A Theory of Elitocide and Its Impact on Contemporary Understandings of the Crime of Genocide

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
1219 International Affairs Building

Please join the Harriman Institue for a talk by Dennis Gratz, Publicist, Sarajevo, BiH Visiting Scholar, Columbia University.

In the spring of 1992 British TV reporter Michael Nicholson named the fact of elimination of several tens of prominent and leading men of Bijeljina, a town at the northeast of Bosnia and Herzegovina, elitocide. Using this term, Nicholson sought to explain semantically the events that affected in an identical and coordinated manner the higher strata of the Bosniak and Croatian local communities in northern, western, and eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Namely, in the period of just a few months Serb paramilitary formations neutralized the influence of the local Bosniak and Croatian elites (by elimination, prosecution, imprisonment or rigid social and economic isolation) that had as a consequence the destruction and disintegration of the local civilian population.

In this presentation, Gratz will examine the circumstances under which local non-Serb elites in various parts of Bosnia were eliminated, the consequences for the pre-war communities, and present a theory of elitocide, defining its main characteristics and evaluating its importance for socio-legal science. Gratz will attempt to systematize elitocide as a sociological phenomenon and a certain type of criminal behavior within genocidal projects. Gratz will argue that such a scientific classification of elitocide makes proving and differentiating genocidal and potentially genocidal crimes less difficult, and also provides the basis for research of into the consequences of such activity. Finally, an examination of the relationship between elitocide (and other specific forms of organized mass crimes such as mass rape, culturocide, urbanocide etc.) and genocidal mass murder contributes to the contemporary understanding of the crime of genocide, its reformed reception and possible solutions for its future prevention. Gratz will present what he believes to be the most important components of the elitocide theory, and point out its importance to the study of genocide, mass murder and human rights abuses, especially in the world of modern, asymmetric warfare challenges.