Tracking Hate Speech Acts as Incitement to Genocide in International Criminal Law

Leiden Journal of International Law 30 (2):523-548 (2017)

Shannon Fyfe
Vanderbilt University
In this article, I argue that we need a better understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of the current debates in international law surrounding hate speech and inchoate crimes. I construct a theoretical basis for speech acts as incitement to genocide, distinguishing these speech acts from speech as genocide and speech denying genocide by integrating international law with concepts drawn from speech act theory and moral philosophy. I use the case drawn on by many commentators in this area of international criminal law, the trial of media executives for the roles they played in the Rwandan genocide through public speech acts by media entities insulting an ethnic group or advocating violence against an ethnic group. Each of these men were institutional leaders and were charged with using their positions within Rwandan society to distribute what I call genocidal hate speech, genocidal incitement speech, and genocidal participation speech. I argue for a distinction between these three types of speech, and a difference in individual criminal liability for the dissemination of each type of speech. I also argue that there should be a difference in individual criminal liability for speech acts within the context of an ongoing or recent genocide, and speech acts that can be separated from a site of mass violence.
Keywords genocide  hate speech  inchoate crimes  international criminal law  speech act theory
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