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The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice edited by Cassese, Antonio (22nd January 2009)

Part A Major Problems of International Criminal Justice, I How to Face International Crimes, Collective Violence and International Crimes

Adolfo Ceretti

From: The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice

Edited By: Antonio Cassese (Editor-in-Chief)

(p. 5) Collective Violence and International Crimes

1. Introduction

Over the last two decades, jurists, historians, and social scientists have been investigating the issue of collective violence with unprecedented sensitivity. This is largely influenced, in my opinion, by a number of historical events: ethnic cleansing in Bosnia; the Rwandan genocide; and the widespread atrocities in many African countries, particularly in Sudan (Darfur). Conversely, the setting up of the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals and the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa (TRCs) have undoubtedly opened up new possibilities for anyone seeking justice for victims of mass crimes. Indeed the issue of collective violence, in its many forms, can no longer be ignored, as it dramatically impacts on and distorts identities, interweaving as it does with lives that are suddenly violated. Yet, it should be clarified that both individuals (perpetrators and victims alike), communities, and institutions (e.g. the governments and the mass media of the countries involved), when confronted with such horrors, engage in negation and denial of the events. In short it leads to the suppression of facts.

Since the early twentieth century—that is after publication of Gustave Le Bon’s study on crowd psychology1—there has been growing acknowledgement of the idea that mass violence is different from individual violence. Traditionally, ‘individual violent behaviour’ has been explained from a psychopathological perspective, which seeks to identify the cause of hideous crimes in mental illness. This approach has always been the easiest way to account for the social event which undermines all belief in the possibility of peaceful human coexistence. Nowadays such an approach has—at long last—been replaced by explanations aimed at tracing the psychological and social developments causing an individual to act out a violent attitude.2 It is now recognized that such acts do not necessarily have an ‘irrational’ or ‘pathological’ nature, but tend to follow identifiable and to a large extent ‘intelligible’ patterns.3

However, to understand ‘mass violence’, it is necessary to adopt an altogether different paradigm from the one adopted for ‘individual’ violence.

(p. 6) Existing literature on the topic has identified a number of methodological issues that I will now attempt to enumerate. First, violent deeds and their repercussions on the environment, on interpersonal relationships, and on social hierarchy depend on a given number of people, on a group—and, therefore, on the group’s organizational skills and its degree of cohesion or solidarity. Second, there are diversified forms of collective violence, which clearly cannot be attributed to a single cause. In more ‘spontaneous’ forms, such as lynching, the group carries out a role of ‘social control’ over somebody who is different: the individual feels he is part of a moral body which vindicates the violated principle of justice, upholding an offended sense of moral propriety. In this light collective violence may be interpreted both as deviant, irrational, or immoral and as its exact opposite, that is as a last-ditch attempt to re-establish moral order, whenever it is violated. This is a forceful reminder of the double message of violence: ‘utter evil’ and ‘social control’. Third, when it comes instead to more ‘organized’ forms of collective violence, there is always a hierarchical structure bent on coercively maintaining the fragile and tottering unity of the group intent on carrying out the violent acts. The moral principles violated during the commission of the violent deeds are considered essential by most actors, who therefore resort to justification mechanisms to counteract them. In the event of political violence committed by those in power a key role is played by ‘radical political minorities’, who are targeted for playing a crucial role in the state and its institutions. Without them and their ideologies, ‘popular mobilizations’ would be highly unlikely to result in such extremes as genocide and the annihilation of those who have been identified as enemies.4 The role of ‘minorities’ is to quickly focus on—above all in times of chaos and widespread fear—the targets of the violence and the way in which the violence is to be committed. Scholars have long tried to establish if the masses think, feel, and therefore act collectively in a primeval, instinctive, irrational way or if they follow a specific plan of action. Given the two-pronged system outlined above—which sees the minority in power and the popular mass enabling them to operate—the answer to this long-standing dilemma is a complex one.

