Mass Killing Summary

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How does distinguishing Genocide from Mass Killing help in the prevention and punishment of the crime?

The term genocide is derived from “the Greek word genos (tribe, race) and the Latin cide (as in tyrannicide, homicide, fratricide).” Raphael Lemkin saw genocide as a process rather than a specific act or event stating that “Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the oppressed population which is allowed to remain…” He emphasised that total extermination was not necessary for genocide to occur. Since then, legal scholars, philosophers, social scientists, historians and a whole host
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Shaw argues that studies on genocide have concentrated too heavily on the specific perpetrators and victims with regard to intentions and identities respectively. Instead, he wants to propose that the crime of genocide should be understood within the structure of conflict situations. The most important aspect of genocide studies from the point of view of politics is that the concept of genocide must be clarified, Shaw believes that scholarship should provide this elucidation. By returning to the original definition proposed by Lemkin, the focus is more generally on attacks by the armed against the unarmed. Shaw states that “Lemkin invented ‘genocide’ because he wanted to describe – and highlight for countervailing action – a general class of violent actions.” Taking lessons from one of the most influential studies on war by Carl von Clausewitz, Shaw sees genocide as a form of war directed against civilians. Debates about genocide have certainly advanced since the introduction of the term, yet, Shaw feels these debates from the 1940s onwards have lost two very key aspects of the original concept. In agreement with Lemkin the omission of cultural genocide or social destruction meaning not just physically but a way of life and how genocide relates to war are vital in understanding the nature of the crime. He argues that “Genocide always involves physical violence but it involves many other things as well. Defining genocide by killing misses the social aims that lie behind it. Genocide involves mass killing but it is much more than mass killing.” Similar to some of the arguments made by Claudia Card in relation to the inclusion of cultural genocide, Shaw’s assertion that genocide must be viewed in the context of war provides a valuable framework for understanding the particular violence against civilians. The use of word civilians here is important for Shaw, rather than the UN Genocide

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