Genocide and Atrocity Crimes

  1. Intentionalism vs. Structuralism/Functionalism/cumulative radicalization

Intentionalism is a theory that states that work should be criticized based on the intentions of the actor. It mainly focuses on what a person’s intention was when performing a certain act. In the Holocaust perspective, it has been used to refer to the intentions that dictators had when committing atrocities. Structuralism, on the other hand, looks at genocide from the structural point of view and examines these genocides not from the intentions of the perpetrators but from the policies that were put in place. It states that the main aim of these atrocities was not to be genocidal, but they came about through the excess of some policies from states.

Meierhenrich asserts that the difference between intentionalist and functionalist points of view lies in the way they approach the world. While intentionalists look at agents such as Hitler as crucial aspects of the Holocaust, functionalists view them as the structures which are more important than the agents (Meierhenrich 11). However, the author goes ahead to argue that the structural perspective provides limited answers to the questions of why and how genocides take place in different parts of the world. He asserts that there is a little connection between the modernization and other structural developments. It looks at this issue and argues that knowing that the incentives of the genocidal atrocities are sometimes bigger does not explain the reasons as to why individuals decide to participate in these campaigns (Meierhenrich 13). Therefore, this points out that it is the agents that are more of an influential factor to the causes of these atrocities. The author clearly explains these atrocities using the structuralism theory rather than the intentionalism to make things clearer for the audience.

  1. Genocide Definitions

The UN Genocide Convention looks at genocide in terms of international law. It asserts that genocide encompasses the crimes that are committed against members of a particular ethnic, racial, religious or national group. It states that despite the victims of these crimes being individuals, they are mainly targeted because they are members of a specific group. Thus, it has looked at it from the perspective that when one is perceived to be from a particular group, they may be victims of crime and this can be referred to as genocide.

Lemkin, on the other hand, has a different perspective on genocide. Although he looks at it in terms of race, ethnical affiliations, religion, and nationality, he argues that the world has held a wrong view of these crimes. He states that if by killing one person, one is considered to have committed a crime that cannot be negotiated, then the killing of millions of people should equally be seen as a crime. He looks at the notion of genocide as a crime that is committed in a larger perspective and should be examined in the same way that a crime against one person is viewed. He argues genocide should be considered as an international crime where the heads of the states that committed these crimes should be held responsible and face the same justice as any other criminal so long as they violate social order. He asserts that the mass killings of the members of a certain group should not be seen as a political matter that requires negotiations and interpretations but is rather a criminal activity that should be handled in the court of law.