2. Interpretations by Social Scientists

In describing and defining violent collective behaviour, one may refer to a form of social interaction involving: (i) inflicting physical damage on individuals and/or things (the damage comprises a violent act towards the individuals and/or the dispossessing or damage of material goods of those who put up any resistance); (ii) the participation of at least two perpetrators; (iii) a behaviour resulting, at least to some extent, from coordination among the people who perform the acts.5 Violence is not triggered by general causes (such as poverty, widespread frustration, extremism, competition for access to resources), but by trivial ‘mechanisms’ of an environmental, cognitive, relational nature, producing identical effects in altogether different social settings.6

If this approach can meaningfully impress a direction on research into mass violence, another scholarly contribution7 aims to come up with a general theory capable of explaining and forecasting: (i) why conflicts are handled by violence rather than by (p. 7) other modes of conflict management, and (ii) why they are handled collectively rather than by individuals. The attention here focuses above all on bodily harm inflicted by groups—intended as aggregations of five or more people carrying out concerted actions. Following Donald Black’s paradigm of ‘pure sociology’,8 collective violence is stripped of its ideological matrixes and is conceived of as an extreme form of ‘social control’ which entails the handling of a grievance by unilateral aggression, to be viewed primarily as a response to social, economic, and political injustice. The ‘social control’ that results in unilateral forms of violence (the focus being on lynching, rioting, terrorism, and vigilantism), law, self-help, mediation, and avoidance, ultimately depends upon the social location and the direction of the conflict, that is on the relative positions of all the parties—the perpetrator, the victim, the third parties—and on whether they are equal or unequal, culturally similar or dissimilar, close or distant.

With a more analytical approach, unilateral collective violence can be defined on the grounds of: (i) the breadth of liability for the injustice suffered—which may be collective or individual; (ii) the degree of organization—that is the capacity for collective (re)action; and (iii) the degree to which the following six variables combine: (a) relational distance, that is ‘the degree to which people participate in one another’s lives’, measurable by such variables as the number of ties between individuals, the frequency and duration of contact between them, and the age and nature of their relationship (groups handle unknown offenders more harshly than those with whom they are acquainted); (b) cultural distance, measurable by differences between individuals and groups in terms of language, religion, and art. When collective violence occurs between parties who are culturally close, it tends to be less severe. If the parties are culturally distant, the potential for violence between them would seem to be high; (c) functional independence, that is the extent to which individuals and groups cooperate with one another economically, politically, and militarily. This means that groups are unlikely to inflict violence on those who are indispensable to their own well-being; (d) inequality of status, the greater the vertical distance between the parties to the conflict, the more forms of control tend to occur (but perhaps in a curvilinear rather than a linear fashion); (e) social polarization, which refers to the combined degree of relational distance, cultural distance, inequality, and independence present in a conflict; (f) the continuity of deviant behaviour, measured in terms of frequency and duration.

3. Group Boundaries: Ingroup and Outgroup

An interpretation, which now sounds—to say the least—naïve, forcefully claimed that it is group boundaries that determine the degree of human sympathy; inside these boundaries it is a sense of humanity that prevails; outside, violence is inflicted with (p. 8) little remorse. Awareness of the fact that this issue is far more complex has led to further investigation into the processes whereby individuals/specific groups are included within/excluded from the boundaries of a community in which given moral values generally apply; included within/excluded from the scope of justice (seen as the psychological boundary of a moral community);9 perceived—if excluded—as ‘nonentities’ to be victimized and/or exploited.

