Genocide denial

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Genocide denial is the attempt to deny or minimize statements of the scale and severity of an incidence of genocide. Richard G. Hovannisian defines the denial as the final stage of a genocidal process and the erasing of the memories of the victim group: "Following the physical destruction of a people and their material culture, memory is all that is left and is targeted as the last victim. Complete annihilation of a people requires the banishment of recollection and suffocation of remembrance. Falsification, deception and half-truths reduce what was to what might have been or perhaps what was not at all."[1] This denial of genocide is usually considered a form of illegitimate historical revisionism. The distinction between respectable academic historians and those of illegitimate historical revisionists rests on the techniques used to write such histories. Accuracy and revision are central to historical scholarship. As in any academic discipline, historians' papers are submitted to peer review. Instead of submitting their work to the challenges of peer review, illegitimate revisionists rewrite history to support an agenda, often political, using any number of techniques and rhetorical fallacies to obtain their results.

The European Commission proposed a European Union–wide anti-racism law in 2001, which included an offense of genocide denial, but European Union states failed to agree on the balance between prohibiting racism and freedom of expression. After six years of wrangling a watered down compromise was reached in 2007 giving states freedom to implement the legislation as they saw fit.[2][3][4]

By individuals and non-government organisations[edit]

  • In his 1984 book The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas argued that only "a few hundred thousand" Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, that the Jews brought this on by their behavior, and that Zionists had collaborated with the Nazis in order to send more Jews to Israel. In a 2006 interview, without retracting these specifics, he stated that: "The Holocaust was a terrible, unforgivable crime against the Jewish nation, a crime against humanity that cannot be accepted by humankind."[5]
  • In February 2006, David Irving was imprisoned in Austria for Holocaust denial; he served 13 months in prison before being released on probation.[6][7]
  • Bernard Lewis was fined one franc by a French court for denying the Armenian genocide in a November 1993 Le Monde article.[8]
  • David Campbell has written of the now defunct British magazine Living Marxism that "LM’s intentions are clear from the way they have sought to publicize accounts of contemporary atrocities which suggest they were certainly not genocidal (as in the case of Rwanda), and perhaps did not even occur (as in the case of the murder of nearly 8,000 at Srebrenica)."[9][10] Chris McGreal writing in The Guardian on 20 March 2000, stated that Fiona Fox writing under a pseudonym had contributed an article to Living Marxism which was part of a campaign by Living Marxism that denied that the event which occurred in Rwanda was a genocide.[11]
  • Scott Jaschik has stated that Justin McCarthy, is one of two scholars "most active on promoting the view that no [Armenian] genocide took place".[12] He was one of four scholars who participated in a controversial debate hosted by PBS about the genocide.[13]
  • Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister (and later President) of Israel, was quoted in 2001 as having said: "We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. It is a tragedy what the Armenians went through but not a genocide."[14][15] In response to criticism of the comments, the Israeli Foreign Ministry later clarified, "The minister absolutely did not say, as the Turkish news agency alleged, 'What the Armenians underwent was a tragedy, not a genocide.'"[16]
  • Darko Trifunovic is an author of the Report about Case Srebrenica,[17] which was commissioned by the government of the Republika Srpska.[18] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) reviewed the report and concluded that it "represent[ed] one of the worst examples of revisionism in relation to the mass executions of Bosniaks committed in Srebrenica in July 1995".[19] After the report was published on 3 September 2002, it provoked outrage and condemnation by a wide variety of Balkan and international figures, individuals and organizations.[18][20]
  • Patrick Karuretwa stated in the Harvard Law Record that in 2007 the Canadian politician Robin Philpot "attracted intense media attention for repeatedly denying the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis"[21]
  • In May 2010, American law professor Peter Erlinder was arrested and jailed in Rwanda on charges of denying the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis in preparation for the defense of opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire, who also was charged with promoting "genocide ideology."[22]
  • For years, Volodymyr Viatrovych denied, downplayed and falsified facts about the massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia. His works have been criticised by numerous historians, such as; Ihor Ilyushyn,[23] Andrij Portnov,[24] Grzegorz Motyka,[25][26] Andrzej Zięba,[27] Per Anders Rudling,[28] Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe,[29] Andrzej Leon Sowa[30] and Grzegorz Hryciuk.[31] In May 2016, in Foreign Policy, Josh Cohen claimed that Viatrovych was "whitewashing Ukraine's past".[32]
  • On April 21, 2016 a full page ad appeared within The Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune that directed readers to Fact Check Armenia, a genocide denial website sponsored by the Turkish lobby in the US. When confronted about the ad a Wall Street Journal spokesperson stated, "We accept a wide range of advertisements, including those with provocative viewpoints. While we review ad copy for issues of taste, the varied and divergent views expressed belong to the advertisers."[33]

