Wednesday, 12 June 2013
24-25 June 2013, Warsaw
In a little more than fifty years, the area of human rights has become one of the major concerns of international law and scholarship. Nonetheless, cultural rights are still considered the most neglected or least developed category of human rights in respect of their scope, legal content and enforceability. Though international instruments rarely define cultural rights as collective, it is generally understood that these rights comprise a group’s ability to preserve its way of life, such as child rearing, continuation of language, cultural self-determination as well as the access and enjoyment of its culture and cultural heritage. Indeed, the catalogue of cultural rights is exceptionally dynamic due to the fact that culture is a living and growing organism. However, the term ‘collective cultural rights’ cannot be easily perceived as self-explanatory. Some of these rights may consist in the right to protect a group’s cultural identity and its heritage by preventing an access by non-members thereof. Clearly, such rights may be in conflict with those collective rights that provide the right to information, knowledge and enjoyment of cultural heritage. In addition, it is often argued that collective cultural rights are not truly human rights since they are group-differentiated rather than universal to all people just by virtue of being human. And, their group-orientated scope may undermine the promotion and enforcement of basic individual rights and freedoms.
The symposium aims to explore the content and legal nature of collective cultural rights in the contemporary international legal framework. More precisely, it endeavours to discuss how the protection, recognition and enforcement of group cultural rights affect the development, changes and formation of general international law norms. To this aim, the symposium gathers both theoretical and doctrinal re-conceptualizations of collective cultural rights (in particular, the right to access, enjoyment and preservation of cultural heritage), and selected case-studies.
The symposium constitutes one of the major actions undertaken within a two-year research project on collective cultural rights financed by the Foundation for Polish Science and managed jointly by Dr Andrzej Jakubowski, Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Prof. Ana Filipa Vrdoljak, Faculty of Law of the University of Technology Sydney and Dr Christophe Germann, Attorney at law (Geneva) and researcher, Faculty of Law, University of Berne.
The symposium will be held on 24-25 June 2013 at the Polish Academy of Sciences (Staszic Palace), Nowy Swiat 72, Warsaw (Poland). Its outcome will presented in a form of an edited volume published by an international publisher.
Saturday, 17 September 2011
Copyright, cultural diversity and censorship:
Professor Jeremy Phillips, editor of the Oxford University Press' Journal of Intellectual Property Law and Practice (JIPLP), kindly published a first draft of this paper on the JIPLP blog:
Most Americans consider freedom of speech as one of the highest values protected under their Constitution. Europeans equally dislike censorship and invoke article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the equivalent of the First Amendment, stating that everyone has the right to freedom of expression that, subject to certain limitations, includes “freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.” A similar rule applies in all other true democracies worldwide. In various jurisdictions, notably in South Africa, citizens can enforce this right not only against the State, but also vis-à-vis private entities.
Now, is there a case against “marketing censorship”, meaning censorship not from public sources, but from private ones? - Tunisia and Egypt experienced over the last three decades strong public censorship from their kleptomaniac former presidents and their cliques. What about us in Western democracies? - Let me suggest that we are subject to censorship of a private kind.
Disproportionately high standards of intellectual property protection are incentives to disburse excessive expenditures in advertising for contents. They are the primary means for market domination. This reality is detrimental to the creation, production and dissemination of films, books, music and other cultural expressions that do not enjoy comparable investments in attracting the public's attention. In other words, excessive copyright, trademark and trade name protection generally contribute to marginalizing and excluding contents and aesthetics that are culturally different from the economically dominant ones. They do not enjoy competitive marketing power even when they have the same or more audience appeal, and this is how the muzzle works in our very own neighborhood. A few top executives and their apparatchiks in the film, book and music industries dispose of highly concentrated power on marketing, and they abuse this power to culturally discriminate. They impose their preferences upon you and me and everybody around the world, and muzzle all the rest. They are our Ben Ali's and Hosni Mubarak's censorship apparatus.
Let me quote Michel Foucault to add a key piece to the puzzle of muzzle: “You act on reality by acting on its representation.”
The United States lost the Vietnam War in reality. In its representation on screen, however, they seem to have won it. How many Vietnam war films could audiences in the United States and abroad watch over the last decades that were authored by Vietnamese? To what extent did this one-sided view prepare mainstream public opinion for new wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?