More specifically, inclusion processes are studied in terms of the motivational models underlying ‘justice psychology’: in particular the research approaches derived from the distributive justice and procedural justice models investigated how justice-related issues develop within social groups so as to ensure the exchange of beneficial resources. While, however, for the former the scope of justice is limited to the confines of the group within which people entertain relations characterized by a minimum of cooperation,10 for the latter equity issues apply within communities valuing relations of a cooperative nature.11 There is, however, another perspective, according to which the desire to behave correctly/equitably towards other people is an intrinsic characteristic of human social behaviour.12

Studies concerning altruism, aggressiveness, prejudices, and discrimination have instead highlighted interesting perspectives as far as the understanding of exclusion mechanisms is concerned. The latter, however, can be basically read in terms of conflict between people and social groups that goes hand in hand with a devaluation of and a distancing from given individual/groups. Innumerable needs (or reasons) and forces reduce or even eliminate—in given conditions—the social norms that usually stop people from harming or killing their fellow beings. Exclusions, acts of violence, torture, ill-treatment would not therefore depend on the irrationality and the psychopathology of the perpetrators but on a series of ‘normal’ psychological processes characterizing the way in which the parties relate to different forms of social influence: on how marked their personal and social identity is in the specific situations they confront; and on the ways in which they attribute meaning to, or explain and justify the relations existing between ingroup and outgroup. Belonging to groups considered ‘relevant’, and the need to safeguard one’s membership of such groups, confirms beliefs, world pictures, and action taken to exclude others from one’s own moral universe.13

Amartya Sen has written:

Given our inescapably plural identities, we have to decide on the relative importance of our different associations and affiliations in any particular context. Central to leading a human life, therefore, are the responsibilities of choice and reasoning. In contrast, violence is promoted by the cultivation of a sense of inevitability about some allegedly unique—often belligerent—identity that we are supposed to have and which apparently makes extensive demands on us (sometimes of a most disagreeable kind).14

But how can groups of people—and not simply a handful of isolated individuals—living amicably and quietly in a peaceful setting turn into murderers and persecutors? If we are to answer this difficult question, the most satisfactory answers are not to be found exclusively in an analysis of the rational choices and the elements (p. 9) constituting individual history. One of the peculiarities of ethnopsychiatry consists exactly in its assuming that no human being can be considered independently of his or her family history, village, belonging to a group or being in a group one has been initiated into.15 For us this means investigating the system that produces violence and the making of perpetrators, in the sense that you are not born a perpetrator/torturer but become one, owing to a violent deculturation experience and/or through a specific initiation using traumatic techniques. We are confronted with a transformation of identity which purposefully creates in ‘novices’ a rupture in their habitual universe of reference, and is directed at producing new human beings different not only from what they were before the initiation, but also from the others, be they civilians or members of the military.16

In this respect a key role is played by the psychological process of de-individuation.17 It is here that some factors (i.e., the loss of a sense of personal responsibility, a diminished awareness of the consequences of one’s actions, a modification of the perceptions of his or her moral values and standards), by reducing the individual’s social identity and self-awareness, increase the sense of anonymity and sense of diffuse group responsibility, enabling the person to engage in behaviour which is normally inhibited.18

The concept of de-individuation may be productively combined with that of obedience to authority, studied in famous experimental studies19 on the mechanisms which are activated once an individual who has become a member of a hierarchical system finds himself in a ‘heteronomic state’—i.e. becomes a tool to carry out orders issued by an authority. In brief, the findings of these studies have shown that obedience processes are strictly linked to the regulation of social relations, as they make it possible to solve a situation of inner conflict with no need to question one’s relations with the authorities. For instance, the South African torturers persuaded to confess to the TRC proved capable of reconstructing their worst criminal acts maintaining an unshakeable belief that they had engaged in normal behaviour, carrying out simple deeds in a kind of violent routine that inevitably ended with heavy collective drinking.

