Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones, But Hateful Words Can Kill You
By Professor Gregory H. Stanton1
When Raphael Lemkin coined the word “genocide”, he included many of the precursors that lead to the actual killing most people think of as “genocide.”
“By “genocide” we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group…. 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.”
Much of what Lemkin included in his definition of genocide was cut from the Genocide Convention, so the precursors have been ignored.
But one of the precursors was included: “direct and public incitement to commit genocide.” The most famous cases of incitement were the Streicher case at Nuremberg and the Media Case in the Rwanda Tribunal.
Streicher published Der Stürmer, which was filled with Nazi vilification of Jews and portrayed them as devils, rats, vampires, and other symbols of evil.
In the Media Case at the ICTR, three defendants were convicted of incitement to commit genocide:
Hassan Ngeze published Kangura, a virulently anti-Tutsi newspaper that called Tutsis “cockroaches” and included one front page that said simply “the final solution to the Tutsi problem” beside a picture of a Tutsi and a machete.
Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza was a founder of the Hutu Power party, CDR, that rejected the 1993 Arusha Peace Accords, called for the overthrow of President Habyarimana and the Hutu Prime Minister for signing the Accords, and defined all Tutsis as national enemies. Barayagwiza supervised the CDR youth militias that slaughtered countless Tutsis at barricades all over Rwanda.
Ferdinand Nahimana, the Dean of the Faculty of Letters at the National University of Rwanda, was a founder of the notorious Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM), which began broadcasting anti-Tutsi propaganda in July 1993. All Tutsis were “inyenzi” (cockroaches) and the RPF and their “inkotanyi” (accomplices) “should all stand up so that we kill the Inkotanyi and exterminate them…the reason we will exterminate them is that they belong to one ethnic group.” During the genocide, RTLM alerted killing squads to cars carrying Tutsis that should be stopped at roadblocks so their passengers could be murdered.
Academic lawyers have tried to distinguish “hate speech” from “incitement to commit genocide,”2 based on the travaux of the Genocide Convention. They claimed in an Amicus brief to the Appeals Court of the ICTR that the Trial Court had confused the two. But the Appeals Court soundly rejected such arguments, pointing out that “hate speech” has been prohibited in
1 President, Genocide Watch; Research Professor in Genocide Studies and Prevention, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, Arlington, VA
2 Notably Diane Orentlicher, in “Criminalizing Hate Speech in the Crucible of Trial: Prosecutor v. Nahimana,” 21 Am. U. Int’l L. Rev. 557 2005-2006.
many countries, and that laws against hate speech may even be required by Article 20, paragraph 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states: “Any advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence shall be prohibited by law.”
Critics of the Nahimana judgment, mostly of the absolutist American “free speech” school, distinguish what they believe should be “protected” hate speech from “incitement to commit genocide” by the equivalent of a “clear and present danger test” that would find incitement only when there is a direct and immediate likelihood that the acts advocated by the speaker would be carried out. On such grounds, they agree that all three defendants in the Nahimana should have been found guilty of incitement to commit genocide, but that “hate speech” should not be outlawed.
The problem with such academic theories is that they ignore the development of a “culture of genocide” in countries at risk of committing it. Few, if any, of such theorists have ever lived in a society where the process of genocide was being intentionally promoted by leaders of hate groups.
I lived in Rwanda in 1988 – 1989. I had been asked as an academic specialist on judicial systems to help the Ministry of Justice find ways to unclog the civil and criminal court system, where cases took an average of five years. (Among the suggestions I made was revival of the gaçaça system for settling many local disputes.) The RPF had not yet invaded Rwanda from Uganda, but there had already been genocidal massacres against Tutsis in 1959 – 1962 and many times since.
At dinner one evening with the President of the equivalent of the Rwandan Supreme Court, a moderate Hutu named Joseph Kavaruganda, we discussed the pernicious effects of the ethnic classifications on Rwandan identity cards.
“These could be used to facilitate genocide,” I remarked.
“They already have been,” he replied.
“Can’t you declare the ethnic identification unconstitutional,” I asked.
“We don’t have judicial review,” he answered. “You’ll have to take that to President Habyarimana, himself.”
