Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
Session A2 4: Preventing Genocide and Responsibility to Protect
Tuesday, 20/July/2021:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Timothy Williams, Bundeswehr University Munich, Germany
Location: Room 4


Eve of Disruption: The risk of atrocities in oil dependent states in a post-oil world

Sascha Nanlohy

University of Sydney, Australia

The collapse of the global oil price in 2020, in large part triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused speculation that peak oil has now already occurred. The combination of drastically reduced demand, and a rapid push to transition to renewable energy sources to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis, has had significant implications for oil producing states that depend on income from oil exports. This paper will discuss the potential for violent ethnic conflict in some oil dependent states, as a result of the low price and reducing demand for oil. The decline in price could create severe economic shocks and long term negative growth, a key conflict risk factor, in states already vulnerable to violent ethnic conflict. Many of these states are also likely to disproportionately see the effects of the climate crisis, creating multiple opportunity structures for violent mobilization and mass atrocities, including genocide. The paper will consider the role of the oil price collapse in the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh war as a case study.

‘’Ethiopia’s hidden war in the Tigray region’’: Taking genocide alert seriously

Gebrehiwot Hadush Abera

KU Leuven, Belgium

On Nov.4, the Ethiopian Prime minister Abiy Ahmed declared a military operation in the Tigray region. From the hour the war was declared, the Ethiopian government shut down electricity, telephone, and internet connections in Tigray. While electricity and telephone services are partially restored in some areas controlled by the Ethiopian national army and allied forces, a large part of Tigray remains cut off from any means of communications. On Dec.24, the UN High commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet warned that “the continuing lack of overall humanitarian access, coupled with an ongoing communication blackout in many areas, raises increasing concerns about the situation of civilians.

Given that all means of communication with the region have been prevented, gathering evidence of serious violations of human rights including genocide has proved difficult. Most reports are coming from rights organizations and journalists who interviewed survivors and eyewitnesses who escaped from the war zone. Going by these information, the situation is grim, which includes extrajudicial killing in Maikhadra and in other places such as Maraim Dengelet, Guya, and Shire; systematic and widespread sexual violence; wanton destruction of property; and widespread looting.

The genocide watch has issued a genocide alert on Ethiopia stating that “ genocide watch now considers Ethiopia on stage 9: extermination”. At this point, Tigrean diaspora are mourning for the killing of their relatives, and they describe it as genocide. Yet, while reports point at the potential of genocide against Tigreans in Ethiopia, the world seems to be waiting to see it happen. This paper is, therefore, based on the argument that information blackout presents serious practical challenges to the prevention of genocide. Then, this paper will assess and review the present genocide response to information blackout during military operations and will recommend practical solutions to the prevention of genocide in the course of military operations.

The Role of the International Court of Justice for the Responsibility to Protect

Martin Mennecke

University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

It is a commonplace in the R2P discourse to describe accountability measures as key means to implement the responsibility to protect. In particular the International Criminal Court is regularly highlighted as a central actor, both in the literature, the annual R2P reports issued by the UN Secretary General and the subsequent debates in the UN General Assembly.

Conspicuously absent from this conversation is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice (ICJ). This article examines the potential role of the ‘World Court’, as The Gambia in November 2019 started a new case under the UN Genocide Convention against Myanmar before the ICJ. Analysing the limitations and prospects and existing ICJ case-law, the article concludes that the International Court of Justice can make an important and unique contribution to the responsibility to protect.

Mass Atrocities in Myanmar, the Atrocity Gap and the Responsibility to Protect in a Digital Age

Camilla Buzzi

Østfold University College, Norway

Growing attention is being paid to the need to address hate speech in traditional and new media to prevent genocide and mass atrocities. International hard and soft law has begun to address the accountability of business and other private actors, including media, in the face of mass atrocities. However, when states and private actors alike are complicit in mass atrocities, a gap arises in the international human rights architecture, compounded by the new technologies. We can speak of an atrocity gap, which is reflected in the case of Myanmar, and which needs to be addressed in order to fulfil the purposes of the Genocide Convention.

Liberalisation of the telecommunications sector is a significant part of the political changes initiated in Myanmar in 2011, making smartphones, SIM cards, and access to the internet more widely available. Social media (SoMe) platforms, notably Facebook, have emerged as the main access to the internet for many people. As the transition has proceeded, SoMe has become a space both for human rights activism and for inciting human rights abuses against vulnerable minorities. Both the state and civil society in Myanmar have used Facebook to foment violence and mass atrocities against the Rohingya and other vulnerable minorities.

This presentation builds on findings from a research article focusing on the case of Myanmar that has been accepted for publication by Global Responsibility to Protect journal. I will examine some challenges for internet and SoMe governance drawing on the response of Facebook and internet service providers in Myanmar to charges of contributing to mass atrocities in order to explore how to apply the norm of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2005, on the net. The aim is to provide input for lessons learnt on mass atrocity prevention in a digital age.