Genocide: A Case for the Responsibility of the Bystander

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Vetlesen, Arne Johan (2000) Genocide: A Case for the Responsibility of the Bystander , Journal of Peace Research 37(4): 519–532.

In this article, the case of Bosnia is used to raise important theoretical and practical questions concerning the role of third parties in preventing and punishing genocide. After the massacre at Srebrenica, a UN-declared 'safe area', the debate over complicity in genocide on the part of UN personnel has gained particular urgency, and much of the discussion here is related to that debate. The article also draws attention to the role of intellectuals in preparing for genocide by way of ideological hate speech, a role of crucial importance in top-down orchestrated genocidal campaigns such as those seen in Rwanda and Bosnia. On the basis of the empirical material presented, it is argued that considerable responsibility resides with knowledgeable third-party bystanders to unfolding acts of genocide. The article also tries to distinguish between different kinds of bystanders, and it attempts to define and discuss what it means -- and what it should imply -- to be a contemporary bystander to genocidal warfare.