‘Who Was I to Stop the Killing?’ Moral Neutralization among Rwandan Genocide Perpetrators
Affiliated Research Fellow, Centre for International Criminal Justice, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, NL
Kjell Anderson is a criminologist and jurist specialized in the study of mass atrocities. This article is partially excerpted from his forthcoming book Perpetrating Genocide: A Criminological Account (Routledge, 2017).
Genocide represents an extreme form of violence on both the individual and collective level. As such, individuals seek to reframe their participation in violence, drawing from certain “techniques of neutralization.” These techniques may function both as “vocabularies of motive” to ease the violation of moral norms, and as post-facto rationalizations for violence. This paper draws from Gresham Sykes and David Matza’s moral neutralization theory to examine moral neutralization among perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide. It presents an expanded list of ten genocidal techniques of neutralization, which are particularly relevant for the crime of genocide. Each technique is supported by excerpts from the author’s interviews with sixty-eight Rwandan Genocide perpetrators. The article argues that perpetrators use moral neutralization to conform with contemporaneous normative expectations, as well as to maintain their self-image as “good people.”
How to Cite:
Anderson, K., 2017. ‘Who Was I to Stop the Killing?’ Moral Neutralization among Rwandan Genocide Perpetrators. Journal of Perpetrator Research, 1(1). DOI: http://doi.org/10.21039/jpr.v1i1.49