So I requested an audience with the President. He was very cordial and thanked me for my work. But when I brought up the subject of the ethnic identification on ID cards, it was as though his face froze. I later realized I was talking to the wrong man. President Habyarimana had led some of the genocidal massacres of Tutsis during President Kayibanda’s rule.
My friend, the Hutu moderate, Joseph Kavaruganda, was hounded by CDR extremists just before the genocide, and he was one of the first to be murdered, along with the Hutu moderate Prime Minister.
Repeated Hate Speech can become Incitement to Commit Genocide.
Hate speech, repeated hundreds and thousands of times, becomes incitement to commit genocide. It creates a culture of genocide. Barbara Coloroso, in her book Extraordinary Evil3, likens such repetition of hatred to the bullying that is rampant in some schools, and that drives teenagers to suicide.
I am not here arguing in favor of laws outlawing genocide denial in most countries, because in my view they do more harm than good – they turn truth against freedom of expression. But in
3 Coloroso, Barbara, Extraordinary Evil. 2007. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Viking (Penguin).
countries that have very recently suffered genocide, the scars may still be unhealed, and such laws may be justified.
I am also arguing that Americans should not oppose carefully drawn laws against hate speech. The current law against “genocide ideology” in Rwanda would be struck down by any American court as “void for vagueness.” But a better drawn law defining and outlawing “direct and public incitement to commit genocide” could pass muster and would in fact help prevent future genocides. One of the interns Genocide Watch supported at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, the brilliant Hadley Rose, Esq. has redrafted the “genocide ideology” law so it is more precise and cannot be used as an instrument for political repression. She will attend Yale Law School as an LL.M. candidate this Fall.
Incitement to Commit Genocide and the Responsibility to Prevent
For the prevention of genocide, I have a specific proposal: that policy makers judging risk, planning when and how to prevent genocide, and when to punish genocide should focus on the clearest warning sign of genocidal violence: public incitement to commit genocide. Planners of genocide who publicly incite their followers to commit genocide should be tried for hate crimes if their countries have independent courts where such trials can be held. If their countries are states-parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and their own courts do not try such inciters to genocide, the ICC should investigate these crimes and seek to arrest and try them in the Hague.
A history of genocide shows that direct and public incitement to commit genocide is one of the surest warning signs of both the intent and the planning to commit actual genocide. Trying inciters early would be one of the strongest antidotes to genocidal violence.
The crime of direct and public incitement to genocide was a common element in the Holocaust, the Herero genocide, Armenia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur. Incitement is a crime specifically named in Article 3 (c) of the Genocide Convention. Actual genocide need not be completed for an inciter to be tried for the crime. In fact, Julius Streicher, publisher of Der Stürmer, the Nazi propaganda newspaper, was hanged for crimes against humanity, even though he himself had committed no murders.
Conspiracy to commit genocide is also a crime under Article 3(b) of the Genocide Convention, though lawyers from civil law countries have no equivalent legal concept so have morphed it into “joint criminal enterprise.” Conspiracy is a harder crime to prove than direct and public incitement. Yet it could also be grounds for prosecution if evidence could be found that perpetrators were planning genocide.
Let me offer three examples of preventive action to stop incitement to commit genocide:
One of the best-known successes of Mr. Juan Mendez, when he was the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide, was a direct communication he made to the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, warning him that use of the Ivorian public radio station to incite “true Ivorians” against “non-Ivorians”, defined as those whose grandparents had not been born in the Côte d’Ivoire, could be interpreted as incitement to genocide, and Gbagbo could be tried by the ICC for the crime. Broadcasts on the Ivorian radio station against “foreigners” stopped the next day. I also obtained the cellphone number of Charles Blé Goudé, who had made many hate speeches against “foreigners.” I called him and delivered the same
message to him that Mr. Mendez had delivered to President Gbagbo. Complete calm was not immediately restored. But knowing the effect of radio in Côte d’Ivoire (I lived there two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer and two more years for my Ph.D. dissertation research in cultural anthropology) I believe that Juan Mendez’s action against incitement to genocide was an effective preventive tactic against genocidal violence.
