Bystanders to Genocide

A bystander is defined as someone who is present at an event or incident but does not take part.
Bystanders (civilian and world leaders) see what is happening and they do not act; not in word or deed, to prevent or stop the atrocities unfolding before their very eyes. It is as if they have no interest in the situation; they are not stakeholders.

The cornerstone of the 1948 United Nations Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is that states have a duty and responsibility to prevent and/or stop genocide.
The world watched as Rwanda’s Hutu military government murdered 800,000 Tutsi in the course of 100 days in the summer of 1994. No one called for intervention in Rwanda, no world leader intervened and as a result, the genocide continued unchecked.

In the aftermath, several leaders apologized for what happened, and for the lack of action, but no one could really deny that they did not know what had happened.

There are similar stories throughout history. The Nazi extermination of European Jews during WWII and the failure to act as photos and stories surfaced about concentration camps and gas chambers.

In Turkey, despite the letters by then-US Ambassador Henry Morgenthau to President Woodrow Wilson urging US intervention while the world watched as the genocide of Armenian Christians was carried out, killing some 1.5 million people.

Civilians have options to act. Civilians can contact their leaders and urge them to intervene. By applying pressure on the top decision-makers, each of us can make a difference. When we fail to use our voices, we become bystanders to injustice.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.