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Genocide and the Europeans

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Karen Smith
Cambridge University Press (October 2010)

Genocide is one of the most heinous abuses of human rights imaginable, yet reaction to it by European governments in the post-Cold War world has been criticised for not matching the severity of the crime. European governments rarely agree on whether to call a situation genocide, and their responses to purported genocides have often been limited to delivering humanitarian aid to victims and supporting prosecution of perpetrators in international criminal tribunals. More coercive measures - including sanctions or military intervention - are usually rejected as infeasible or unnecessary.

This book explores the European approach to genocide, reviewing government attitudes towards the negotiation and ratification of the 1948 Genocide Convention and analysing responses to purported genocides since the end of the Second World War. Karen E. Smith considers why some European governments were hostile to the Genocide Convention and why European governments have been reluctant to use the term genocide to describe atrocities ever since.

  • Dr Karen Smith is a reader in international relations and director of the European Foreign Policy Unit at LSE.

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'Karen Smith has never ducked the big and difficult questions about European foreign policy, and in this important new study she tackles one of the most challenging of all - how to respond to the possibility of a genocide occurring in other countries. Her analysis is original, empirically rich, and morally sobering. It is the most substantial contribution to the literature on European international relations of recent years.'
Christopher Hill, University of Cambridge

'Europe prides itself on being a normative power, but this remarkable book asks Europe to be humble. Smith reveals that European governments and the EU as such did little in response to repeated acts of genocide in Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Darfur. They even failed to call 'genocide' by its name and frequently attempted to avoid obligations arising from the Genocide Convention and from the social norm against genocide. Few books on European foreign policy have been so revealing and well argued. Genocide and the Europeans is an extraordinary achievement and is strongly recommended to all students interested in European politics and international relations.'
Jan Zielonka, University of Oxford

Genocide and the Europeans