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The Role of the International Community in Stopping Genocide

Anne Sutherland, Professor, Macalester College

Organizations such as the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, humanitarian groups, groups like Helsinki Watch, they are on the ground in various parts of the world at all times, and they can pick up on clues. There are always clues when any kind of dangerous situation is building where one group might attack another group. It's always going to be preceded by individual incidents, like incidents such as crime against that group increasing, or the population allowing thieves and things to, you know, persecute them.

You can also notice segregation issues. Gypsies, for example, in Eastern Europe were segregated into separate schools; a lot of times they're put in schools for the mentally retarded because they are kept away from the general population. So those are clues that a situation exists in which one -- the majority population views another group as needing to be separated or kept away or, you know, persecuted in some way; they don't have full human rights.

Whenever that situation exists and then attacks and crime against that group increases, you've got a situation where you could get a full-blown genocide or attacking of one group by another. Usually you need some government organization or police that can do that, that can actually carry it out in an organized fashion for it to be -- you know, to get to the scale of a genocide against a whole group. But the warning signs are there. That doesn't mean that it will always happen, but organizations like the United Nations need to be very aware.

The example that I can think of most recently is Indonesia goes through an economic recession and a political crisis when they were very prosperous before: collapse of the banks and so on. Immediately, the first thing you know is that they target the Chinese population. The Chinese own the stores and are the traders and have a large presence in Indonesia. They're the first group that is targeted, and you get mobs and riots burning stores of Chinese and killing Chinese. And it's the kind of thing -- I mean, we know that will happen in some kind of economic crisis and political crisis in certain parts of Asia.

Anne Sutherland
The Role of the International Community in Stopping Genocide