It has been pointed out that such studies showed the permeability of the confines between good and evil in the presence of some specific conditions, such as: (i) an ideology and recourse to an authority capable of legitimating it; (ii) the assigning to people of desirable roles and status, while placing them in a new context devoid of familiar figures to refer to; (iii) the introduction or explanation of rules limiting action options; (iv) the shifting of responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions onto authority; (v) starting with a minimal initial harmful act and ensuring the violence of subsequent acts escalates gradually; and (vi) not providing apparent means for exiting the situation.20

By having recourse also to such theories, the genesis of intergroup conflicts are considered to be correlated to the irrationality/malevolence/ruthlessness of the actions (p. 10) threatened by the outgroup and their possible accomplishment. The uncertainty, vulnerability, and the fear deriving from the correlated dangers (of an economic, military, or political nature) produce the need to understand or structure the situation, seeking possible explanations for the existing conflicts. This can be done by delegitimating the ‘enemy’ through a highly negative categorization (in ancient Greek kategoresthai meant to publicly accuse), thus enhancing its potential destructiveness.21 Such processes are even more dramatic when the delegitimizing labels are distributed by means of ethnocentrism. In this event the labels also supply an answer to the cognitive need to explain and justify the indiscriminate killing of civilians, mass arrests, and the genocide that might be committed. In the Balkans, for example, knowledge about the identity of ‘the other’ has been marked by a precise policy of creation of hatred between ethnic groups carried out—by means of delegitimizing declarations—by the different Slav leaders—and repeatedly supported, later on, by some foreign states’ initiatives. An example of this is the declaration made in 1992 to TV reporters by Jovan Rasković, leader of the Serb democratic party from 1990:

I am responsible for the preparation of this war, even if these weren’t military preparations. If I hadn’t caused these emotional tensions in the Serbian people, it wouldn’t have happened. My party and I have inflamed Serbian nationalism … . We have pushed this thing and given it an identity.22

Rasković and Karadžić (President of the Serb Republic of Bosnia) knew all too well, due to their studies in psychiatry, that in order to trigger conflict dynamics within a group of people the first step was to break them up into groups and give each of them a name; in the Yugoslav lab the labels were there at hand—Serbs, Croatians, Muslims. What constitutes a group is not so much the resemblance among its members as interdependence, that is having a common goal:23 in the case at hand it is given, on the political level, by the delimitation of a territory for exclusive use by some people with the elimination, even physical, of other subjects from within its boundaries and, on a community level, by the defence of one’s personal safety, home, town, from the attack by members of the other group.

It has been correctly argued that ethnicity is not an objective concept, since it is, in the light of present scientific knowledge, extremely vague to say that ethnic groups share a common culture and descent.24 A common culture may simply refer to specific characteristics such as a shared language or religion. However, ethnic cleansing is the removal of a group—that defines itself in terms of its common culture and descent—from an area they define as their own. That is why homicidal cleansing has been considered essentially modern: it is ‘the dark side of democracy’. As has been aptly pointed out, the 70 million victims of the ethnic conflicts of the twentieth century prove that homicidal ethnic cleansing is a hazard of the age of democracy:

[ … ] since amid multiethnicity the ideal of rule by the people began to entwine the demos with the dominant ethnos, generating organic conceptions of the nation and the state that encouraged the cleansing of minorities. Later, socialist ideals of democracy also became perverted as the demos became entwined with the term proletariat, the working class, creating (p. 11) pressures to cleanse other classes [ … ]. The danger zone of murderous cleansing is reached when (a) movements claiming to represent two fairly old ethnic groups both lay claim to their own state over all or part of the same territory and (b) this claim seems to them to have substantial legitimacy and some plausible chance of being implemented.25

Within such a framework, there are three main levels of perpetrator: (i) radical elites running party states; (ii) bands of militants forming violent paramilitaries; and (iii) core constituencies providing mass, though not majority, popular support.

