Atrocity Triangle: A course on the Criminology of Gross Human Rights Violations
Full course description
The first part of the course introduces the leading concepts and theoretical frameworks that will structure the course. The course therefore firstly addresses the concept of the ‘atrocity triangle’ and it looks into the relationship between the three actors (the perpetrator, the victim, and the bystander) involved in the triangle. Subsequently, an integrated criminological model will be introduced which sets out the relevant etiological elements that will be addressed in greater detail in the second part of the course.
The second part of the course, which focuses on the perpetrators, will start with the forms, functions and effects of (political) violence and the concept of torture in particular. The analysis continues on the macro level and addresses the role of policy and ideology. Subsequent analysis focusses on the meso level and the role of military organizations and other institutions is discussed. In this context attention is paid to the influence of military training and we will discuss how with the help of a bureaucratic system genocide can be planned, organized and carried out. The discussion will thus address several compulsive and determinative features of the environment surrounding perpetrators of gross human rights violations. We will furthermore discuss several experiments (Milgram, Ash, Stanford, etc.) on obedience, institutional roles and conformity, but we will also address other social-psychological mechanisms which are helpful in understanding how and why people are able to participate in the perpetration of gross human rights violations. Lastly, the important role that language and discourse plays in conflict and international crime is highlighted.
The third part of the course will focus on the bystander. We will start the discussion on the role of the bystander by looking into the phenomenon of the ‘the bystander effect’ in order to address the question why bystanders fail to act. Secondly, the role of bystanders in international politics at the macro-level of both states and international organizations in the field of human rights will be discussed. We will give special attention to the role of the UN Security Council when it was confronted with gross human rights violations. Lastly, in addition to perpetrators and bystanders (collaborators), certain actors in the same situations did not perpetrate or passively stood by, instead they took affirmative action and came to the help of those in need. We will therefore look more closely into the phenomenon of rescuing in order to find out what turns actors into rescuers.
The fourth and last part of the course will take a more victimological perspective, which focuses on the position of the victim. Who are the victims and why are they victimized? What is the relationship between these victims and their perpetrators and what are the consequences of this relationship? In this context specific attention will be paid to gender selective violence. More particularly, the phenomena of rape as a ‘weapon of war’ and gendercide (gender selective mass killings) will be discussed. Also, the complex case of child soldiers will be addressed as they are victims and perpetrators at the same time.
Several lectures will be held during this course. These lectures will be used to illustrate the discussed materials and to provide the participants with a deeper understanding of the subject matter by presenting the linkage between theory and (research) practice. During the lectures, various guest speakers will address the subject matter from the practitioner’s perspective. In addition, we will screen a number of documentaries that will be analyzed during the post-discussion. We hope that, through these documentaries, the subject matter of this course will become more accessible and less abstract.
Case studies play an important role throughout the course and we will therefore pay attention to a wide variety of cases including The Holocaust and other cases of genocide (Armenia, Australia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Darfur, etc.). Although cases of genocide will play an important role in this course, the caseload is certainly not limited to genocide and other violent conflicts will be addressed as well. Here one could think of the following cases, Chili, Argentina, Guatemala, Indonesia, East Timor, Iraq, Syria, Congo, Central African Republic, etc. Not to forget the torture practices of the U.S.
The insights gathered throughout this course have policy implications and inform us how we could react to gross human rights violations once they have occurred. These policy implications are addressed in greater detail during another UCM course titled The aftermath of atrocity: A course on transitional justice and post-conflict reconstruction (SSC 3052) which will be taught during the spring semester in period 5.
- To gain a criminological understanding of gross human rights violations and other international crimes by examining their causes on individual (micro), institutional (meso), national and international (macro) levels using a criminological approach that integrates relevant insights from different disciplines (social psychology, sociology, victimology, history, international relations, international law and psychology).
- Moreover, to view the world through the eyes of the perpetrators as well as the victims and the bystanders by focusing on their roles in the occurrence of gross human rights violations.
- To make insightful the linkage between gross human rights violations and violent conflicts in the world.
- To gain an understanding of how to approach the criminological study of complex cases of violence and to be able to analyze such cases independently.
Two 2000-level courses in the Social Sciences or Humanities.
- Handbook (t.b.a)
- C.A.R. Moerland
- F. Grünfeld