Dehumanising Ideology, Metaphors, and Psychological Othering as Evidence of Genocidal Intent

In: International Criminal Law Review
Author: Carola Lingaas1
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  • 1 Faculty of Social Sciences, VID Specialized University, Diakonveien 14, 0370 Oslo, Norway,
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Evidence of genocidal intent is rarely overtly available. Prosecutors arguably avoid prosecuting the crime of genocide because of its too-high evidentiary threshold. This paper argues that psychology, linguistics, and biology provide some of the tools that courts should revert to in the proof of the dolus specialis. Every genocide is characterised by dehumanisation. There is an intrinsic connection between the génocidaire’s understanding of the victims as dehumanised ‘others’ and the intent to destroy a group. Social psychology has shown that the perpetrator sets apart the victim group as inferior, subhuman, and a threat to the in-group. Dehumanising discourse exposes the perpetrators’ understanding and ideologies and makes the victim group discernible. Linguistic research reveals the significance of metaphors for dehumanisation and intergroup hostility. Lastly, research on bio-signals such as heart rate, breathing, skin conductance response or eeg can assist in measuring the impact of dehumanisation and provide the courts with yet another tool to prove genocidal intent. Through recourse to a palette of conceptual and theoretical approaches, this paper provides an account of the ways in which a dark constellation of metaphor, dehumanising ideology, and psychological othering coalesce to form genocidal intent.

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