A “variable geometry in copyright duration” could solve the problem of market censorship caused by excessive intellectual property protection: the higher the marketing investments the shorter the copyright duration of protection. In other words, the works with modest advertising shall keep the full term of copyright protection (70 years after the author's death), whereas this duration shall be shorter for works enjoying high investments in their publicity. As a consequence, a great diversity of small and medium sized fishes will flourish while big sharks are kept at a safe distance.
Friday, 6 May 2011
Commercial speech and slow death of the diversity of human expressions
Tuesday 10 May 2011 at 1300
Speaker: Dr Christophe Germann, Attorney at Law
Venue: Oxford Law Faculty Senior Common Room
For further information, please see: www.law.ox.ac.uk/event=11084
The presentation discusses the idea of “variable geometry in copyright duration” as a possible new solution to implement article 7 of the 2005 UNESCO Convention.
This proposal that can be summarized as follows:
The terms of copyright protection for cultural goods and services, including entertainment, shall be subject to variable geometry: the higher the marketing investments the shorter the copyright duration of protection.
In a first stage, copyright terms shall be reduced down to the minimum of 50 years according to Article 12 of the TRIPS Agreement when the protected works enjoy high investments in their advertisement.
In a second stage, the EU shall propose an amendment of this provision at the WTO aimed at further reducing the terms of protection for copyrighted works enjoying predatory marketing, for example to one year after the first public release of the work.
The full duration of copyright protection provided by the copyright duration directive shall continue to apply to works that enjoy none or little marketing investments.
This new idea shall provide a level playing field for talents and contents from all cultures by imposing a desincentive for excessive marketing that silences talents and contents from diversified cultural origins.
This proposal is arguably in line with the rationale of copyright protection. The EU is currently contemplating an overhaul of certain elements of the copyright system in order to adapt it to the digital age. We suggest taking this opportunity by mainstreaming cultural diversity and introducing variable geometry of copyright duration in the context of this reform.
For more information on this proposal aimed at improving access to culture and reinforcing competition on a level playing field via copyright, please refer to the long version of the study for the European Parliament on the implementation of the 2005 UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity at www.diversitystudy.eu – see section “Main Study” (Introduction and Study Paper 2B, version of November 2010) as well as to the video discussion by Prof. Fiona MacMillan (University of London) in the section “Stakeholders' Dialogue”.
Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Time to re-think genocide when the “crime of crimes” depends on the color of a star
The indictment of the Pol Pot regime leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith by the Co-Investigating Judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia exemplifies to the extreme the main issue of the legal concept of “genocide” as it stands today. According to the closing decision of 15 September 2010, only Cham and Vietnamese shall be considered as victims of genocide. For all other victims – presumably more than one and half million of Cambodians – the legal qualifications of the evil that they suffered are crimes against humanity and, in some case, war crimes. From the perspective of international criminal law, notably concerning sanctions, this distinction will not be meaningful. However, the symbolic significance of the concept of “genocide” as “crime of crimes” is likely to cause injustice among victims as well as a dilution of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Christophe Germann therefore submits to suspend the application of the 1948 Genocide Convention while acknowledging that it has fully accomplished its historic mission. This Convention arguably cannot be amended in a way that avoids incoherence and redundancy with newer law. As a solution, the author proposes to introduce a novel international crime, the crime against human diversity, as an aggravated form of crimes against humanity in the Rome statute and like instruments.
Deterrence of crimes against human diversity by way of international criminal law can contribute to reinforce the diversity of human expressions, including cultural, social, political and ideological expressions. It can work as a novel safeguard against the mobilization of civil society by the most radical conflict entrepreneurs. As such, it may become a most effective means of early prevention of mass atrocities.
Christophe Germann presents this contribution at the 2nd Biennial War Crimes Conference: Justice? Whose Justice? Punishment, Mediation or Reconciliation.
Saturday, 3 July 2010
Germann Avocats' Study on the Implementation of the
2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and
Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions
for the European Parliament
The Geneva based law firm Germann Avocats and its multidisciplinary research team successfully completed a study for the European Parliament's Committee on Culture and Education (tender procedure IP/B/CULT/IC/2009-057).