By governments[edit]

  • The government of the Republic of Turkey has long denied that the Armenian Genocide was a genocide.[34] This was exemplified by their objections in April 2007 to the wording in a United Nations exhibition, entitled "Lessons from Rwanda", about the 1994 Rwanda genocide, that forced a delay to the opening of the exhibition. The sentence rejected by Turkey was "Following World War 1, during which one million Armenians were murdered in Turkey, Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin urged the League of Nations to recognize crimes of barbarity as international crimes".[34] As a diplomatic compromise, the wording was changed to "In 1933, the lawyer Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew, urged the League of Nations to recognize mass atrocities against a particular group as an international crime. He cited mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in World War I and other mass killings in history. He was ignored."[35] The exhibition opened on 1 May 2007 three weeks later than planned.[36]
  • According to Sonja Biserko, president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, and Edina Becirevic, the faculty of criminology and security studies of the University of Sarajevo:

Denial of the Srebrenica genocide takes many forms [in Serbia]. The methods range from the brutal to the deceitful. Denial is present most strongly in political discourse, in the media, in the sphere of law, and in the educational system.[37]

The government of Pakistan explicitly denied that there was genocide. By their refusal to characterise the mass-killings as genocide or to condemn and restrain the Pakistani government, the US and Chinese governments implied that they did not consider it so.

Similarly, in the wake of the 2013 Shahbag protests against war criminals who were complicit in the genocide, English journalist Philip Hensher wrote[40]

The genocide is still too little known about in the West. It is, moreover, the subject of shocking degrees of denial among partisan polemicists and manipulative historians.


Genocide denial has an immense impact on both victim and perpetrator groups. The denial not only affects the relations and the possible reconciliation between victim and perpetrator, but it also affects the identity of the respective group, impacting at large the society they live in. While confrontation of the committed atrocities can be a tough process in which the victim feels humiliated anew by reliving the past,[41] it still has a benign therapeutic effect, helping the society to come to the terms with the past.[42] From a therapeutic point of view, letting the victim confront the past atrocity and its related painful memories is one way to reach a closure and to understand that the harm has occurred in the past.[43] By acknowledging the past errors, the relating memories are co-processed, "sometimes resulting in the narrator feeling a little better and the listener a little worse."[44] This also helps the memories to enter the shared narrative of the society, thereby becoming a common ground on which the society can build its future on.[45] Denying recognition will have a negative effect, further victimizing the victim which will feel not only wronged by the perpetrator but also by being denied recognition of the occurred wrongdoing. This implies that the denial also has a pivotal role in shaping the norms of a society since the omission of any committed errors, and thereby the lack of condemnation and punishment of the committed wrongs, risks normalizing similar actions, rising the society's tolerance for future occurrences of similar errors.[45]:110 Scholars exemplify the latter aspect in the case of Republic of Turkey and how the Turkish state's Armenian Genocide denial has had far-reaching effects on the Turkish society throughout its history in regard to both ethnic minorities, especially the Kurds, but political opposition in general.[45]:48 The denial also affects the self-image of the perpetrator by omitting the "righteous" individuals among its own ranks. This lack of differentiation between "we" (the righteous") and "them" (the wrongful "other") could result in a rather homogeneous perception of the nation in question, thus making the victim (but also third parties) to project the perpetrating role onto the entire society/nation, aggravating the prospects of future reconciliation.[45]:24

