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Variables Influencing Victim Selection in Genocide

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While victims of racially motivated violence may be identified through observation of morphological features, those targeted because of their ethnic, religious, or national identity are not easily recognized. This study examines how perpetrators of genocide recognize their victims. Court documents, including indictments, witness statements, and testimony from the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia (FY) detail the interactions between victim and assailant. A total of 6012 decedents were included in the study; only 20.8% had been positively identified. Variables influencing victim selection in Rwanda included location, segregation, incitement, and prior relationship, while significant factors in FY were segregation, location, age/gender, and social data. Additional contributing factors in both countries included self-identification, victim behavior, linguistic or clothing evidence, and morphological features. Understanding the system of recognition used by perpetrators aids investigators tasked with establishing victim identity in such prosecutions.
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Keywords: forensic anthropology; forensic science; human rights; identity; international law; violence

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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