4. Genocide Victims, Torture, Denial, and Therapeutic Approaches

When victims become mass victims, people are killed, imprisoned, raped, displaced from their territories, discriminated against as group, as a category. It is for this reason that in the 1948 Convention on Genocide reference is made to ethnic, national, racial, or religious groups. From that moment on, being a victim may become, and often becomes, an essential element of the collective identity impacting on the relations and on the balance existing between the different groups in the collectivity—all the more so in a globalized world in which the coexistence of groups and communities has become, and is increasingly becoming, the rule and nature of our relations. It is also important to remember that collective victims inevitably tend to create a collectively guilty party, a collective perpetrator who has actually existed but may be enlarged in their imagination and in perception far beyond what is legitimate, at least from the point of view of historiographic investigation.26 Amplification has nothing to do with Rwanda, where it was the political identity formed, in the course of a long historical process (from the politicization of the indigenous groups through different forms of subordination to colonialism, to the laws and institutions of post-colonialism which reinforced the criteria of racial and ethnic identity), to provide the context for the political decision of an elite who sought, in genocide, the means to permanently affirm their power.

It is undeniable that, unlike victims of common crime, victims of genocidal violence feel they no longer belong to the political community: they no longer belong to a state, or a territory, or a family. What is more, the victims experience the trauma of feeling they no longer belong to the world—one of the most radical and desperate experiences man can ever know.27 The perpetrator does not attempt to subjugate a victim—the goal of war—but rather to destroy a human being. The outcome of the attack is both physical—murder or torture—and symbolic. Victims are defaced even to their own eyes as they cannot exert their rights or refer to some symbolic order capable of representing them and humanizing their relationship with others.28

Such violent deeds affect one’s ties to such an extent that one’s fellow beings are no longer seen as human beings. The outcome is therefore exactly the opposite of that basic trait of the African vision of the world—to use a definition coined by Desmond Tutu29—contained in the concept of ubuntu, where the humanity of each individual is inescapably related to that of others. It does not take much to move from this to the (p. 12) creation of concentration camps. In this respect, the specific field of study of Giorgio Agamben30 was not the way people were treated in the camp, but the theory whereby the creation of a camp has to do with a state of exception, that is the suspension of the legal order, a condition that leads to the individual being considered nothing more than bare life. The camp becomes a space occupied by the absolute impossibility to decide between fact and law, rule and application, exception and rule, which nevertheless incessantly decides between the inhabitants of the camp. What, by so doing, is first of all mirrored in the system is the state of exception itself.

Also, the symbolic universe of torture refers to intentional patterns of behaviour whose end is to destroy the creed and beliefs of the victims in order to deprive them of the identity structure that defines them as people. Thinking entails defining, delimiting. The psychic trauma caused by torture is of an intellectual nature: it concerns thought, not affectivity. It is the very structures of thought and not its contents that are affected. The intrusion caused by others is clearly recognizable in the incapacity of the victims to establish relations between things and distinguish different logical spaces. In other words, it is the loss of thought structures that generates states of modified conscience. Traumatized subjects are not prey to fear and anxiety, but rather are terrified at the very thought of having been invaded and ‘modified’. As has been written, ‘trauma constricts, transforms time, perceived as linear. It imposes a distortion on the temporal axis: the past is all-too present, intrusively so, and it manifests itself under shapes of recollections that impede the work of memory as such. The future no longer exists and the present is fixed’.31

The tortured person has been reduced to a thing and perceives himself as such: the therapist has to free him from this inability to discriminate in the logical space: tolerance/intolerance, humanity/barbarism, true/false, good/evil, justice/injustice are prisms through which sufferers incessantly try to decode reality. This reflection on the clinical implications of such wavering induces us to think that structures gradually recreate themselves due to the enunciation of a series of binary oppositions, and in a constant struggle with the torturer’s memories, which re-emerge continuously. Therefore it has been contended that therapeutic work with torture victims must unfold almost as a form of ‘self-therapy under control’, so that the patient does not perceive the analyst as another torturer but rather as an ‘antidote’ against the torturer’s influence. To do so, initially, the therapist has to share his knowledge of torture with the patient, so that the patient may perceive him as somebody in the same situation, as an ally, and may—at a later stage—become an active participant in his own liberation. It is only at this stage that the victim will be able to recount his or her experience and find words of his or her own to get rid of those the perpetrator instilled in him: ‘It is with words that therapy must destroy the words the torturers placed within their own victims.’32

