The Killing of Death

This study deals with the phenomenon of genocide denialism, and in particular how it operates in the context of the genocide against the Tutsi.
Roland Moerland
Human Rights Research Series
book | published | 1st edition
February 2016 | xviii + 388 pp.


ISBN 9781780683515

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This study deals with the phenomenon of genocide denialism, and in particular how it operates in the context of the genocide against the Tutsi. The term genocide denialism denotes that we are not dealing with a single act or type of (genocide) denial but with a more elaborate process of denial that involves a variety of denialist and denial-like acts that are part of the process of genocide. From this study it becomes clear that the process of genocide thrives on a more elaborate denial dynamic than recognized in expert literature until now.

This study consists of three parts. The first theoretical part analyses what the elements of denial and genocide entail and how they are (inter)related. The exploration results in a typology of genocide denialism. This model clarifies the different functions denial performs throughout the process of genocide. It furthermore explains how actors engage in denial and on which rhetorical devices speech acts of denial rely.

The second part of the study focuses on denial in practice and it analyses how denial operates in the particular case of the genocide against the Tutsi. The analysis reveals a complex denial dynamic: not only those who perpetrated the genocide are involved in its denial, but also certain Western scholars, journalists, lawyers, etc. The latter were originally not involved in the genocide but recycle (elements of) the denial discourse of the perpetrators. The study addresses the implications of such recycling and discusses whether these actors actually have become involved in the genocidal process. This sheds light on the complex relationship between genocide and denial.

The insights gained throughout the first two parts of this study have significant implications for many other actors that through their actions engage with the flow of meaning concerning the specific events in Rwanda or genocide in general. The final part of this study critically reflects on the actions of a variety of actors and their significance in terms of genocide denialism. These actors include scholars from various fields, human rights organisations, the ICTR, and the government of Rwanda. On a more fundamental level this study critically highlights how the revisionist scientific climate, in which knowledge and truth claims are constantly questioned, is favourable to genocide denialism and how the post-modern turn in academia has exacerbated this climate.

Ultimately, this study reveals that the phenomenon of genocide denial involves more than perpetrators denying their genocidal crimes and the scope of actors and actions relevant in terms of genocide denialism is much broader than generally assumed.


Table of Contents (p. 0)


Chapter 1. Setting the scene (p. 1)

Part I. Exploration

Chapter 2. Genocide and denial (p. 43)

Chapter 3. Genocide denialism (p. 97)

Part II. Inspection

Chapter 4. Official denial of the genocide against the Tutsi (p. 135)

Chapter 5. Recycling official denial (p. 187)

Part III. Reflection

Chapter 6. Broader implications (p. 231)

Chapter 7. A look in the mirror (p. 301)

Chronological overview of significant interviews, consultations and events (p. 341)

Selected bibliography (p. 347)

Curriculum vitae (p. 385)

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Human Rights Research Series

The Human Rights Research Series’ central research theme is the nature and meaning of international standards in the field of human rights, their application and promotion in the national legal order, their interplay with national standards, and the international supervision of such application. Anyone directly involved in the definition, study, implementation, monitoring, or enforcement of human rights will find this series an indispensable reference tool.

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Editorial Board: Prof. dr. Antoine Buyse (Utrecht University), Prof. dr. Fons Coomans (Maastricht University), Prof. dr. Yvonne Donders (Chair - University of Amsterdam), Dr. Antenor Hallo de Wolf (University of Groningen), Prof. dr. Kristin Henrard (Erasmus University Rotterdam), Prof. dr. Nicola Jägers (Tilburg University), Prof. Titia Loenen (Leiden University) Prof. dr. Janne Nijman (T.M.C. Asser Instituut) and Prof. dr. Brigit Toebes (University of Groningen).

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