Denial of Crimes Against Humanity
It is widely accepted that there are eight stages to an act of genocide. Contrary to popular belief, mass murder occurs during the seventh stage of this process (although loss of life is common throughout the previous stages), with the first six being classification, symbolisation, dehumanisation, organisation, polarisation and preparation.
The eighth stage of genocide is denial, and it can happen anytime while the atrocity is occurring or for years after. A common tactic implemented by the perpetrators of atrocities, denial does not simply involve the refuting of alleged atrocities. The questioning of statistics including the numbers of victims, the validity of evidence, and the motives behind the states accusing those who are responsible are all forms of denial. Unfortunately, the dangerous denial of such heinous crimes as those being carried out in Syria is increasingly becoming a standpoint of onlookers in Western societies.
Media portrayal of events plays a big part in this. When reports of a ‘breadline massacre’ in Bosnia broke in 1992, there was public outrage. A Serb shell hit a line of civilians queuing for food. This left twenty-two dead and scores more injured. Whilst this was a despicable act, it proved to be a watershed moment in how events in Bosnia were to be viewed by other states. It eventually led to direct intervention the following year.
Similar crimes against humanity have recently been found to have taken place in Syria. Human Rights Watch has gathered evidence relating to at least ten massacres of civilians merely queuing to buy bread over a two-week period last month.
These atrocities are yet to be reported by mainstream media, a form of genocide and atrocity denial. By not relaying information such as this, public opinion remains divided as to who is behind the brutality taking place in Syria, and ultimately, what should be done about it. Such division also provides Assad’s denial of these crimes with potential credence. In democratic countries where vote-winning policies tend to come before those of humanitarian interest, it is imperative that the public unite against these violations of human rights so state leaders will act decisively in the interest of Syrian civilians and the perpetrators of these crimes can be brought to justice.
Photo: Victims of the Markale Market Massacres in Sarajevo, August 28, 1995