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Some Examples Of Genocide

By John Scales Avery

13 December, 2013

Last Monday, 65 years ago, the United Nations adopted a convention prohibiting genocide. http://legal.un.org/avl/ha/cppcg/cppcg.html It therefore seems appropriate to recall some examples of genocide, many of which have occurred since 1948

Article II of the 1948 convention defines genocide 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: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

Instances of genocide stain much of human history. Readers of Charles Darwin's book describing “The Voyage of the Beagle” will remember his horrifying account of General Rosas' genocidal war against the Amerind population of Argentina. Similar genocidal violence has been experienced by indigenous peoples throughout South and Central America, and indeed throughout the world.

In general, the cultures of indigenous peoples require much land, and greed for this land is the motive for violence against them. However, the genetic and cultural heritage of indigenous peoples can potentially be of enormous value to humanity, and great efforts should be made to protect them.

In North America, we can recall that military commanders, such as Lord Jeffrey Amherst, deliberately innoculated the Indians with smallpox by giving them blankets from smallpox hospitals. Amherst wrote to his associate, Colonel Henry Bouquet “You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians, by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.” This is clearlly an instance of genocide, as well as being an example of the use of biological weapons.

The website of the Holocaust Museum Houston ( http://www.hmh.org/la_Genocide_Guatemala.shtml )states that “Civil war existed in Guatemala since the early 1960s due to inequalities existing in the economic and political life. In the 1970s, the Maya began participating in protests against the repressive government, demanding greater equality and inclusion of the Mayan language and culture. In 1980, the Guatemalan army instituted “Operation Sophia,” which aimed at ending insurgent guerrilla warfare by destroying the civilian base in which they hid. This program specifically targeted the Mayan population, who were believed to be supporting the guerilla movement. Over the next three years, the army destroyed 626 villages, killed or “disappeared” more than 200,000 people and displaced an additional 1.5 million, while more than 150,000 were driven to seek refuge in Mexico. Forced disappearance policies included secretly arresting or abducting people, who were often killed and buried in unmarked graves.”

The Holocost Museum Huston has resources that cover not only genocide committed by the Nazis in Europe during World War II, but also genocides in Congo, Armenia, Boznia-Herzegovinia, Cambodia, Darfur and Rwanda, besides Argentina and Guatamala.

Regarding Palestine, Francis A. Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois, states thet “What we are seeing in Gaza now, is pretty much slow motion genocide against the 1.5 million people who live in Gaza... If you read the 1948 Genocide convention, it clearly says that one instance of genocide is the deliberate infliction of conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of people in whole or in part..., and that is exactly what has been done since the imposition of the blocade by Israel.

I would like to end by pointing out that nuclear warfare is an example of genocide, since it kills entire populations, including babies, young children, adults in their prime and old people, without any regard for guilt or innocence. The retention of nuclear weapons, with the intent to use them under some circumstances, must be seen as the intent to commit genocide. Is it not morally degrading to see our leaders announce their intention to commit the ultimate crime against humanity?

But the use of nuclear weaposn involves not only genociide, but also omnicide, since a large-scale thermonuclear war would destroy human civiliization and much of the biosphere.

If humanity is to survive in an era of all-destroying weapons, we must develop an advanced ethic to match our advanced technology. We must regard all humans as our brothers and sisters, More than that, we must actively feel our kinship with all living things, as well as our duty to protect inanimate nature.

John Avery received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics from MIT and an M.Sc. from the University of Chicago. He later studied theoretical chemistry at the University of London, and was awarded a Ph.D. there in 1965. He is now Lektor Emeritus, Associate Professor, at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. Fellowships, memberships in societies: Since 1990 he has been the Contact Person in Denmark for Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. He was the Member of the Danish Peace Commission of 1998. Technical Advisor, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988- 1997). Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy, April 2004. http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/ordbog/aord/a220.htm. He can be reached at avery.john.s@gmail.com


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