Stories tagged genocide


Science & law: The concept known as the Minnesota Protocol has helped lead to genocide convictions against a former leader of Guatemala.
Science & law: The concept known as the Minnesota Protocol has helped lead to genocide convictions against a former leader of Guatemala.Courtesy Captain Budd Christman, NOAA Corps
How does Minnesota factor into the recent judgment against political genocide actions in Guatemala? The findings that have brought justice in the case relied on "The Minnesota Protocol." The full report on how the protocol was used in Guatemala can be found in this article in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press.

Work on the protocol started in Minnesota 30 years ago by a team of lawyers concerned with growing international strife. They created a format for neutral scientific third parties to investigate claims of assassination and genocide after it was becoming apparent that in many offending countries, those investigations were being done by groups sympathetic to the leaders being accused of the crimes. The concepts were adopted by the United Nations in 1989 as a global standard to use to investigate such situations.

In the Guatemalan case, former military dictator Efrain Rios Montt was recently found guilty of ordering actions that claimed the lives of at least 1,700 indigenous people during the 17 months after he seized power in a military coup in 1982. A key pieces of evidence were found in a mass grave of 50 bodies found underneath a soccer field that were eventually examined by Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala using principles of the Minnesota Protocol.

Similar investigations using the Minnesota Protocol have led to genocide convictions in other corners of the globe such as Rwanda and Bosnia.


Archaeologists excavate mass graves in Iraq.
Archaeologists excavate mass graves in Iraq.Courtesy US Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District and Regime Crimes Liaison Office
It’s the last weekend to go check out the CSI exhibit which takes visitors through the process of gathering forensic evidence and solving a case and the January issue of Archaeology magazine offers a really interesting look at how forensic techniques can be used on a large scale. It follows the role of American archaeologists in gathering evidence used in the trial of Saddam Hussein and other leaders for the 1988 mass murder of Kurdish people in Iraq.

Investigators had many documents suggesting the previous Iraqi leaders were guilty of genocide and had found what looked like mass graves. However, they looked to excavating the graves and locating the bodies in order to prove that the previous Iraqi government had targeted a civilian population of a particular ethnicity.

Mobile camp to analyze remains and artifacts
Mobile camp to analyze remains and artifactsCourtesy US Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District and the Regime Crimes Liaison Office
A team of archaeologists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers surveyed the desert and found 10 burial pits all oriented in the same direction. They uncovered one of the pits and photographed it. Then they removed each body with its clothes and belongings one at a time, marking each one’s position. They made a case file for each victim and analyzed each individual’s clothing, bones, and DNA samples to reconstruct what had happened.

I was shocked to read that of the 114 people they found, 84 were children. From the belongings people had with them, the team thought that the victims expected to be relocated but were instead led into a one of 10 already dug pits and shot.

The archaeological evidence was used in court along with government documents and eyewitness accounts including the testimony of a man who had survived the massacre. Hussein had been sentenced to death in another trial, but five of the other six defendants were convicted.

The team of archaeologists stayed to excavate and return the bodies to Kurdish officials, who held a reburial ceremony and plan to use some of the objects for a holocaust museum.


Do you have Google Earth? I recommend it. It's fun, and it's amazing - and you can see your house from space.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has partnered with Google to use Google Earth in a new, and incredibly powerful way. Below is the text from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website on this new use of Google Earth.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has joined with Google in an unprecedented online mapping initiative. Crisis in Darfur enables more than 200 million Google Earth users worldwide to visualize and better understand the genocide currently unfolding in Darfur, Sudan. The Museum has assembled content—photographs, data, and eyewitness testimony—from a number of sources that are brought together for the first time in Google Earth.

Crisis in Darfur is the first project of the Museum's Genocide Prevention Mapping Initiative that will over time include information on potential genocides allowing citizens, governments, and institutions to access information on atrocities in their nascent stages and respond.

"Educating today's generation about the atrocities of the past and present can be enhanced by technologies such as Google Earth. When it comes to responding to genocide, the world's record is terrible. We hope this important initiative with Google will make it that much harder for the world to ignore those who need us the most."— Sara J. Bloomfield, Director, USHMM

Check it out.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

How can you help prevent genocide? Stay informed. Start by learning more about Darfur.