Bhargava notes that "[m]ost calls to forget disguise the attempt to prevent victims from publicly remembering in the fear that ‘there is a dragon living on the patio and we better not provoke it.'"[46] In Bhargava's words "It is well known that remembrance of past harm reinforces asymmetries of power. The fear of physical suffering in the future feeds on the remembrance of past acts of repression. Such thinking encourages passivity and obedience in victims, and this in turn serves the interest of the powerful. But such remembrance can cut both ways. If memory of suffering is kept alive, reprisal may occur at future, inopportune moments."[46]:52 In the Armenian case, one could point to the committed terrorist acts during 1970s and 1980s (e.g. ASALA and JCAG as a direct result of the Turkish state denial of the genocide).[45]:110

However, political contingencies could in certain cases necessitate some degree of denial (or at least holding back the entire truth) in order to promote a recovery and re-building a society. This approach is especially conspicuous in post-conflict societies where the prevailing power constellation might require a political trade-off in regard to past committed wrongs. This aspect was true in post-Apartheid South Africa where the perpetrating group was still in possession of power (judicial, police, army), risking political instability if they were put on trial and risked punishment.[47] This was, among others, one of the main reasons for granting amnesty in exchange for confessing to committed errors during the transitional period in South Africa. However, the society at large and the victims in particular will perceive this kind of tradeoffs as "morally suspect,"[48] and sooner or later will question its sustainability. Thus, a common refrain in regard to the Final Report (1998) by South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission was "We've heard the truth. There is even talk about reconciliation. But where's the justice?"[49]

The denial has thereby a direct negative impact on the development of a society, often by undermining its laws and the issue of justice, but also the level of democracy itself.[45]:33–38 If democracy is meant to be built on the rule of law and justice, upheld and safeguarded by state institutions, then surely the omission of legal consequences and justice would potentially undermine the democracy.[50] What is more dangerous from a historical point of view is that such a default would imply the subsequent loss of the meaning of these events to future generations, a loss which is resembled to "losing a moral compass."[51] The society becomes susceptible to similar wrongdoings in the absence of proper handling of preceding occasions.[52] Nonetheless, denial, especially immediately after the committed wrongdoings, is rather the rule than the exception and naturally almost exclusively done by the perpetrator in order to escape responsibility. In some cases, e.g. the Armenian Genocide, this denial is done explicitly, while in some other cases, e.g. in the case of the "Comfort women" and the role of the Japanese State, the denial is more implicit. The latter was evident in how an overwhelmingly majority of the surviving victims refused to accept a monetary compensation since the Japanese government still refused to admit its own responsibility (the monetary compensation was paid through a private fund rather than by the state, a decision perceived by the victims about state's refusal to assume any direct responsibility).[53]


  • Pech, Laurent. "The Law of Holocaust Denial in Europe: Towards a (qualified) EU-wide Criminal Prohibition". The Jean Monnet Working Papers (10/09). Archived from the original on 7 April 2010.