This study provides a summary of the state of implementation of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions of 2005. Focusing on fields in which the EU is expected to provide leadership or coordination, it is intended to provide ideas and long-term guidance on implementing the Convention. For this purpose, it analyses the obligations set out by this treaty. It assesses various practices in implementing the UNESCO Convention from a legal and practical viewpoint, and identifies challenges and measures to help achieve the objectives of this instrument.
The Research Team presented the Study "Implementing the UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity" to the Members of the European Parliament at a workshop in Brussels on 2 June 2010.
This Study can be downloaded from the Section "Main Study" at
High level experts from academia discuss Germann's and Ferri's legal contributions on new ideas related to the implementation of the UNESCO Convention (see "Stakeholders' Dialogue"):
Professor Ben Kiernan (Yale University) on cultural genocide prevention;
Professor Fiona Macmillan (Birkbeck University of London) on the implications of intellectual property and competition;
Professor Jan Aart Scholte (University of Warwick) on civil society involvement.
Friday, 18 December 2009
DIVERSITÉ HUMAINE À L'APPEL DU MINARET
Le résultat de la votation sur l'interdiction des minarets en Suisse a eu un grand mérite, celui de susciter un débat passionné, critique et contraignant à l'échelle planétaire sur le droit et la démocratie. Rares sont les médias dans le monde qui n'ont pas consacré de couverture visible à ce verdict populaire. L'attention est portée en premier lieu sur la liberté religieuse, la protection des minorités et la liberté d'expression. Au-delà du droit à ces «libertés identitaires» fortement thématisées, il est utile d'élargir et d'approfondir maintenant la discussion sur la diversité culturelle et sa négation la plus radicale, le génocide culturel. Cette approche originale du problème permettra d'aborder les relations tendues entre les droits de l'homme et les droits des groupes humains afin d'esquisser des solutions nouvelles. Plus précisément, il s'agit aujourd'hui de repenser le contrat social afin de valoriser la diversité humaine et neutraliser ainsi les incendiaires. La diversité culturelle n'a pas seulement une valeur esthétique, elle peut également contribuer à préserver la vie. Les techniques employées pour museler les expressions émanant de l'altérité religieuse ou culturelle varient entre destruction physique, interdiction et assimilation forcée. Cette dernière peut également aboutir à une forme de génocide.
Cliquez ici pour continuer la lecture.
Monday, 7 September 2009
Speech by MP Josian Aubert, 7 September 2009:
Aubert Josiane (S, VD): Le Conseil fédéral soutient dans sa substance l'idée formulée dans ma motion du 9 décembre 2008 sur la prévention du génocide culturel. Il est toutefois de l'avis que "l'élaboration de nouvelles règles de droit aurait des conséquences indésirables et ne permettrait pas d'atteindre le but recherché". Le Conseil fédéral propose dès lors de rejeter cette motion.
Je ne partage pas cet avis et je vous demande de voter en faveur de mon intervention pour les raisons suivantes. Les projets initiaux de la Convention de 1948 pour la prévention et la répression du crime de génocide incluaient le génocide culturel compris comme un acte permettant d'anéantir entièrement ou partiellement un groupe humain. Le texte final en vigueur de cette convention ne contient cependant plus de référence au génocide culturel, cela pour diverses raisons qui, à mon avis, ont toutes perdu de leur actualité et de leur pertinence.
La convention de 1948 a trouvé une mise en oeuvre efficace depuis la fin de la guerre froide pour punir le génocide. Son talon d'Achille reste toutefois la prévention; il en va de même avec les autres instruments du droit international public existants. Celui-ci est insuffisant en matière de prévention, même s'il est appliqué de manière satisfaisante. Le Conseil fédéral estime que le génocide culturel diluerait la signification de génocide physique et biologique en tant que crime des crimes. Au contraire, une prévention renforcée agira contre le risque de dilution. En effet, il ne s'agit pas de protéger la culture en tant que telle, mais bien le groupe humain qui est porteur et tributaire d'une telle culture. Par conséquent, l'élément du "mens rea", soit l'intention spécifique de détruire le groupe humain en tant que tel, assurera que le génocide culturel ne réduira pas la gravité du crime en question. Cet élément mental contribuera à définir et délimiter précisément l'acte physique visé au niveau juridique, à savoir l'atteinte à l'intégrité culturelle d'un groupe humain.