In July this year, I traveled to South Africa to conduct a personal investigation, assisted by the Transvaal Agricultural Union and the F. W. De Klerk Foundation, of the growing number of murders against Afrikaner (Boer) farmers since black majority rule in 1994. The average murder rate of all South Africans is 34 per 100,000 per year, a high murder rate. (England’s is 2.4 per 100,000. Israel’s is 2.6. The Netherlands’ is 1.4. Japan’s is 0.5. The U.S. rate is 5.9.)4 But against white Boer farm owners, the murder rate in South Africa since 1994 has been 97 per 100,000, the highest murder rate in the world. (In Colombia, the next worst, the rate is 61.1)Most of the murders were hate crimes, with the victims’ bodies disemboweled, eyes gouged out, women raped, children burned or boiled alive. Very little property was stolen.
A few years ago, the President of the African National Congress Youth League, Julius Malema, revived the ANC revolutionary song, “Kill the Boer, Kill the Farmer.” He sang it at countless ANC Youth League rallies in the past several years. Genocide Watch immediately issued a Genocide Alert when Malema began to sing the hate song, since he represented a radical, racist, communist wing of the governing party. We moved South Africa up to Stage 6 (Preparation) from 5 (Polarization) on our scale of genocide warnings. After Malema began to sing the hate song, the murder rate of Boer farmers increased monthly. Finally a farmer sued Malema under South Africa’s “hate speech” law, which defines hate speech clearly, and states that it is unprotected by the general free speech guaranteed by South Africa’s Constitution. South African law gives judges the authority to impose injunctions, fines, and even imprisonment. A South African judge found Malema guilty of hate speech and enjoined him from singing the “Kill the Boer” song. In his injunction, the South African judge directly paraphrased the analysis of incitement on the Genocide Watch website.
Malema mockingly converted the song to “Kiss the Boer” while his followers sang the original “Kill the Boer” words. On January 10, 2012, even President Zuma himself sang the “Kill the Boer” song in a public ANC celebration, and Zuma has done so several times since. After the President sang the song, the number of farm murders increased each month. However, the ANC removed Julius Malema from his office as President of the ANC Youth League and expelled him from the ANC. Malema’s downfall was only one step against genocide, because the Deputy President of the ANC Youth League has now called for “war” to “take back the land.”
Why is there a relationship between the “Kill the Boer” hate song and official government policy? The African National Congress (ANC) continues to be dominated by the South African Communist Party, which holds a majority in the South African Senate, and COSATU, South Africa’s Communist-run trade union association. The ANC has issued a “green paper” calling for forced land redistribution in South Africa, in violation of the SA Constitution. The SA Communist Party has also called for nationalization of all mines, banks, and industries. Currently 87 percent of commercial farms in South Africa are owned by 3 percent of the population, mostly white Boer farmers. The commercial farms produce most of South Africa’s food supply. The farms that have been turned over to black ownership have usually fallen back
4 The Guardian Datablog Posted by Simon Rogers 13 October 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2009/oct/13/homicide-rates-country-murder-data
into subsistence farming, because there has not been adequate training for Black management. Many farm murders are committed by employees on the white Boer farmers’ own farms.
So there is a racial agenda operating – the forced displacement of all Boer farmers so the land can be “redistributed” to Black farmers, though the farms were cleared and developed by Boers many generations ago. The Boers and all Whites are commonly referred to as “settlers”, even though they arrived in South Africa 300 years ago. They are classified as “foreigners,” a common tactic of dehumanization by those intent on forced displacement or genocide. By the same standard, most Americans would have to leave the USA for Europe or Africa and return all the land to Native Americans, who have been as discriminated against as South Africa’s Blacks under Apartheid. Native Americans were not even granted American citizenship until 1924.
Iran and Israel:
Iran’s repeated call to “wipe Israel off the map” is the latest example of direct and public incitement to commit genocide.
Iran’s repeated attacks on Jews and on the State of Israel is hate speech.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the first world leader to recognize the connection between Iran’s uranium enrichment, its testing of long distance missiles, and the genocidal statements of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A day after declaring that Israel “should be wiped off the map” on October 25, 2005, he incited students to scream “death to Israel,” at a government-sponsored conference called the “World without Zionism.”
