It is called Watchers Of The Sky, and is dark, chilling, scary and I urge you all to watch it.
If I’m honest, I think it should be compulsory viewing in every school everywhere in the world.
But before you do, I would like to ask you a question, and that is, which is the odd one out from the following list?
- Shaka Zulu, between 1810 annd 1828 was responsible for the extermination of prisoners of war, women, children and even dogs. Estimates for the death toll range from 1 million to 2 million.
- Between 1904 and 1907. Eighty percent of the Herero population and 50 percent of the Nama population of Namibia were killed in a brutal scorched earth campaign led by German General Lothar von Trotha. Between 24,000 and 100,000 Herero perished along with 10,000 Nama.
- The Conquest of the Desert was a military campaign directed mainly by General Julio Argentino Roca in the 1870s, which established Argentine dominance over Patagonia, then inhabited by indigenous peoples, killing more than 1,300
- The indigenous rebellions of Túpac Amaru II and Túpac Katari against the Spanish between 1780 and 1782, cost over 100,000 colonists’ lives in Peru and Upper Peru (present-day Bolivia)
- The killing of approximately six million European Jews, as part of a program of deliberate extermination planned and executed by the National Socialist German Workers Party in Germany led by Adolf Hitler.
- In Rwanda,over the course of approximately 100 days from the assassination of President Juvénal Habyarimana on April 6 through mid-July 1994, at least 800,000 people were killed, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate.
Which is the odd one out?
The answer might surprise you, but it should also shock you. It’s the last entry on the list, for the simple reason that it is the only one that can technically be called a genocide.
Genocide, what an evocative and frightening word that is. The dictionary definition is as follows:
That doesn’t explain why the atrocity in Rwanda is the odd one out. The reason is that the term ‘Genocide; didn’t exist until 1944 when it was first coined by the subject of the documentary, Raphael Lemkin. If you’ve never heard of him, then you should feel as ashamed as I did, that I had no idea who he was, and what he was responsible for, until I viewed Watchers of the Sky.
You may be confused by the Nazi Holocaust not being covered by the term, but even though the Nuremburg Trials took place after the word was devised, it wasn’t actually a crime until 1948.
See for yourself, the defendant were tried for War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity. At no point is the word ‘genocide‘ even mentioned.
I realise that I was splitting hairs, after all I’m sure we can all agree that the list above were all genocidal acts regardless of whether the word existed at the time they occurred or not. But I did it for a reason. After all, the human race has a long and ignoble history of such atrocities. A history that is sadly, ongoing to this day.
And the numbers are just staggering:
- Nazis Holocaust (1939-1945) – 6,000,000 killed.
- Laos and Vietnam (1975) – 100,000 killed.
- Armenia (1915-1923) – 800,000 killed.
- Cambodia (1975-1979) – 1,000,000 killed.
- Ukraine (1932-1933) – 2,400,000 killed.
- Rwanda (1994) – 500,000 killed.
- Sudan (2003-2010) – 400,000 killed.
Bear in mind that all of those are the most conservative estimates, and the list of genocides I have covered is far from comprehensive.
For a more complete list, follow this link.
Raphael Lemkin spent his entire adult life fighting for the crime of genocide to be recognised as a crime and also for theInternational Criminal Court (ICC) to be given the teeth to force the prosecution of those responsible. Sadly he was not successful and died, defeated and broken in 1959.
Although he was able to force the United Nations to formally recognise genocide as a crime he was not able to get them to support it. In fact, they even refused to accept genocide as a crime if it happened within sovereign borders.
That’s right! If you wipe out your neighbours, you’re genocidal, but if you only massacre your own people, then you’re not.
Am I the only one who sees the sheer stupidity of such a stance? How can it be that geographic borders have any bearing on the systematic brutalisation and mass murder of a population?
And yes, I did mean brutalisation!
There is more to genocide than just the loss of life. Another heinous crime that goes hand-in-hand with the murders is rape. On a grand scale.
After all, you may think that Joy Division is just the name of a band. But they took their name from enforced prostitution by the Nazis in World War II.
In Srebrebenica (1995) a massacre took place where Ratko Mladić was responsible for the deaths of 7,000 (approx) men and boys. The women however were bused out after being separated into two groups. Old women and young attractive women. The old women were sent to refugee camps, whilst the younger women were sent to rape camps.
Follow this link for some harrowing personal accounts of life in a Bosnian Rape Camp. Be warned, it makes for difficult reading.
“They put me in another room and some soldiers came in. The first ordered me to take off my clothes. I said I didn’t want to but he just took them off himself. Three other soldiers were in the room and one of them held my legs while another cut me with a razor. The one who took my clothes off burned my mouth with cigarettes and then raped me while the other three watched. I was sure they all intended to take their turn, but after the second one raped me and the third one was preparing, the first two soldiers said to him not to bother because I was no good, I was just a peasant.” – 18 year old Muslim woman.
Although Ratko Mladić did stand trial for his crimes, it took eighteen years for it to happen.
Why the fuck did it take so long?
The atrocity was reported by another person you have probably never heard of but should, Samantha Power, reporter, author and US Ambassador to the UN. When she passed the story to her editors, there was no interest at all in letting the world know what was happening.
That’s right. Legions of people were brutalised, raped, tortured and murdered and the World didn’t care!
Of the 200+ sovereign states in the world, only 123 have signed up to the treaty as at 1 April 2015. Some notable exceptions are:
- North Korea
That last one is also prominent due to the fact that ICC Former Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, has issued an arrest warrant for the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir to face trial for his crimes.
Sadly, due to Sudan refusing to recognise the authority of the ICC, there is absolutely nothing that can be done to bring al-Bashir to justice. Yes, the organisation set up to combat abuses and human rights violations around the world completely fail to support the ICC. The same ICC that the UN charged with fighting the legal battle against inhumanity.
The UN, it seems, places cash ahead of human lives.
After all, as Sudan is the main supplier of oil to China (another non-signatory of the Rome Statute) what other conclusion can we reach?
400,000 lives versus oil revenue. Clearly a no brainer if you are one of the righteous few appointed to police the world and ensure basic human rights are available to everyone.
A poignant moment for me when watching the documentary was the introduction of a man called Emmanuel Uwurukundo, who is the Head of Operations for refugee camps in Chad, set up by the UN Field Agency. He is responsible for the processing, feeding and housing of refugees from Sudan into Chad. He is himself a genocide survivor when he escaped from Rwanda into Chad, but in the process lost his entire family.
Watch this documentary. It is 2 hours long, but don’t let that put you off.
We need the UN to supply the teeth that the ICC so desperately needs in order to make sure these vile atrocities become a thing of the past. After many hundreds of years of social change and human evolution, surely we should have grown beyond this by now!
How can we call ourselves human, when we still act in such an inhuman fashion?