1987 and 2008 were:

bullet 1987: U.S.: Federal law: The U.S. federal government passed the Genocide Convention Implementation Act of 1987, (a.k.a. The Proxmire Act). This is a federal law which targets genocidal acts, if "the offense is committed within the United States"; or "the alleged offender is a national of the United States." Fines for up to 1 million dollars can be levied. Imprisonment for life is possible in the case of murder, or up to 20 years otherwise.

The law does not cover advocacy of genocide, as in the case of a Baptist pastor in Texas during the year 2000 who allegedly advocated that the U.S. Army round up and napalm Wiccans.

bullet 2001: Cambodia: Genocide: The lower house of the Cambodian government unanimously passed a law authorizing their courts to try leaders of the Khmer Rouge -- the group responsible for the extermination of almost a third of people in their country.

bullet 2002: International Criminal Court (ICC): The ICC was established under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It was signed on 1998-JUL-17 after years of negotiation. The court commenced operation on 2002-JUL-01 when the 60th country ratified the treaty. It is authorized to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Crimes of aggression may be added in the future after 2017. 1

As of 2008-JUL, 106 countries are members of the court. Suriname is scheduled to join in OCT-01. Australia, Canada, almost all European countries, most of sub-Sahara Africa, all of South America and a few other countries are members. China, Russia, most predominately Muslim countries, and the United States are notable by their absence.

The ICC is pattered after the Nuremburg court that heard a series of Nazi war crime trials after World War II. Its jurisdiction is limited to individuals from all countries who are accused of genocide, war crimes, and other gross human rights violations. Only those cases which are not actively pursued in the country where the crimes occurred will be heard by the international court. 

If properly implemented, this court will dispense punishment to the perpetrators of genocide and bring justice to the victims. But its main effect may be to make every potential perpetrator of genocide feel insecure. If they know that they will likely be hunted down and imprisoned for a long time in the future, they will be less likely to commit genocide now. 

Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) drafted a bill to prevent the United States from having anything to do with the court, and to punish any country that ratifies the treaty or cooperates with the court. He helped pass legislation that would protect American service personnel from being prosecuted by the ICC.

bullet 2005-JUL and SEP: Uganda: The ICC issued arrest warrants against five leaders of The Lord's Resistance Army. This group was founded in Uganda during 1989 is the successor to the Holy Spirit Movement. Their goal was to overthrow the Ugandan Government and replace it with a regime that will implement the LRA's brand of Christianity, which is based on the Ten Commandments. They are accused of widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, mutilation, sexual enslavement of women and children, and forcing children to participate in hostilities. The arrest warrants were the first ones issued by the ICC. Human Rights Watch reported that the regional Government of Southern Sudan had ignored previous ICC warrants for the arrest of four of LRA's top leaders, and instead supplied the LRA with cash and food as an incentive to stop them from attacking southern Sudanese citizens. Two or three of the five leaders have since been killed. The rest remain at large.

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bullet 2006-MAR-11: Serbia: Slobodan Milosevic died during his trial in the Netherlands. He had served as the President of Serbia from 1989 to 2006. His detractors called him the "butcher of the Balkans" and accused him of having started four wars. His supporters refer to him as "a democratically-elected peacemaker" who did "everything in his power to avert war and put a stop to the violence." The Hague war crimes tribunal charged him with crimes against humanity, violating the laws or customs of war, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and genocide for his role during the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Milosevic conducted his own defense. The trial ended without a verdict because he died during the proceedings. 2

bullet 2006: Liberia: Dictator Charles Taylor: He was on Interpol's Most Wanted list, for "crimes against humanity, [and] grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Convention" in connection with his activities during the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. He was arrested in Cameroon and handed over to the UN to face an indictment by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. His trial -- the first for a former African head of state -- started on 2007-JUN-04 in The Hague, Netherlands. 3 As of 2009-MAR, the trial was still underway. A website has been established to cover the trial. 4

bullet 2006: Chilean crimes under dictator Pinochet: Horrendous levels of human rights abuses occurred under General Agusto Pinochet of Chile from the mid 1970s until 1990. He was arrested during 1998-OCT while visiting the UK for medical treatment. This was the first time in history that a dictator was arrested on the principle of universal jurisdiction. Pinochet's arrest was ordered on 2006-OCT-27; he died on 2006-DEC-10. During 2008-MAY, the arrest of almost 100 former Chilean secret police and soldiers was ordered.

bullet 2007-JUN: Sierra Leone: Conviction for crimes during their civil war: The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) convicted three defendants of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) -- Alex Tamba Brima, Santigie Borbor Kanu and Brima Kamara -- of terrorism; collective punishments; extermination; murder - a crime against humanity; murder - a war crime; rape; outrages upon personal dignity; physical violence - a war crime; conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities; enslavement; and pillage. This was the first time in history that an international court ruled on charges related to child soldiers or forced marriage. It was the first time that an international court delivered a guilty verdict for the military conscription of children. 5

bullet 2007-AUG: Sierra Leone: Additional convictions: Two leaders of the Sierra Leone  Civil Defense Forces (CDF), Allieu Kondewa and Moinina Fofana, were convicted of murder, cruel treatment, pillage and collective punishments. Kondewa was further found guilty of use of child soldiers. Some of these convictions were overturned by the Appeals Chamber, but new convictions were also entered for murder and inhumane acts as crimes against humanity. 5

bullet 2008-JUL: Sudan: ICC prosecutor requested an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan. Under his dictatorship over the previous two decades, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese have been killed or maimed; 2.5 million have been displaced. A warrant was issued on 2009-MAR-4, charging him with masterminding attacks of the Darfur region, "... murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians and pillaging their property." In total, he received five counts of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes. Prosecutors attempted to also charge him with genocide because of his attempts to exterminate three non-Arab groups: the Fur, Marsalit and Zaghawa peoples in Sudan. However, this charge was rejected by the judges. This is the first time in history that an active head of state has been charged with such crimes. Bashir's government responded by expelling 13 humanitarian groups from Darfur, thus exacerbating the situation and increasing suffering of the people by reducing their access to water, food, and health care. The government accused the groups of feeding information about government oppression to the court and media, an of stealing from the people.  6

This topic continues in the next essay....

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "International Criminal Court," Wikipedia, as on 2012-AOR-25, at:
  2. "Slobodan Milosevic," Wikipedia, at:
  3. Paul Reynolds, "Charles Taylor - the trial begins," BBC News, 2007-JUN-04, at:
  4. "The trial of Charles Taylor: International Criminal Justice in the Making," at:
  5. "Special Court for Sierra Leone," Wikipedia, at:
  6. Olivia Ward, "Sudan's president wanted for war crimes, The Toronto Star, Page B1, 2009-MAR-05.

Site navigation: Home > Laws & religionGenocide > here

or: Home > Religious violence > Genocide > here

Copyright 2001 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JAN-1
Latest update: 2012-APR-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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