Not 'Lambs to the Slaughter': A Program for Resistance to 'Genocidal Law'

34 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2009

See all articles by Frederic Megret

Frederic Megret

McGill University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: March 22, 2009


This paper is based on a critique of the international community's prevalent approach to genocide, particularly genocide prevention. The emphasis, as a result of the dominant international legal prism, seems to be on macro-international approaches, particularly intervention, that have shown little success since the Holocaust. Although the problem is generally framed as one of lack of political will by states and the continuing hurdle of sovereignty, I suggest that these arise largely as a result of the issue of genocide prevention being seen through international eyes. The internationalist approach to genocide prevention tends to portray "victims" of genocide as systematically weak and thus in need of international intervention. However, the history of how genocides have been if not prevented at least limited suggests that "victims", civil society, and sympathetic insiders all have had a tremendous role to play in saving lives. I then suggest what an international legal approach that took as its goal the need to encourage this sort of domestic and transnational resistance to genocide would look like. I suggest a model of genocide commission that emphasizes the role of habitual compliance to the state, orders and what I term "genocidal law" as central to our understanding of how at least some genocides occur. I then seek to reinterpret the tradition of resistance to genocide as a distinctively normative tradition, one that involves a series of strategies of adaptation, challenge, disobedience, escape and confrontation. This leads me to speculate about ways in which international law might both "help victims help themselves" and "disrupt genocidal law". I conclude by suggesting that the proper role of international law should be recast as one of not only ending genocides through intervention, but preventing them through the encouragement and consolidation of resistance efforts.

Suggested Citation

Mégret, Frédéric, Not 'Lambs to the Slaughter': A Program for Resistance to 'Genocidal Law' (March 22, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Frédéric Mégret (Contact Author)

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec H3A 1W9

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics