The Karadzic Verdict And The Meaning Of "Genocide"

Radovan Karadzic as the verdict was being read at The Hague
Radovan Karadzic as the verdict was being read at The Hague
Sven Felix Kellerhoff

BERLIN â€" What does "genocide" actually mean?

The United Nations War Crime Tribunal in The Hague has officially declared the massacre of Srebrenica in Bosnia in 1995 as genocide. The term has a complicated back story, which is worth revisiting after Thursday's historic conclusion in The Hague in the case of Radovan Karadzic.

The judges of the UN War Crime Tribunal have, in the verdict against Karadzic, declared the massacre of Srebrenica as genocide. It had been proven that approximately 8,000 men and boys were killed by Bosnian-Serbian mercenaries within the UN "protection zone." But what was unclear until this verdict was if this massacre fulfilled the criteria of genocide. Thursday's decision now declares this to be the case.

The term "genocide" can be traced back to the Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959). He started to become interested in the problem of politically motivated capital crimes and their unsatisfactory international persecution during his university years in the 1920s. The trigger for Lemkin, who came from an educated Jewish family in what is now Lithuania, was the trial of Salomon Teilirian who, in Berlin in 1921, shot the former Home Secretary Talaat Pascha, the man responsible for the deportation and active manslaughter of nearly one million Christian Armenians in 1915-1916.

Pascha could, according to then valid law, not be persecuted in Germany for a crime that had been committed in another country. Teilirian ambushed Pascha and shot him but was cleared of murder by the responsible Berlin court, despite having given a full confession.

Lemkin therefore decided to create an international legal standard that would punish such crimes as the Armenian massacre. He wanted to prevent people taking justice into their own hands as Teilirian had done.

To achieve this, the exceptionally linguistically talented Lemkin gave up his pursuit of a degree in linguistics and switched to studying law instead, subsequently became one of Poland's youngest ever state prosecutors. He attempted to establish an international prosecution of massacres with the League of Nations (the precursor to the UN) as early as 1933. The main criteria in this case was to establish as to whether a crime in question was aimed at destroying a whole people or a specific group of people.

This was to not only include massacres and mass murder, however. To Lemkin this included the systematic starvation of a people without physical force or preventing them from procreating, as these had a similar effect.

New test cases

But in 1933, Europe's gaze was turned towards Germany where anti-Semitic excesses followed one another in quick succession. Poland refused Lemkin's application to leave the country for Geneva to discuss his initiative, as it was keen to seek a compromise with Hitler. The League of Nations declined Lemkin's initiative as well.

Jewish children in Poland set to be deported to the Nazi Chelmno death camp â€" Photo: Wikipedia

This was also due to the fact that the young state prosecutor had not yet found an overall term for the crimes that were to be punished. After Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Lemkin fled Lithuania and travelled to the U.S. via Sweden. In the face of the atrocities committed in his former home country and the Western Soviet Union he made a second attempt at promoting his initiative.

In 1943 he decided to translate the word creation he'd chosen: "ludobójstwo," a melding of the Polish word "lud" ("a people") and "zabójstwo" ("murder"). In English, he used two old languages to create the word "genocide", based on the Greek word "genos," meaning "a people/nation" and the Latin word "caedere," meaning "to kill."

By then it became clear that the massacre of Europe's Jews had outstripped that of the Armenians. In light of this, Lemkin did not have any trouble making his "convention against genocide" initiative a reality, and it was passed as "Resolution 260 â€" Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide" in 1948.

From then onwards, any crime committed "with the intention… of wholly or partially destroying a national, ethnic, racial or religious group" was to be punishable by law under this code. This also included the "application of severe bodily or psychological harm by members of their own group," the intentional creation of living conditions that would lead to "a total or partial physical destruction of that group," all forms of prevention of procreation of a group of people or the forced adoption of children of one group by another.

At first, there was no intelligible translation of the word "genocide" into German. But German newspapers made use of a much older term before the ratification of "resolution 260" in 1955, namely the word "Völkermord," meaning the "the killing of a people." The term had been in use at least since 1841 when poet Georg Herwegh used it, but it had also been used by Friederich Nietzsche in 1872 and by Wilhelm Liebknecht, SPD politician and father of Karl Liebknecht.

But the legal term "Genozid" (the Germanized form of "genocide") and the word "Völkermord" have been used synonymously since the mid-1950s. Both terms refer not only to the concrete massacre of members of an ethnic, religious or otherwise defined minority but also to all other measures taken, in the medium or long term, that cause the destruction of that group.

Relatives of Srebrenica victims at a 2007 memorial â€" Photo: Adam Jones

The massacre of Srebrenica was, according to Lemkin's terms, most certainly genocide. The fact that all male people within the UN "protection zone" were killed indicated a prevention of procreation of Bosnian Muslims.

The judges in The Hague, however, did not want to stretch the term any more than necessary and termed the massacres in a further seven Bosnian districts around Srebrenica "mass murder" and not "genocide."

But this does not change anything about the verdict passed on Karadzic. Forty years in prison is effectively a life sentence for the 70 year old.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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