Chancellor Merkel declared: “A president that questions Israel’s right to exist [and] denies the Holocaust, cannot expect to receive any tolerance from Germany. We have learned our history.” Will Chancellor Merkel’s warnings of the parallels between Iran’s actions today and Nazi Germany’s first steps towards genocide in the 1930’s prod the world into effective deterrent action?
On 28 October, 2005, the UN Security Council condemned the words of the Iranian president. While the Security Council only issued a press statement – the weakest form of expression – it was still a diplomatic defeat for Iran. Despite numerous U.N. Resolutions since, Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons, and its leadership has not changed its apocalyptic views.
On 1 February 2006, The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) passed a resolution (See Appendix) noting that Iran’s actions, including Ahmadinejad’s statements, are early warning signs of genocide. These signs include open expressions of an exclusionary ideology characterized by hate speech, an authoritarian government that represses dissent, the organization of fanatical militias, the Revolutionary Guards, and a sustained record of support for terror attacks against Jews around the world. In December 2005, President Ahmadinejad added to the list the denial of past genocide, the Holocaust. The U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General condemned his statements.
Indifference to incitement and inaction by the outside world, most notably by the United Nations itself, are other warning signs – as we have seen in Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Darfur and now in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, where thousands of people are about to starve to death.
The development of a covert nuclear weapons program and long-range missiles by a state whose leader declares genocidal intent states the case for urgent deterrent actions. As we address the Iranian threat, it is helpful to recall that genocide and politicide were the most deadly crimes against humanity in the 20th century, resulting in at least 100 million preventable deaths: more than from all wars combined.
The Genocidal Process
Genocide is not an accident. It develops in a predictable process. I have analyzed most of the genocides in recent history and have discovered a predictable pattern. I call the process the Eight Stages of Genocide. (Friends have now convinced me to subdivide two of the stages, so that the final title of my book will probably be The Ten Stages of Genocide.)
Every one of the first six stages of the eight stages has already happened in Iran. The seventh stage is actual extermination — genocide.
Historians have established that governmental incitement and use of hate language is a recognized predictor, initiator, promoter and catalyst of genocide. The direct and public incitements to genocide by Iran’s President are not only openly stated declarations of aggressive intent, but are in violation of Art. 2 (4) of the UN Charter, of the Genocide Convention, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Articles 6 and 25 (3)(e).
President Ahmadinejad’s attempted “clarification” that he merely advocates the “transfer” of Jews in Israel to German and Austrian provinces is itself advocacy of forced deportation, another crime against humanity, and is contradicted by his own actions and long-term Iranian policy, including terror attacks on Jews outside Israel, such as the bombing of a synagogue in Buenos Aires, the arming of Hezbollah and Hamas, and advocacy of murder of Jews everywhere by Iranian financed media such as Palestinian television. Palestinian Authority television has carried a Friday sermon calling for the butchering of all Jews everywhere.
Iran could soon be an independent nuclear power, possessing advanced missile delivery systems. Iran has never renounced its aggressive and genocidal aims against the Jews of the State of Israel and elsewhere, which are longstanding policy. In 2000, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Muslim worshippers in Teheran, referring to Israel: “We have repeatedly said that this cancerous tumor of a state should be removed from the region.”
The unprecedented threat of nuclear genocide necessitates an urgent response because, aside from the clear warning signs we have indicated, an actual apocalyptic nuclear attack could occur without further warning sufficient to engage in preventive action. Israel is a small country that can be reached within minutes by Iranian ballistic missiles. It is densely populated, and home to the largest number of Holocaust survivors in the world. Time is of the essence and delay could be catastrophic.
Israel’s Responsibility to Prevent
The ethical principle that needs to guide international action to prevent all genocidal threats is that human life is the most fundamental human right, because without life there are no other human rights. The robust actions by the United Nations in Libya and in Côte d’Ivoire have been among the first applications of this newly emerging norm of international law. The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty sponsored by the Canadian government defined what is now called “the Responsibility to Protect,” which was affirmed in the Millennium Summit Outcome of 2005. It is based on the principle that the international obligation to protect human life and dignity overrides the sovereignty claims of any government whose actions demonstrate genocidal intent.
