Genocide on the Drina River

Overview


In this scholarly yet intensely personal history, author Edina Becirevic explores the widespread ethnic cleansing that occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 through 1995, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Serbs against Bosnian Muslims that fully meet the criteria for genocide established after World War II by the Genocide Convention of 1948. An in-depth study of the devastating and dehumanizing effects of genocide on individual destinies and the mechanisms of its denial in Bosnia and ...
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Genocide on the Drina River

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Overview


In this scholarly yet intensely personal history, author Edina Becirevic explores the widespread ethnic cleansing that occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 through 1995, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Serbs against Bosnian Muslims that fully meet the criteria for genocide established after World War II by the Genocide Convention of 1948. An in-depth study of the devastating and dehumanizing effects of genocide on individual destinies and the mechanisms of its denial in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Becirevic's essential history contextualizes the East Bosnian program of atrocities with respect to broader scholarly debates about the nature of genocide.
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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs

“Becirevic walks the reader through the controversy surrounding the concept and definition of “genocide,” then makes an energetic case that the term applies to the war waged by Serbian forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992–95.”—Foreign Affairs
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300192582
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 7/29/2014
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 538,060
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Edina Becirevic is a member of the faculty of Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Security Studies at the University of Sarajevo and a cofounder of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She lives in Sarajevo.
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Read an Excerpt

Genocide on the Drina River


By Edina Becirevic

Yale UNIVERSITY PRESS

Copyright © 2014 Edina Becirevic
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-300-20680-7



CHAPTER 1

The Framework for Analysis


THE LEGACY OF RAPHAEL LEMKIN

According to the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was adopted on December 9, 1948, and came into force on January 12,1951, genocide is defined as: "Any of the following acts committed 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; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group." Article III lists punishable acts as: "(a) genocide, (b) conspiracy to commit genocide, (c) direct and public incitement to commit genocide, (d) attempt to commit genocide, (e) complicity in genocide."

In 1943, five years prior to the adoption of the Convention, in an attempt to precisely describe the horrors committed by Nazis against Jews in Europe, Winston Churchill lamented, "As their army advances, whole districts are being exterminated. We are in the presence of a crime without a name." Raphael Lemkin, a Polish jurist of Jewish descent, moved by the agony of Jews and the world's inability to find an adequate name for such mass suffering, took it upon himself to come up with one. After hearing the British leader's speech, he concluded that politicians might try to stop crimes against Jews "if [they] could capture the crime in a word that connoted something truly unique and evil." Lemkin's interest in the "crime without a name," however, dated back to before the extermination of Jews by Germany. Spurred by mass crimes against Armenians, Lemkin presented his colleagues at the Fifth International Conference for the Unification of Penal Law, held in Madrid in 1933, with a draft of an international law that would forbid governments to destroy ethnic, national, and religious groups. He labeled this practice "barbarity" and defined "vandalism" as the destruction of "works of art and culture." Lemkin's proposal was read in his absence and was rejected. Eventually, Lemkin offered his definition of genocide in a book he published in 1944:

Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify 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. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups. Genocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group.


Three years later, Lemkin expanded this definition, adding that the crime of genocide includes not only deprivation of life but also the prevention of life (abortions, sterilizations) and schemes considerably endangering life and health (death caused by artificial infections, labor camps meant to literally exhaust detainees, the deliberate separation of families for depopulation purposes, and so forth). It is obvious that the works of Raphael Lemkin significantly impacted the content of the U.N. Convention on Genocide as well as its Charter of the International Military Tribunal, commonly known as the London Agreement. The Charter, adopted on August 8,1945, in London, provided precise instructions and a legal basis for the Nuremberg trials. Three foundational crimes were specified: crimes against peace (wars of aggression), violation of rules of war (war crimes), and crimes against humanity (extermination and torture of civilians based on racial, religious, and political grounds).

Lemkin's life and pioneering work has made him a legend in genocide studies, and he is an unavoidable reference in any genocide research. Beyond his focus on the genocide committed against Jews and Armenians, Lemkin was also knowledgeable about crimes and genocide committed during the colonial period against indigenous people. Still, his broad definition of what constitutes genocide narrowed somewhat over time, as he was forced to compromise a number of his earlier ideals while actively lobbying for adoption of the Convention at the United Nations.

