Petition Calling on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience

Petition Calling on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience to Formally and Publicly Urge the International Community to Take Specific Action Vis-à-vis the Ongoing Crises in Sudan

July 20, 2013

Mr. Michael Abramowitz
Genocide Prevention Center
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place
Washington, D.C.


Mr. William S. Parsons
Chief of Staff
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. Abramowitz and Mr. Parsons:

July 23, 2013 (SSNA) — We, a select group of scholars of genocide from across the globe, call on the United States Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience (CoC) to formally and publicly call on the international community (both the United Nations, and individual nations) to immediately take three actions in response to the ongoing crises in the Sudan: (1) establish and conduct an investigation into the human rights violations that have been perpetrated in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile from June 2011 through today; (2) implement a humanitarian corridor in order to provide food and medical aid to the civilians of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile; and (3) issue a genocide alert vis-à-vis the crises in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. In doing so the CoC would be fulfilling its mandate “to alert the national conscience, influence policy makers, and stimulate worldwide action to confront and work to halt acts of genocide or related crimes against humanity” (emphasis added).

It is important to note that in a recent (July 13, 2013) communiqué issued by the leadership of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (the official name of the rebel group in South Kordofan), it declared, in part, its “renewed commitment to UNSC Resolution 2046”; “readiness for an immediate humanitarian cessation of hostilities with the Sudan government as well as resolving the political crisis in Sudan”; and, “reiterated its call and support for an independent international investigation committee to investigate the human rights violations in Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, Northern Kordofan and Darfur especially in the last months.” The communiqué was signed by Yasir Arman, Secretary General of the SPLM-N.

Few, if any organizations have the moral authority invested in the USHMM and CoC by both the U.S. Government and people of the United States, and thus we firmly believe that it only makes sense that the USHMM’S CoC is the entity that must call for and carry out, respectively, the aforementioned actions. Furthermore, the CoC is the only entity that has the legitimate power to declare a genocide emergency.

In a letter written by Mike Abramowitz (not dated, but sent sometime in May 2013) addressed to Samuel Totten, John Hubbell Weiss and Eric Cohen vis-à-vis their request that the CoC take action regarding the crises in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, the following was stated:

“Over the last several months, you have communicated with me and Michael Chertoff [Chair of the Committee on Conscience] about your concerns over the humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan. You have requested minutes of the Museum’s Committee on Conscience meetings and asked the Committee to issue a “genocide alert” for the Nuba Mountains. Michael and I have discussed your various communications and requests and I’d like to take an opportunity to more formally respond on our behalf.

“As a point of clarification, the Museum has moved away from a formal “alert” system in recent years because it suggests a level of precision that we have found difficult to achieve and sustain over time on a particular situation. We have also found issuing lots of statements to be ineffective, but we do issue statements from time to time on issues of concern. Sudan and South Sudan are among those places we have been concerned about most in recent years, given past cases of genocide and mass atrocity and ongoing dangers for civilian populations. Our             staff meets regularly with members of civil society, experts, and government officials to register our concerns about these issues, and we are part of a working group on Sudan organized by the U.S. Institute of Peace.”

We, the signatories to this letter, find it most regrettable that the USHMM “has moved away from a formal ‘alert system in recent years.” Not only does that, we believe, limit the power and thrust of the CoC’s influence in “alerting the national conscience” to major humanitarian crises but also in “ stimulating worldwide action to confront and work to halt acts of genocide or related crimes against humanity.”

We also respectfully disagree with rationale given for the USHMM’S decision to move away from a formal “alert” system: “because it suggests a level of precision that we have found difficult to achieve and sustain over time on a particular situation.” While we readily agree that it is extremely difficult to accurately and definitively assess whether a fluid situation/crisis is genocide or not (unless, of course, it’s something as starkly obvious as the Holocaust (1941-1945) or Rwanda (April 1994-July 2004)), it is not difficult to “suggest with a level precision” that a situation constitutes crimes against humanity. And the latter of course is the time to declare a genocide emergency – during the early stages of what might prove to be genocide — for to wait until the situation is a full-blown genocide is to have failed miserably in issuing an alert. Why? Because by then it is likely that tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of innocent people (women, infants, children and the elderly, among others) will have been slain. In light of that, we firmly believe that the USHMM and CoC must focus as much attention of “related crimes against humanity” as it does genocide, otherwise the CoC will end up straying mightily from its mandate.

