Making Sense of Mass Atrocity

Making Sense of Mass Atrocity

by Mark Osiel


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"Who done it?" is not the first question that comes to mind when one seeks to make sense of mass atrocity. So brazen are the leader-culprits in their apologetics for the harms, so wrenching the human destruction clearly wrought, meticulously documented by many credible sources. Yet in legal terms, mass atrocity remains disconcertingly elusive. The perversity of its perpetrators is polymorphic, impeding criminal courts from tracing true lines of responsibility in ways intelligible through law's pre-existing categories, designed with simpler stuff in mind.
Genocide, crimes against humanity, and the worst war crimes are possible only when the state or other organizations mobilize and coordinate the efforts of many people. Responsibility for mass atrocity is therefore always widely shared, often by thousands. Yet criminal law, with its liberal underpinnings, insists on blaming particular individuals for isolated acts. Is such law therefore constitutionally unable to make any sense of the most catastrophic conflagrations of our time? Drawing on the experience of several recent prosecutions (both national and international), this book trenchantly diagnoses law's limits at such times and offers a spirited defense of its moral and intellectual resources for meeting the vexing challenge of holding anyone criminally accountable for mass atrocity. Just as today's war criminals develop new methods of eluding law's historic grasp, so criminal law flexibly devises novel responses to their stratagems. Mark Osiel examines several such recent legal innovations in international jurisprudence and proposes still others.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781107403185
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 08/18/2011
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 276
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.59(d)

About the Author

Mark Osiel's writings seek to show how legal responses to mass atrocity can be improved by understanding its organizational dynamics, as revealed through comparative historical analysis. His writings have inspired several conferences and are assigned at many leading universities in North America and Western Europe, in a number of fields. He lives in The Hague, where he is director of public international law programs at the T.M.C. Asser Institute, a think tank associated with the University of Amsterdam. His books include Mass Atrocity, Collective Memory & the Law (1997), Obeying Orders: Atrocity, Military Discipline, and the Law of War (1999), Mass Atrocity, Ordinary Evil, and Hannah Arendt: Criminal Consciousness in Argentina's Dirty War (2002), and The End of Reciprocity: Terror, Torture & the Law of War (2009). Osiel lectures widely on humanitarian law, both abroad and at the U.S. war colleges. He regularly consults to international organizations and governments in post-conflict societies on issues of transitional justice. His articles have appeared in the Harvard Law Review, Columbia Law Review, California Law Review, Pennsylvania Law Review, Human Rights Quarterly, Law & Social Inquiry, and Representations, among others. Osiel has been a visiting Fellow at Cambridge University, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, the London School of Economics, as well as universities in Argentina, Brazil, France, and India (as a Fulbright lecturer).

Table of Contents

1. The challenge of prosecuting mass atrocity; Part I. Legal Rules and their Problems: 2. The responsibility of superiors; 3. Participating in a criminal enterprise; 4. Defining the criminal enterprise; Part II. The Political Context of Legal Choice: 5. Must national prosecutions serve global concerns?; 6. The conflicting incentives of national and international prosecutors; Part III. New Possibilities and Solutions: 7. The bureaucracy of murder; 8. Collective sanctions for collective wrong; 9. The collective responsibility of military officers; 10. Being economical with amnesty.

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