The Precautionary Principle
Because the dangers of inaction could be catastrophic, we repeat the calls of Genocide Watch, Prof. Elihu Richter’s Hebrew University Genocide and Violence Prevention Program’s petition,
and the International Association for Genocide Scholars for the application of the Precautionary Principle, a powerful tool for decision making in public health, for prevention of this and all other genocidal threats. This principle states that when there is uncertainty concerning the risk from a situation with potentially catastrophic effects upon human health and safety, the risks of inaction far outweigh those of preventive action.
The Precautionary Principle – which British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has already applied to this case – shifts the burden of proof from those warning of a risk of a catastrophic event to those denying this risk. Preventive action, of course, means the obligatory imposition of effective sanctions to prevent Iranian development of nuclear weapons, and includes immediate and continuous IAEA inspections of all Iranian nuclear facilities, as well as confiscation of all technology, equipment, and nuclear material that could be used by Iran to manufacture nuclear weapons.
Because the obligation to protect life and safety overrides state sovereignty, Iran’s genocidal declarations and actions undermine its claims to responsibly utilize its nuclear material for peaceful means.
All this, however, is insufficient. Historians have recognized that genocide results from the conscious choices of elites and occurs when there is indifference of outsiders to early warning signs, particularly hate language that serves to catalyze genocidal actions.
Accordingly the UN Security Council should follow the landmark precedent of its referral of Sudanese leaders to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and refer Mr. Ahmadinejad, to the ICC for indictment for incitement to commit genocide. Any state-party to the Genocide Convention , should also take a case against Iran to the International Court of Justice for violation of that convention through its incitement.
Those convicted for incitement to commit genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and sentenced to prison terms up to life imprisonment included Rwanda’s former prime minister, a historian, a newspaper editor, a minister of information, and a journalist.
Ahmedinijad, Khameini and other Iranian inciters of genocide must be stopped. Economic sanctions which would target the Iranian people collectively should be rejected. Iran has a glorious past and culture, which this president definitely does not represent.
It is time for the UN to go from commemorating past genocides, such as the Holocaust and Rwanda, to stopping current genocides such as is now raging in Darfur and the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, and deterring and preventing future ones, such as the destruction of Israel.
Indicting President Ahmadinejad for incitement to commit genocide would send a clear non- violent message to Iran’s authoritarian leaders to back down from pursuing a genocidal ideology. It would be a major step towards deterring others planning future Bosnias, Kosovos, Rwandas and Darfurs. Chancellor Merkel has reminded us of the consequences of the world’s ineffectual response to Hitler in the 1930’s.
The world now has to choose between indifference and deterrence, not only to “save Israel,” but to save human civilization itself. Consider these two chilling facts:
1. Iran is the only country since Nazi Germany that has openly expressed its genocidal intent to wipe another nation off the map while pursuing a program to develop nuclear weapons.
Few believed that Hitler was serious about his genocidal intentions until Nazis carried out the Holocaust. The Iranian President denies that the Holocaust even happened.
2. The country most likely to be blackmailed by an Iran with nuclear weapons is Israel. Suppose that Iran demands that Israel pull back to its 1967 borders and allow all Palestinians to return to their pre-1948 homes? Israel says “Nuts!” Iran then repeats its threat to “wipe Israel off the map,” arms its missiles, and supports Hezbollah terrorist infiltration into Israel. Would Israel launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran knowing that Iran’s nuclear retaliation would result in Israel’s self-destruction?
Iran’s nuclear weapons program must be stopped. NATO’s nuclear shield should explicitly be invoked to protect Israel. NATO should use its full legal and diplomatic force to prevent this genocide in the making.
When Sir Winston Churchill was asked why he, but no one else, saw the impending Nazi Holocaust in the 1930’s, he replied, “ I read Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and I believed he would do what he said he would do.
As we hear Ahmadinejad and Khameini declare that they will “wipe Israel off the map,” we should take them seriously, too.
Copyright 2012 Gregory H. Stanton