Finally, as you well know, the USHMM currently sponsors the “Pledge to Prevent Genocide Now” campaign in which individuals are encouraged to sign their names in support of the following statement: “I pledge to learn more, educate others, and take action to help prevent genocide today.” It is time for the USHMM’s CoC to step up and honor the USHMM’s very own campaign.

In conclusion, we petition you in the hope that the USHMM and CoC will do the right thing in this instance, and honor our three requests.

We await your reply in which you state whether you will honor our requests and when and how; or, if you choose not to, why that is the case. Time is of essence as each and every day that passes innocent people are being killed, severely injured/maimed and/or perishing from a lack of adequate food.


Dr. Samuel Totten
Professor Emeritus
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Author of Genocide by Attrition: Nuba Mountains, Sudan (Transaction Publishers, 2012)
Dr. Debórah Dwork
Rose Professor of Holocaust History
Director, Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Clark University
Worcester, Massachusetts
Co-author, Flight from the Reich: Refugee Jews, 1933-1946 (W.W. Norton & Co, 2009)
Dr. John L. Hagan
MacArthur Professor & Co-Director, Center on Law & Globalization
Northwestern University & American Bar Foundation
Evanston, IL
Co-author of Darfur and the Crime of Genocide (with Wenona Rymond-Richmond) (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
Dr. Helen Fein
Research Associate
Belfer Center for Science in International Affairs, Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA
Author of Human Rights and Wrongs (Paradigm Publishers, 2007)
Dr. Mark Levene
Reader in Comparative History
Parkes Centre for Jewish/non-Jewish Relations
University of Southampton
Southampton, UK
Author of The Crisis of Genocide (Oxford University Press, 2013)
Dr. Israel W. Charny
Executive Director, Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Jerusalem, Israel
Editor of Encyclopedia of Genocide (ABC Clio Press, 1999)
Dr. Rouben Adalian
Armenian National Institute
Washington, D.C.
Author of “The Armenian Genocide” in Centuries of Genocide (New York: Routledge, 2013)
Dr. John K. Roth
Edward J. Sexton Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, California
Author of Rape: Weapon of War and Genocide
Dr. Taner Akcam
Professor of History
Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Clark University
Worcester, Massachusetts
Author of The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton University Press, 2012)
Dr. Dominik J. Schaller
Research Fellow Karman Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and University of Bern & Lecturer, Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg
Heidelberg, Germany
Author of Late Ottoman Genocides: The Dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and Young Turkish
Ms. Linda Melvern
Department of International Politics
University of Aberystwyth, Wales
Author of A People Betrayed The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide (Zed Books, 2009)
Dr. Roger W. Smith
Professor Emeritus of Government
College of William and Mary
Author of “Genocide and the Politics of Rape” in Genocide Matters: Ongoing Issues and Emerging Perspectives (Routledge, 2013)
Dr. Colin Tatz
Professor, School of Politics and International Relations
Australian National University
Canberra, ACT, Australia
Author of With Intent to Destroy: Reflecting on Genocide (Verso, 2003)
Dr. Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA
Compromising With Evil: An Archival History of Greater Sudan, 2007-2012 (e-book; October 2012)
Dr. Victoria Sanford
Professor of Anthropology and Director of Center for Human Rights & Peace Studies
Lehman College and The Graduate Center
City University of New York
Author of Author of Buried Secrets: Truth and Human Rights in Guatemala (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2003)
Dr. Maureen S. Hiebert
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science, Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Author of “Do Criminal Trials Prevent Genocide? A Critical Analysis” in Impediments to The Prevention and Intervention of Genocide (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Press, 2013)
Dr. John H. Weiss
Associate Professor of History
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
Author of "Lessons from the Failure to Rescue Darfur" in Failed and Failing States (Cambridge, England, 2010)
Dr. Elisa von Joeden-Forgey
Assistant Visiting Professor in Holocaust and Genocide Studies
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
Galloway, NJ
Author of "Gender and the Future of Genocide Studies and Prevention" in Genocide Studies and Prevention (Spring 2012)
Dr. Herbert Hirsch
Professor of Political Science
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, Virginia
Author of Anti-Genocide: Building an American Movement to Prevent Genocide (Praeger)
Dr. Robert Melson
Professor Emeritus
Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana
Author of Revolution and Genocide: On the Origins of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust (University of Chicago Press, 1996)
Dr. Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe
Visiting Professor in Constitutional Law