Such an approach may be very difficult if the social-political context following the wave of collective violence perpetuates the silences and lies which preceded and accompanied the crimes. In particular, it is at this stage that a central role is played by the traditional distinction between what the Italians term the negation mechanism—consisting in the flat refusal to connect anything in the external world with one’s own internal world—and what English and American scholars subsume under the term denial33—a veritable failure to acknowledge external reality. States of denial are therefore statements to the effect that something did not happen, does not exist, is (p. 13) not true. This distinction proves to be necessary to highlight a number of differences, at times minimal, between the different attitudes of perpetrators and victims, with a view to attempting restoration of community relations. It is obvious that for a victim it is essential that the perpetrator should acknowledge that a crime has been committed, even more so than that he must shoulder responsibility. In other words, it is impossible to attribute responsibility for an action, if the action itself is not declared to have taken place. And nothing is worse than seeing that the reality of the damage inflicted on you is not even acknowledged.

Stanley Cohen provides a sound classificatory framework for the concept of denial. In literal denial, the fact or knowledge of the fact are denied, purposefully averting one’s gaze from a truth too unbearable to acknowledge; in interpretive denial the raw facts are not denied, but they are given a different meaning from what seems apparent to others or from the meaning they are given by law, so as to avoid the consequences (‘what happened was not really rape’); in implicatory denial there is no attempt to deny either the facts or their conventional interpretation; rather, what are denied are the psychological, emotional, political, or moral implications that might follow from the facts. In short, denial ‘includes cognition (not acknowledging the facts); emotion (not feeling, not being disturbed); morality (not recognizing wrongness or responsibility) and action (not taking active steps in response to knowledge)’.34 Victims, above all, when suffering from something that ‘happens’ to them or is deliberately inflicted upon them (arbitrary arrest, rape) may react by resorting to a form of soliloquy revolving around the expression: ‘This can’t be happening to me.’ When such a way of expressing oneself is not simply a superficial and automatic response, it expresses a more profound sense of denial: an almost bodily dissociation, the feeling that what in fact is happening to oneself is happening to somebody else (this applies to people who are HIV-positive, political activists who are tortured, etc.). This also happens on a cultural level: whole groups of potential or designated victims may deny their approaching fate.35

5. Recognition and Reparation for Victims of Collective Violence

When a massive trauma results from wars, war-like conditions or from existing devastating political systems, there is an identifiable enemy or oppressing group that has deliberately inflicted suffering, and helplessness on its victims. Sharing shame, humiliation and guilt, inability to be assertive, and identification with the oppressor complicate large-group mourning and this complication in turn becomes the main reason for the transgenerational transmission of trauma.36

Hannah Arendt wrote human institutions have no means to judge radical evil and all we know is that there are actions that can be neither punished nor forgiven and therefore transcend the realm of human affairs and the potential of the human being, radically destroying them wherever they appear.37 Commenting on this, it has been held that here lies the true paradox: exactly because they affect the masses and are widespread, collective violence and crimes against humanity demand a punishment, (p. 14) more than any other crime. But for the same reason they are most difficult, if not down-right impossible, to judge. This is the real tragedy of justice for crimes against humanity: with the excuse of getting rid of radical evil, one risks fuelling it.38

Moving among these aporias, there is a point on which collective sensitivities seem to have converged: perpetrators must be willing to acknowledge their victims’ status as such is the first step towards a—possible—reconciliation for the shaping of a memory, if not shared, at least founded on common elements and the acknowledgement of historical truth:

Public acknowledgement is the opposite of accusing somebody. While accusing somebody entails designating a guilty party within the group to distance oneself from it, to expel evil, public acknowledgement of the crimes entails the internal assumption of collective guilt.39

But acknowledgement must reintegrate the victim in a common space, having a common function. Two entities cannot meet but in relation to a triangulation principle placing them both in the same space.