Dans l'affaire Jean-Paul Akayesu, le Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda a qualifié le viol comme un moyen génocidaire, alors qu'il n'est pas mentionné expressément dans la convention de 1948. Selon cette jurisprudence de 1998, la violence sexuelle ferait partie intégrante du processus de destruction visant spécifiquement les femmes tutsies et contribuant à leur destruction ainsi qu'à celle du groupe auquel elles appartenaient.
L'intégrité sexuelle est protégée par le droit pénal national dans tous les pays. Si l'attaque contre l'intégrité sexuelle a pour but de détruire le groupe humain de la victime, le viol constitue alors un acte génocidaire selon cette jurisprudence. Ainsi, il y a deux types de viol: le crime de droit pénal commun d'une part et le crime de droit pénal international du génocide d'autre part, lorsque ces atteintes sont commises dans l'intention de détruire le groupe humain auquel appartiennent les victimes.
Par analogie, je vous propose aujourd'hui de distinguer entre deux formes d'atteinte à l'intégrité culturelle. Le droit existant protège les expressions culturelles en tant que telles. Il omet de protéger de manière appropriée les atteintes à l'intégrité culturelle ayant pour objectif la destruction d'un groupe humain. Par exemple, lorsque le dalaï-lama dénonce la commission d'un génocide culturel au Tibet, il n'existe actuellement pas de moyens de droit à la hauteur de l'enjeu en cause pour répondre à cette accusation. Cet enjeu réside dans la valeur existentielle de l'intégrité culturelle pour le groupe humain menacé.
Madeleine Albright et William Cohen ont soumis en décembre 2008 à l'administration américaine un rapport intitulé "Prévenir le génocide". Ce rapport présente une analyse critique des insuffisances actuelles de la prévention du génocide et émet des recommandations à l'adresse des instances compétentes aux Etats-Unis. Quelle est la réponse de l'Europe et de la Suisse à cette initiative? L'indifférence, le silence et l'inaction seraient inacceptables au regard des valeurs qui sont en jeu. Nous aussi devons agir ici et maintenant. La prévention du génocide vise en premier lieu la protection de la diversité des groupes humains, soit de la diversité humaine pour reprendre un terme employé par Hannah Arendt dans son livre classique "Eichmann à Jérusalem. Rapport sur la banalité du mal".
Il faut admettre que le droit pénal international actuel ne saurait suffire à protéger et promouvoir la diversité humaine. Par conséquent, un troisième pilier devra s'ajouter un jour aux conventions existantes sur la diversité biologique et culturelle, à savoir une convention sur la diversité humaine. Ma motion s'entend comme une étape en direction d'un tel instrument de droit international public. En 2005, les Etats membres de l'Unesco ont approuvé à la quasi-unanimité la Convention sur la diversité culturelle.
Aujourd'hui, je vous invite à reconnaître la prévention du génocide culturel comme un moyen pour renforcer la diversité humaine et par là prévenir le génocide physique et biologique. Pour atteindre cet objectif, il faut dans un premier temps mettre la diversité culturelle sur pied d'égalité avec la diversité biologique en sanctionnant comme génocide culturel les atteintes contre l'intégrité culturelle d'un groupe humain en vue de l'anéantir. Lorsque cette étape législative sera franchie, les conditions pour une nouvelle convention protégeant et promouvant la diversité humaine de manière efficace seront réunies.
Dans cet esprit, je vous demande d'exprimer à l'égard de notre gouvernement notre volonté de législateur et d'accepter cette motion.
Reply by the Swiss government (Federal Council):
Calmy-Rey Micheline, conseillère fédérale: Madame Aubert demande au Conseil fédéral d'élaborer des règles de droit applicables au niveau national et susceptibles d'être intégrées dans le droit international public, visant à lutter de manière efficace contre le génocide culturel. L'élaboration de ces nouvelles règles de droit aurait pour but de prévenir le génocide biologique et physique, de protéger et promouvoir les droits humains et la diversité culturelle en Suisse, en Europe et dans le monde.
Le Conseil fédéral vous propose de rejeter la motion.
Pourquoi? Premièrement, le crime de génocide, selon les termes de la Convention pour la prévention et la répression du crime de génocide du 9 décembre 1948, ne comprend pas les actes de "génocide culturel". Deuxièmement, l'inclusion des actes de "génocide culturel" dans la définition du génocide au niveau national aura un effet de dilution du terme de "génocide" ce que, bien entendu, personne d'entre nous ne souhaite.
Sur la scène internationale, la Suisse se montre très active en matière de prévention du génocide. Elle encourage les efforts effectués au sein de l'Organisation des Nations Unies pour développer et renforcer les instruments permettant de détecter des situations qui pourraient aboutir à de telles tragédies humaines et organise conjointement avec d'autres Etats des forums sur ce thème.
Thursday, 11 June 2009
"Cultural genocide" constitutes the most extreme negation of cultural diversity. A UNESCO convention of 2005 protects and promotes cultural diversity whereas "cultural genocide" is not addressed under existing international law. The paper summarized as follows explores this issue; for the full text, see Int. J. Intellectual Property Management, August 2009.
Le Temps published a short French version of this contribution on 12 June 2008 under the title "La culture est morte, vive le commerce!"
The strength of the WTO and the weakness of the UNESCO
The People’s Republic of China faces the claim that her repression in Tibet combined with her demographic policies in this region causes “cultural genocide”. In March 2008, the Peace Nobel Prize winner Dalai Lama alerted the world community that “the language, customs and traditions of Tibet, which reflect the true nature and identity of the Tibetan people are gradually fading away.” He denounced that “some kind of cultural genocide is taking place”. So far, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) kept silent about these allegations although it loudly asserts to advocate the cause of cultural diversity. As a matter of fact, for the time being, the United Nations have no effective legal instrument to address cultural genocide although the UNESCO produced a Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions that entered into force last year. One can only find an indirect reference to a form of cultural genocide considered as a crime against humanity in positive international public law in Article II, letter e, of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (‘Genocide Convention’): The act of ‘forcibly transferring children of the group to another group’ falls under the meaning of ‘genocide’ if such act is ‘committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such’.
Last year, China had also to respond at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to a claim brought up by the USA that her legislation does not comply with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). According to the USA, the Chinese law and practice tolerates piracy that damages so-called ‘copyright industries’ or ‘content industries’, in particular the industries of movies, music, books, journals, and the like. These industries, known as ‘entertainment industries’ in the jargon of the interests that lobbied the US Government to initiate litigation against China, arguably also qualify as ‘cultural industries’ as contemplated by the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. In connection to this case, I argue in this paper that excessive standards of intellectual property protection for the cultural goods and services that these industries produce and distribute run against the very objectives of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. I furthermore propose to establish a link between the lack of any legal action against the alleged perpetration of cultural genocide and the stringent legal action against the tolerance of piracy in China. The purpose of this discussion is to outline the strength of the WTO and the weakness of the UNESCO when it comes to protect and promote of the diversity of cultural expressions, or, respectively, to endanger and destroy this diversity, ultimately by cultural genocide.
Tuesday, 2 June 2009
On 13 May 2009, the Swiss government ("Federal Council") replied by rejecting Mrs. Aubert's parliamentary initiative.
Read MP Josiane Aubert's motion of 9 December 2008 and the Federal Council reply of 13 May 2009 in French, German or Italian.
See also the article in Le Courrier of 9 December 2008 La Suisse est invitée à s'équiper contre le "génocide culturel" by Samuel Schellenberg.
Cultural genocide, a challenge for international law
The protection and promotion of the diversity of human groups: Does culture matter?
9 May 2009
- Prevention of genocide: Does culture matter?
- Switzerland’s possible contribution to the goals addressed in the Genocide Prevention Task Force’s Report of December 8, 2008
- Research hypotheses: A round trip from cultural diversity to cultural genocide
- Case study: China and Tibet – WTO and UNESCO dispute resolution compared, see www.culturalgenocideresearch.blogspot.com/
Prevention of genocide and mass atrocities
1798: Napoleon in Nidwalden
- Reluctance to intervene
- The later the intervention the higher its cost
- Highest cost when intervention is too late
- Weakness of international criminal law to prevent genocide
2008: New development in law?