Universidade de Fortaleza
Fortaleza, Brazil
Author of Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature (Dakar and Reading, African Renaissance, 2011)
Dr. George Kent
Professor of Political Science, Emeritus
University of Hawaii
Dr. Henry Theriault
Professor and Chair of Philosophy
Worcester State University, Massachusetts
Author of “Denial of Ongoing Atrocities as a Rationale for Not Attempting to Prevent or Intervene” in Impediments to the Prevention and Intervention of Genocide (Transaction Publishers, 2013)
Dr. Robert K. Hitchcock
Research Professor
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico
The Genocide of Indigenous Peoples (with Samuel Totten) (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2011)
Mr. George Shirinian
Executive Director
Zoryan Institute
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Editor of The Asia Minor Catastrophe and the Ottoman Greek Genocide: Essays on Asia Minor, Pontos, and Eastern Thrace, 1913–1923 (Bloomingdale, IL: Asia Minor and Pontos Hellenic Research Center, 2012)
Dr. G. Jan Colijn
Dean Emeritus
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
Galloway, NJ 08205
Author of Ruin’s Wheel, A Father on War, A Son on Genocide
Dr. Paul Slovic
Professor of Psychology
University of Oregon, Eugene
Author of “Psychic Numbing and Mass Atrocity” in E. Shafir (Ed.) The Behavioral Foundations of Public Policy (Princeton University Press, 2013)
Dr. Rick Halperin
Director, Embrey Human Rights Program
Southern Methodist University
Dallas, Texas
Dr. Jamie L. Wraight
Curator and Historian, The Voice Vision Holocaust Survivor Archive
The University of Michigan, Dearborn
Dr. Rubina Peroomian
Research Associate, University of California, Los Angeles
Author of three volumes on the Armenian Genocide, including The Armenian Genocide in Literature, and Perceptions of Those Who Lived through the Years of Calamity (2012)
Dr. Marcia Sachs Littell
Professor, Holocaust & Genocide Studies
Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
Dr. Kjell Anderson
Senior Researcher/Project Leader
The Hague Institute for Global Justice
The Hague, The Netherlands
Dr. Christian Davenport
Professor of Political Science & Faculty Associate with Center for Political Studies
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Co-author of “Data Limitations as Impediment to Genocide Intervention” (with Cyanne
Loyle). In Impediments to the Prevention and Intervention of Genocide (Transaction Press, 2012)
Dr. Douglas H. Johnson
Former member of the Abyei Boundaries Commission
Oxford, United Kingdom and Santa Fe, New Mexico
Author of The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars: Peace or Truce (Oxford: James Currey, 2011)
Dr. Yael Stein MD
Physician and Researcher
Hebrew University – Hadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel
Co-founder, the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention
Jerusalem, Israel
Dr. Philip Spencer
Professor in Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Kingston University
London, UK
Author of Genocide Since 1945 (London: Routledge, 2012)
Dr. Robert Skloot
Professor Emeritus
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Author of  If the Whole Body Dies: Raphael Lemkin and the Treaty Against Genocide (Madison, Wisconsin: Parallel Press, 2006)
Dr. Peter Balakian
Donald M and Constance H Rebar Professor of the Humanities
Colgate University
Author of The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response (New York: Harper Perennial, 2004)
Dr. Deborah Mayersen
Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of Wollongong
Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
Author of “Responding to Genocide: Mobilising Political Will in Australia.” Australian Policy and History (2013).
Ms. Sheri P. Rosenberg
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
New York, New York
Dr. Edward Kissi
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida.
Author of “Remembering Ethiopia’s Red Terror” In Documenting the Red Terror: Bearing Witness to Ethiopia’s Lost Generation (2012)
Professor Elihu D. Richter MD MPH
Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Genocide Prevention Program 
Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Jerusalem Israel
Professor Hannibal Travis
Associate Professor of Law
Florida International University College of LawMiami, Florida
Author of Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq and Sudan (Carolina Academic Press, 2010)
Dr. Donna Frieze
Professor of
Deakin University
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Author of “The Destruction of Sarajevo’s Vijećnica: A Case of Genocidal Cultural Destruction?” in New Directions in Genocide Research (New York: Routledge, 2011)
Dr. Damien Lewis
Royal Geographical Society
Cork, Ireland
Co-author of Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur (Random House, 2009)
Dr. Michael Minch
Director, Peace and Justice Studies and Professor of Philosophy
Philosophy and Humanities Department
Utah Valley University
Orem, Utah
Dr. Simone Gigliotti
Senior Lecturer
Department of History
Victoria University
Wellington, New Zealand
Author of The Train Journey: Transit, Captivity, and Witnessing in the Holocaust (New York: Berghahn Books, 2009)
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