In actual fact, the pivot around which all the work of the South African TRC has revolved as of 1996 consisted of identifying an entirely new way of dealing with the link between truth and justice, through different levels of intervention: (i) the reconstruction of the historical-collective dimension of the violations; the Commission was awarded powers only to seek truth, a circumscribed activity which has no direct link with the institution of penal proceedings and the meting of punishment; (ii) the reconstruction of truth, directly related to the identification of the authors of the violations; (iii) the involvement of perpetrators in a process of revelation and assumption of one’s individual responsibilities; (iv) the reparation for the victims.

In particular, (a) the Commission was authorized to implement policies of reconciliation and amnesty only for those who would render a full confession and could prove that the crimes committed had been motivated by political reasons; (b) the law instituting the Commission defined as an act associated with a political objective any crime associated with a political objective, committed to back or oppose political struggle in the period of apartheid.40

6. Conclusion

The issue of ‘future generations’ is inseparable from that of the TRC. Of course, the work of the South African TRC is entirely focused on the investigation of the past, on unveiling any violation of human rights and any abuse perpetrated, and does not have the present as its direct objective. This undoubtedly stems from the attention—the legitimate attention—paid to the victims of such violations. Yet this is far from being the only goal pursued by the Commission: its attention is also addressed to the future, to the generations following the one that has had to live through a period of violations and abuses. Reactivating the past or memory is a task that is directly related to the issue of the peaceful coexistence of future generations and cannot be based on what has been. As the Commission’s President Tutu41 has repeatedly stated, the Final Report on the TRC’s work will take its place in the historical landscape of which ‘future generations’ will try to make sense.

(p. 15) The question which arises is: ‘Do future generations have any rights?’ ‘As modernity draws to its end’—Eligio Resta points out42—‘a subtle fear impels us to adjust our view of society so as to place individuals in relation to a spatially and temporally wider notion of our fellow-beings. The responsibilities are our own but it is future generations we are accountable to.’

Only by developing our sense of responsibility towards future generations can we hope to change attitudes towards collective violence.


1  G. Le Bon, Psychologie des foules (1895) (28th edn., Paris: F. Alcan, 1921).

2  In the criminological discourse this constitutes the so-called ‘violent cosmology’. In this regard see: A. Ceretti and L. Natali, Cosmologia e violenza (Milan: Raffaello Cortina, forthcoming).

3  This means these acts are given a sense and are reconstructed in the light of an interactional method, which makes it possible to shed some light on a world, that of violence, which has always been perceived as obscure, hard to understand and to explain. See L. H. Athens, The Creation of Dangerous Violent Criminals (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992); L. H. Athens, Violent Criminal Acts and Actors Revisited (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1997).

4  M. Flores, Tutta la violenza di un secolo (Milan: Feltrinelli, 2005), 184.

5  C. Tilly, The Politics of Collective Violence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003). Such a definition does not therefore include violent individual behaviour, non-material damage, natural catastrophes, accidents, etc.

6  Ibid .

7  R. Senechal de la Roche, ‘Collective Violence as Social Control’, 11 Sociological Forum (1996) 97–128; R. Senechal de la Roche, ‘Why is Collective Violence Collective?’, 19 Sociological Theory (2001) 126–144.

8  D. Black, ‘A Strategy of Pure Sociology’, in S. G. McNall (ed.), Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology (New York: St Martins Press, 1979) 149–168. ‘Pure sociology’ predicts and explains social life through its location and direction in a multidimensional social space, defined by the social characteristics of everyone engaging in an instance of human conduct, and never investigating subjective or psychological factors—such as the participants’ perceptions, meanings, feelings, and intentions. In its vertical dimension, social space is measured in terms of social status. Social action between different levels of social status spans a distance in vertical space: the greater the difference in social status, the greater the vertical distance. The horizontal dimension of social space pertains instead to relational distance (the degree of intimacy between those involved, the extent to which people participate in one another’s life, the duration and frequency of contacts), cultural distance (differences in language, culture, religion), and radial distance (the degree of social integration between the parties). Cultural space therefore has normative dimensions and a nature which pertains to group life and social control. An action between parties of different ethnicities will therefore involve a greater degree of relational and cultural distance than an action between people of the same ethnicity. In this sense, every human action has a social structure.