In the first draft of the U.N. Convention, Lemkin aimed to incriminate both cultural genocide and linguicide. His argument was, "First they burn books, then they start burning bodies." However, since the U.N. Legal Committee had failed to endorse the incrimination of cultural genocide, and the U.N. General Assembly was approaching the deadline for adopting the Convention, Lemkin sacrificed this point to ensure adoption of the larger document. In initial discussions at the United Nations it was suggested that political groups, too, should be protected by the Convention. However, the Soviet delegation, together with the Communist countries of Eastern Europe and some in Latin America, opposed the inclusion of political groups on the list of those protected by the Convention, claiming it would make the suppression of internal, armed uprisings impossible. Those opposed to inclusion of these groups further asserted that political groups are often neither cohesive nor detectable. After realizing how divided opinions on this issue were, even Lemkin, in order not to endanger the adoption of the Convention, lobbied against protection of political groups.

Samantha Power presents the basic arguments of American critics of the Convention, who have pointed to the fact that, according to the Convention, a state can be held responsible for genocide if it kills even five people for reasons related to their religious, racial, or ethnic affiliation. On the other hand, Power notes, "the exclusion of political groups from the convention made it much harder in the late 1970s to demonstrate that the Khmer Rouge were committing genocide in Cambodia when they set out to wipe out whole classes of alleged 'political enemies.'" It is also worth noting that the United States, though its delegation actively participated in drafting the Convention, did not ratify it until 1986. And then its ratification included a special "Sovereignty Package," which includes what is known as a constitutional reservation that avows the superiority of the U.S. Constitution over the Convention, essentially reserving the right of the United States to decide whether, when, and how the Convention on Genocide can be applied to American actions.

Adoption of the Convention meant the "crime without a name" not only got a name but was also potentially punishable. However, except for a handful of individual cases at national courts in Europe, which processed a number of the crimes committed during the Second World War, the Convention was not used in addressing mass atrocities that could have qualified as genocide. The Cold War was a crucial factor in the "inaction" of the Convention. In the atmosphere that accompanied this bipolar paradigm, it was impossible to establish an international criminal court at which the Convention could be applied. It was only after the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the 1990s that international criminal law established precedents for punishing the crime of genocide and applied the Convention in practice.


THE HOLOCAUST AND COMPARATIVE GENOCIDE RESEARCH

While the extermination of Jews in Europe during the Holocaust motivated Raphael Lemkin to define the worst crime against humanity so that politicians would try to prevent it, there are others who have accepted part of this legacy but have made a departure from Lemkin's inclusive approach in defining genocide and from the obligation of the international community to stop it. Stephen T. Katz represents the scholarly movement which insists that the Holocaust is the only true genocide in history. Despite conducting an extensive comparative historical analysis, Katz has not given up on a very high, almost unreachable standard for defining genocidal crimes. Orientalist Bernard Lewis also seems to support the opinion that no case of mass murder except the Holocaust can be labeled as genocide. Lewis has, by this logic, denied the genocide against Armenians. He told the French newspaper Le Monde that the killing of 1.5 million Armenians was a "brutal consequence of war," and that it would be "absurd to call it genocide." This statement brought Lewis before a French court, indicted for denial of genocide, and resulted in his paying a symbolic fine of one franc. Increasingly, though, theoreticians have been deconstructing this thesis, and crimes committed in the Ottoman Empire against Armenians are widely recognized as genocide in scholarly literature.

Debate between scholars who advocate for exclusivity of the Holocaust and those who argue that other cases of mass violence also fit the definition of genocide has been highly polemical. According to Martin Shaw, "In this debate, recognition of other cases—historical like Armenia, and contemporary, such as Rwanda—often depends on establishing a connection to the Holocaust." Scholars who consider the establishment of the Holocaust as the single genocide in history as counterproductive for the prevention of future conflicts that may end in genocide have been gaining in prominence over the years. Their credibility has been supported by extensive empirical comparative research and sound arguments. The work of these scholars attests to how essential the comparative method is in genocide research; the variety of examples of genocide throughout history offers scholars a chance to identify common characteristics, which can help lead to the detection of genocide while in its preparation phases, prior to its perpetration. There are issues about which these more inclusive researchers also disagree, but they share many more points of consensus that are developing theoretical concepts which distinguish genocide from other mass and systematic state crimes.

Israel Charny is among those who argue for a significantly more inclusive definition of genocide. He asserts that genocide is a generic term and that all known mass murders of people should be defined as genocide. Hence, he defines genocide as "mass killing of substantial numbers of human beings, when not in the course of military actions against the military forces of an avowed enemy, under conditions of the essential defenselessness of the victim." In fact, Charny's definition excludes the idea of "intent to annihilate a nation" and sets high standards for respecting human rights even in so-called just or rightful wars, in other words, humanitarian interventions, defensive wars, and the like. According to Charny, any "collateral damage"—as civilian casualties of war are often labeled in modern warfare parlance—may be considered genocide, and the result of genocidal acts.

Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn, on the other hand, argue that it is inappropriate to compare the intent of Turks to annihilate Armenians or of Germans to exterminate Jews with American military interventions, because "the USA never intended to destroy the Germans, Japanese and Vietnamese as a group, while leaders of Turkey and Nazi Germany did intend to annihilate Armenians and Jews." Leo Kuper, who is considered after Lemkin to be one of the most important contributors to genocide theory, is more aligned with Charny's approach, as he seems to believe that genocide is not reserved for totalitarian regimes, and that history has shown how pluralistic societies are not immune to genocide either. In his 1981 monograph Genocide: Its Political Use in the Twentieth Century, Kuper divides genocide into three types, according to the motives of perpetrators:

1) Genocide designed for the elimination of ethnic or religious differences,

2) Genocide with intent to inspire terror among colonial subjects, and

3) Genocide committed to achieve ideological aims.


The problem with these kinds of genocide typologies is that it is difficult to strictly apply them to reality, since perpetrators never have only one motive. The genocide in Rwanda, for example, was motivated by ethnic differences, but—if we take into account the country's longtime colonial status and the interests of some very powerful countries—it was, in a way, the consequence of colonization. In order to mobilize a population for any genocide, a very extremist ideology must have influence. Therefore, according to Kuper's typology, the case of the last Rwandan genocide could fall under each of his three types.

In his book published in 1985, The Prevention of Genocide, Kuper shifted his attention to evaluating the potential of the international community, NGOs that deal with human rights, and other legal bodies to prevent genocide. Nevertheless, his work is characterized by a very wide interpretation of the term. Kuper treats the nuclear attack against Japan, the American military intervention in Vietnam, and the bombing of Dresden as genocide.

Apart from the sociological analysis of different cases, authors who advocate a comparative and more inclusive approach have also made attempts to develop their own definitions of genocide, in response to a lack of precision in the definition given in the U.N. Convention. Helen Fein's, though worded differently, echoes the spirit of the Convention: "Genocide is sustained purposeful action by a perpetrator to physically destroy a collectivity directly or through interdiction of the biological and social reproduction of group members, sustained regardless of the surrender or lack of threat offered by the victim." According to Daniel Chirot and Clark McCauley, "A genocidal mass murder is politically motivated violence that directly or indirectly kills a substantial portion of a targeted population, combatants and noncombatants alike, regardless of their age and gender." The Convention's definition of genocide ultimately seems too limited for historians and sociologists alike, and one of their most frequent objections, reflected in Chirot and McCauley's definition, is the fact that political groups are excluded from it.

For the sake of analysis, however, as well as for the sake of genocide prevention, even those who recognize faults in the U.N. Convention generally accept it, because political controversies of the sort that surrounded the initial drafting of the Convention and then its ratification are even more insidious in the current international environment. Amid the circumstances and power balance within the United Nations, one cannot hope that a better, legally binding definition will be developed in the near future. Along these lines, Kuper has distinguished between his moral stance that genocide be understood very broadly and his academic recommendation that, for functional reasons, the international community adhere to the definition of genocide as stated in the U.N. Convention.

I shall follow the definition of genocide given in the [U.N.] Convention. This is not to say that I agree with the definition. On the contrary, I believe a major omission to be in the exclusion of political groups from the list of groups protected. In the contemporary world, political differences are at the very least as significant a basis for massacre and annihilation as racial, national, ethnic or religious differences. Then too, the genocides against racial, national, ethnic or religious groups are generally a consequence of, or intimately related to, political conflict. However, I do not think it helpful to create new definitions of genocide, when there is an internationally recognized definition and a Genocide Convention which might become the basis for some effective action, however limited the underlying conception. But since it would vitiate the analysis to exclude political groups, I shall refer freely ... to liquidating or exterminatory actions against them.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Genocide on the Drina River by Edina Becirevic. Copyright © 2014 Edina Becirevic. Excerpted by permission of Yale UNIVERSITY PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Pronunciation, vii,
Preface, ix,
Acknowledgments, xix,
ONE The Framework for Analysis, 1,
TWO The Dissolution of Yugoslavia and the Propaganda of Dehumanization, 16,
THREE "Joint Criminal Enterprise", 50,
FOUR Genocide in Eastern Bosnia, 81,
FIVE The Eighth Stage of Genocide–Denial, 144,
AFTERWORD From Visegrad to Sydney and Back, 180,
Notes, 188,
Index, 225,

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