  1. ^ Hovannisian, Richard G. (1998). "Denial of the Armenian Genocide in Comparison with Holocaust Denial". Remembrance and Denial: The Case of the Armenian Genocide. Wayne State University Press. p. 202. ISBN 081432777X.
  2. ^ Ethan McNern. Swastika ban left out of EU's racism law, The Scotsman, 30 January 2007
  3. ^ runo Waterfield. EU plans far-reaching 'genocide denial' law, The Daily Telegraph 4 February 2007
  4. ^ Ingrid Melander EU to agree watered-down anti-racism law-diplomats, Reuters, 18 April 2007.
  5. ^ Akiva Eldar (28 May 2003). "U.S. told us to ignore Israeli map reservations". Haaretz. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  6. ^ Staff Holocaust denier Irving is jailed BBC, 20 February 2006
  7. ^ Veronika Oleksyn (Associated Press) Holocaust Denier Freed, Gets Probation 20 December 2006.
  8. ^ Robert Fisk Let me denounce genocide from the dock The Independent on Sunday, 14 October 2006
  9. ^ David Campbell. ITN vs Living Marxism, Part 2. Footnote [49] cites Linda Ryan "What’s in a ‘mass grave’?, Living Marxism, Issue 88, March 1996" (The link he provides in the footnote does not exist any more so the link is a substitute). Accessed 20 April 2008
  10. ^ McGreal, Chris. Genocide? What genocide?, The Guardian 20 March 2000
  11. ^ "Genocide? What genocide?". The Guardian. London. 20 March 2000. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  12. ^ Jaschik, Scott (22 October 2007). "Genocide Deniers".
  13. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (17 April 2006). "A PBS Documentary Makes Its Case for the Armenian Genocide, With or Without a Debate". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 September 2006.
  14. ^ Robert Fisk. Peres stands accused over denial of "meaningless" Armenian Holocaust, The Independent, 18 April 2001
  15. ^ Barak Ravid, Peres to Turks: Our stance on Armenian issue hasn't changed, Haaretz, 26 August 2007
  16. ^ Auron, Yair. The Banality of Denial. 2007, page 127.
  17. ^ "Brief Record". US Library of Congress. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  18. ^ a b Gordana Katana (a correspondent with Voice of America in Banja Luka). REGIONAL REPORT: Bosnian Serbs Play Down Srebrenica, website of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting. Retrieved 25 October 2009
  19. ^ Judgement against Miroslav Deronjic ICTY
  20. ^ "Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline, 02-09-03". 3 September 2005. Retrieved 3 July 2009.
  21. ^ Release of Rwanda's mastermind of death promotes genocide denial Archived 6 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Harvard Law Record, 4 December 2009
  22. ^ Holland, Hereward (28 May 2010). "Rwanda arrests U.S. lawyer for genocide denial". Reuters.
  23. ^ Игорь Ильюшин, Плохо забытое старое: о новой книге Владимира Вятровича, Ab Imperio, 1/2012, pp.382-385 - Ihor Ilyushyn, "A poorly forgotten past: Volodymyr Viatrovych's new book" (in Russian).
  24. ^ Андрей Портнов, Истории для домашнего употребления, «Ab Imperio», 3/2012, pp. 324-334 - Andrij Portnov, "History for domestic consumption" (in Russian).
  25. ^ Гжегож Мотыка, Неудачная книга, «Ab Imperio», 1/2012, pp.387-400 - Grzegorz Motyka, "An unsuccessful book" (in Russian).
  26. ^ Grzegorz Motyka, "W krainie uproszczeń", Nowa Europa Wschodnia, 1/2013, pp. 97-101 - "An extreme simplification", New Eastern Europe (in Polish).
  27. ^ Анджей Земба, Мифологизированная “война”, «Ab Imperio», 1/2012, pp. 403-421 - Andrzej Zięba, "A mythologised 'war'" (in Russian).
  28. ^ Per Anders Rudling, "Warfare or War Criminality?: Volodymyr V’iatrovych, Druha pol’s’ko-ukains’ka viina, 1942–1947 (Kyiv: Vydavnychyi dim Kyevo-Mohylians’ka akademiia, 2011). 228 pp.", «Ab Imperio», 1/2012, pp. 356-381.
  29. ^ Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe, "Debating, obfuscating and disciplining the Holocaust: post-Soviet historical discourses on the OUN–UPA and other nationalist movements", East European Jewish Affairs, 42:3, pp. 207-208
  30. ^ Andrzej Leon Sowa, "Recenzja książek: Polśko-ukrajinśki stosunki w 1942-1947 rokach u dokumentach OUN ta UPA, red. Wołodymyr Wiatrowycz oraz Wołodymyr Wiatrowycz, Druha polśko-ukrajinśka wijna 1942-1947," [in:] Pamięć i Sprawiedliwość, nr 21, pp. 450-460 - "A review of Polish-Ukrainian Relations in 1942-1947 (ed. Viatrovych) and The Second Polish-Ukrainian War, 1942-1947", in Memory and Justice (in Polish) [1] Archived 4 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ Grzegorz Hryciuk, "Recenzja książki: Wołodymyr Wiatrowycz, Druha polśko-ukrajinśka wijna 1942-1947", [in:] Pamięć i Sprawiedliwość, nr 21, pp. 460-471 - "A review of Viatrovych, The Second Polish-Ukrainian War, 1942-1947", in Memory and Justice (in Polish).[2] Archived 9 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ Josh Cohen, "The historian whitewashing Ukraine's past", Foreign Policy, 2 May 2016 [3]