9  M. Deutsch, Distributive Justice. A Social-psychological Perspective (New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 1985).

10  Ibid .

11  A. E. Lind and T. R. Tyler, The Social Psychology of Procedural Justice (New York: Plenum Press, 1988).

12  S. Opotov, ‘Moral Exclusion and Injustice. An Introduction’, 46 Journal of Social Issues (1990) 1–20.

13  M. Ravenna, Carnefici e Vittime. Le radici psicologiche della Shoah e delle atrocità sociali (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2004), 12–13.

14  A. K. Sen, Identity and Violence. The Illusion of Destiny (New York, London: Norton e Co., 2006), XIII.

15  T. Nathan, La folie des autres. Traité d’ethnopsychiatrie clinique (Paris: Bordas, 1986).

16  F. Sironi, Bourreaux et Victimes. Psychologie de la torture (Paris, Odile Jacob, 1999).

17  L. Festinger, A. Pepitone, and T. Newcomb, ‘Some Consequences of Deindividuation in a Group’, 47 Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology (1952) 382–389.

18  P. G. Zimbardo, ‘The Human Choice. Individuation, Reason and Order versus Deindividuation, Impulse and Chaos’, in W. J. Arnold and D. Levine (eds), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1969), 237–307.

19  S. Milgram, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View (New York: Harper & Row, 1974).

20  P. G. Zimbardo, ‘The Psychology of Evil: on the Perversion of Human Potential’, in L. Krames, P. Pliner and T. Alloway, Aggression, Dominance, and Individual Spacing (New York: Plenum Press, 1978), 16.

21  D. Bar-Tal, ‘Cases and Consequences of Delegitimization. Models of Conflict and Ethnocentrism’, 46 Journal of Social Issues (1990) 65–81. See also F. Neubacher, ‘How Can It Happen that Horrendous State Crimes Are Perpetrated?’, 4 JICJ (2006) 787–799.

22  Quoted in F. De Zulueta, Dal dolore alla violenza. Le origini traumatiche dell’aggressività (Milan: Raffaello Cortina, 1999), 325.

23  L. Arcuri, Manuale di psicologia sociale (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1995).

24  M. Mann, The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 10–11.

25  Ibid. 3–6.

26  M. Flores, ‘Che uomo è lei?—Che uomo sono io?’, 10/11 Dignitas (2006) 25–32.

27  H. Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarism (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1948) 320.

28  A. Garapon, Des crimes qu’on ne peut ni punir ni pardonner. Pour une justice internationale (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2002), 130–131.

29  D. Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness (New York: Doubleday, 1999).

30  G. Agamben, Homo Sacer, Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).

31  Sironi, supra note 16, at 79.

32  Sironi, supra note 16, at 138.

33  S. Freni, ‘Introduzione all’edizione italiana’, in J. F. Clarkin, F. E. Yeomans, and O. F. Kernberg, Psychotherapy for Borderline Personality (New York: John Wiley and Son, Inc., 1999).

34  S. Cohen, States of Denial. Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering (Cambridge: Polity, 2001), 9.

35  Ibid., 13–15.

36  V. Volkan, ‘Trauma, Mourning, Memorial and Forgiveness’, in Memory, Narrative & Forgiveness. Reflecting on Ten Years of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Cape Town, South Africa, 23–27 November 2006, unpublished.

37  H. Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1958), 307.

38  Garapon, supra note 28, at 275–276.

39  Garapon, supra note 28, at 219.

40  Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, 34, 1995, chap. 4, § 20.

41  Tutu, supra note 29.

42  E. Resta, Le stelle e le masserizie. Paradigmi dell’osservatore (Bari-Roma: Laterza, 1997), 28.