Mrs. Josiane Aubert, Member of the Swiss parliament (National Council) and President of its Culture and Education Commission submitted a motion signed by 82 lawmakers inviting the federal government to elaborate and propose legislation on cultural genocide prevention. The Swiss government rejected the proposal on 13 May 2009.
See text at: www.culturalgenocideresearch.blogspot.com/
Protection and promotion of the diversity of human groups
1) Taking stock of existing law (with an assessment of its effects)
2) Overcoming fragmentation of law and seeking coherence, for example on human rights in relation to “human group” rights
3) Taking inspiration from (and reinforcing) laws and policies on biological and cultural diversity – taking culture as seriously as biology…
--> Desirable new law: A convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of human groups?
History of human groups protection
- Pre WW I treaty clauses non-systematically protecting religious minorities
- Post WW I system protecting minorities within the League of Nations
- Post WW II:
Nurnberg Trials, Genocide Resolution (1946) and Convention (1948)
ICTY Statute, ICTR Statute and the Rome Statute of the ICC.
Domestic law (e.g. Eichmann Trial: Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law of 1950 that covers acts “destroying or desecrating Jewish religious or cultural assets or values”.
The value of human groups as source of culture
“Genocide (…) results in great losses to humanity in the form of cultural and other contributions represented by these human groups (…)” (UN General Assembly Genocide Resolution, 1946 96 (I))
“It takes centuries and sometimes thousands of years to create a natural culture, but genocide can destroy a culture instantly, like fire can destroy a building in an hour.”
(Raphael Lemkin, The importance of the Convention, p. 1, reel 2, Lemkin Papers, New York Public Library)
Reasons for exclusion of “cultural genocide”
- Dilution (preparatory works of the Genocide Convention):
The Canadian, French, United States and United Kingdom held that this crime was not on par with physical genocide and should be dealt with separately, and that too wide a definition of genocide would render the Convention meaningless.
- Desintegration (e.g. China versus Tibet)
- A human rights rather than human group rights issue (see also preparatory works)?
Human rights and human group rights
Vertical and horizontal application of human rights: protection of the individual vis-à-vis the public or private group (for example Art. 10 ECHR on freedom of speech)
-->A Protection of groups vis-à-vis other groups:
- Minorities protection
- Protection of majorities against desintegrating minorities?
- Protection of individual members of human groups be protected from each other?
--> Promotion of the diversity of human groups?
Exploring new legal avenues
Two legal instruments may inspire the research:
- 1992 Convention on biological diversity (www.cbd.int/)
- 2005 Convention on the diversity of cultural expressions (www.unesco.org/culture/en/diversity/convention)
--> What about research on diversity in other scientific disciplines?
Biological Diversity Convention
Signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity is dedicated to promoting sustainable development. The Convention recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and micro organisms and their ecosystems – it is about people and their need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live.
Cultural Diversity Convention
Article 4 of the 2005 UNESCO Cultural Diversity Convention:
2. Cultural content
“Cultural content” refers to the symbolic meaning, artistic dimension and cultural values that originate from or express cultural identities.
3. Cultural expressions
“Cultural expressions” are those expressions that result from the creativity of individuals, groups and societies, and that have cultural content.
Differentiating human groups
Definition of “human group” based on
- biological / physical (“natural” differences – “discovery”)
- social / political / ethnical / cultural / intellectual / religious / economic etc. (“man made” differences – “invention”)
--> All differences, but biological and physical ones, are based on “cultural expressions”.
Shift of mentality?
Original mainstream celebrating “monoculture” and “uniform culture” for economic reasons (agriculture) and for the purpose of assimilation (culture).
Recently: shift of paradigm to “biological diversity” and “cultural diversity”
Next step: shift of mentality from “supremacy” and “purity” to valorizing the “diversity of human groups”?
Legal developments tend to indicate that the enforcement of the Genocide Convention of 1948 increasingly deters the perpetration of classical forms of genocide; for this reason, cultural genocide may gain new significance on the international level as a way for perpetrators to circumvent the prohibition of physical and biological genocide.
Assumption: Physical acts (actus rea) according to the Genocide Convention initial two drafts
Destruction of a human group (mens rea) through the destruction of its “cultural expressions”:
- Would it be enough to destroy the cultural identity in order to destroy the group?
- Quid other “identities” such as national, political and religious identities?