  34. ^ a b Evelyn Leopold (9 April 2007). "UN genocide exhibit delayed after Turkey objects". Reuters.
  35. ^ Evelyn Leopold Rwanda genocide exhibit revises words on Armenians Reuters 30 April 2007
  36. ^ Associated Press report. Genocide: Exhibit Opens at U.N. After Compromise [1 May], 2007.(A copy on website of
  37. ^ Denial of genocide – on the possibility of normalising relations in the region by Sonja Biserko (the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia) and Edina Becirevic (faculty of criminology and security studies of the University of Sarajevo).
  38. ^ "His article was – from Pakistan's point of view – a huge betrayal and he was accused of being an enemy agent. It still denies its forces were behind such atrocities as those described by Mascarenhas, and blames Indian propaganda."Mark Dummett (16 December 2011). "Bangladesh war: The article that changed history". BBC Asia. Retrieved 27 December 2011.
  39. ^ Genocide Denial; The Case of Bangladesh by Donald W. Beachler – "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 28 December 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Online summary hosted at Institute for the Study of Genocide
  40. ^ Philip Hensher (19 February 2013). "The war Bangladesh can never forget". The Independent. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  41. ^ Margalit, Avishai (2002). The Ethics of Memory. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00941-X.:61–64
  42. ^ Amstutz, Mark R. (2005). The Healing of Nations: The Promise and Limits of Political Forgiveness. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0-7425-3580-0.:24
  43. ^ Colvin, Christopher J. (2003). "The Healing of Nations: The Promise and Limits of Political Forgiveness". In Hodgkin, Katherine; Radstone, Susannah (eds.). Contested pasts: The politics of memory. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-28647-6.:156
  44. ^ Adler, Nanci; Leydesdorff, Selma; Chamberlain, Mary; Neyzi, Leyla, eds. (2009). Memories of Mass Repression: Narrating Life Stories in the Aftermath of Atrocity. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-4128-0853-8.:xii
  45. ^ a b c d e f Avedian, Vahagn (2018). Knowledge and Acknowledgement in the Politics of Memory of the Armenian Genocide. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-13-831885-4.:45
  46. ^ a b Bhargava, Rajeev (2000). "Restoring Decency to Barbaric Societies". In Rotberg, Robert I.; Thompson, Dennis F. (eds.). Truth v. Justice: The Morality of Truth Commissions. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-05071-6.:52
  47. ^ Gutman, Amy; Thompson, Dennis F. (2000). "The Moral Foundations of Truth Commissions". In Rotberg, Robert I.; Thompson, Dennis F. (eds.). Truth v. Justice: The Morality of Truth Commissions. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-05071-6.:39
  48. ^ Rotberg, Robert I. (2000). "Truth Commissions and the Provision of Truth, Justice, and Reconciliations". In Rotberg, Robert I.; Thompson, Dennis F. (eds.). Truth v. Justice: The Morality of Truth Commissions. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-05071-6.:8
  49. ^ Bevernage, Berber (2012). History, Memory, and State-Sponsored Violence: Time and Justice. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-88340-5.:47–48
  50. ^ Jelin, Elizabeth; Kaufman, Susana G. (2000). "Layers of Memories: Twenty Years After in Argentina". In Lorey, David E.; Beezley, William H. (eds.). Genocide, Collective Violence, and Popular Memory: The Politics of Remembrance in the Twentieth Century. SR Books. ISBN 0-8420-2982-6.:36
  51. ^ De Brito, Alexandra Barahona; Enriquez, Carmen Gonzalez; Aguilar, Paloma (2001). "Introduction". In De Brito, Alexandra Barahona; Enriquez, Carmen Gonzalez; Aguilar, Paloma (eds.). Genocide, Collective Violence, and Popular Memory: The Politics of Remembrance in the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-924090-6.:25
  52. ^ Adler, Nanci (2001). "Conclusion". In De Brito, Alexandra Barahona; Enriquez, Carmen Gonzalez; Aguilar, Paloma (eds.). Genocide, Collective Violence, and Popular Memory: The Politics of Remembrance in the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-924090-6.:311
  53. ^ Mionw, Martha (1998). Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History After Genocide and Mass Violence. Beacon Press, cop. ISBN 0-8070-4506-3.:105

External links[edit]

Quotations related to Genocide denial at Wikiquote