- Attacks on “cultural expressions” of a human group can reinforce such group’s cohesion, identity and culture (cultural stress test)
Is there a real risk of circumvention?
- Difficult assessment of the preventive effect of criminal law.
- Do potential perpetrators consider the legal consequences of their behavior?
Is existing law enough to address “cultural genocide”? - Compare also recent case law based on the Genocide Convention on rape, selective killing and deportation (“ethnic cleansing”)
The prevention of cultural genocide de lege ferenda strengthens the prevention of physical and biological genocide de lege lata; this hypothesis combined with an appropriate application of the mental elements (mens rea) insures that cultural genocide de lege ferenda will not diminish or dilute the meaning of physical or biological genocide as the “crime of crimes” de lege lata.
Can the prevention of “cultural genocide” contribute to prevent physical and biological genocide?
Yes: preventing acts that remove inhibition by destroying first culture and than people
Issues of dilution and desintegration?
Mens rea safeguard: destruction of the group “as such”
The prevention of physical and biological genocide can be more effective by reinforcing the protection and promotion of cultural diversity in international law in order to prevent cultural genocide.
Article 8 of the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity presents a particular interest since it provides that Parties may take all appropriate measures to protect and preserve cultural expressions in special situations where cultural expressions on their territories are at risk of extinction, under serious threat, or otherwise in need of urgent safeguarding.
Cultural genocide is the most extreme negation of cultural diversity.
A society who cares for biological and cultural diversity will care for the diversity of human groups --> A legal round trip from cultural diversity to cultural genocide
Degree of cultural and biological diversity as indicator of genocide risk – towards an early warning system based on “cultural expressions” addressing “uniformity”, “purity”, “supremacy” etc.
If hypotheses 1 to 3 are verified, culture really matters.
In order to acknowledge the full meaning of culture, “cultural genocide” as the most extreme negation of cultural diversity must be considered as a crime as serious as physical and biological genocide.
Test the hypotheses in the case of China and Tibet
At the end of December 2006, China ratified the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
“Ratification would help China protect its cultures and promote the development of a cultural industry, so reverse an imbalance in cultural trade”, said Culture Minister Sun Jiazheng according to People’s Daily online of 29 December 2006.
In March of 2008, the Peace Nobel Prize winner Dalai Lama denounced that “some kind of cultural genocide is taking place."
1) Criminal law is not the only legal avenue to prevent the destruction of a human group as such, but it presents also a symbolic meaning.
2) Cultural diversity matters as much as biological diversity for the individual and the group. As a consequence, new international criminal law on “cultural genocide” is desirable.
3) A new convention on the diversity of human groups inspired by the Convention on Biological and Cultural Diversity is desirable.
Materials and comments
“Despite its status as the oldest of the major human rights treaties, the Genocide Convention remains a work in progress.“
John Quigley, The Genocide Convention, An International Law Analysis, Ashgate, Hampshire 2008, p. 284
Thursday, 8 January 2009
The examination of the following three research hypotheses in the light of China’s treatment of Tibet could deliver new legal arguments in favor of including cultural genocide into positive international law:
1) Legal developments tend to indicate that the enforcement of the Genocide Convention of 1948 increasingly deters the perpetration of classical forms of genocide; for this reason, cultural genocide may gain new significance on the international level as a way for perpetrators to circumvent the prohibition of physical and biological genocide.
2) The prevention of cultural genocide de lege ferenda strengthens the prevention of physical and biological genocide de lege lata; this hypothesis combined with an appropriate application of the mental elements (mens rea) insures that cultural genocide de lege ferenda will not diminish or dilute the meaning of physical or biological genocide as the “crime of crimes” de lege lata.
3) The prevention of physical and biological genocide can be more effective by reinforcing the protection and promotion of cultural diversity in international law in order to prevent cultural genocide; article 8 of the new UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions of 2005 outlines new approaches to prevent cultural genocide under existing international law.
In particular, the third hypothesis could provide guidance for a specific codification on the crime of cultural genocide. In this context, article 8 of the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity presents a particular interest since it provides that Parties may take all appropriate measures to protect and preserve cultural expressions in special situations where cultural expressions on their territories are at risk of extinction, under serious threat, or otherwise in need of urgent safeguarding.