Category Archives: Feature Articles

The Pillage Option

How do you stop genocide before it starts?

Legal theorist, James Stewart, has revived a forgotten strategy — and The Hague is listening.


Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work —
I am the grass; I cover all.
— Carl Sandburg

There is not enough grass in Rwanda. On April 6, 1994, after decades of clashes between the Hutu government and Tutsi rebels, two surface-to-air missiles struck a plane carrying the Rwandan leader Juvénal Habyarimana. The flaming aircraft crashed into the garden of the presidential palace and disintegrated. Within hours of the attack, thousands of Hutus — incited by the government and goaded by the media — began sweeping through the small African nation, butchering civilians with the half million machetes the government had stockpiled for just such an opportunity. Over the next three months, 800,000 Tutsis died at the hands of the Hutu majority.

Seven years later, James Stewart ’13LAW, a twenty-five-year-old New Zealander, visited the ravaged nation for the first time and saw what the grass had yet to cover: open pits containing thousands of dead bodies preserved in lime. As a legal intern in the Office of the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in Arusha, Tanzania, Stewart had come to investigate the murder, torture, and rape of Tutsis in the city of Butare.

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Who sold these weapons?

UBC prof seeks corporate accountability

UBC REPORTS  |  By Simmi Puri, Faculty of Law

It was known as the Great War of Africa and the deadliest conflict worldwide since World War II. By 2008, the war that began in the Democratic Republic of Congo and involved eight African nations had killed 5.4 million people.

At the crux of the war, and what many argue fueled the conflict in Congo and other African regions, was the growing availability of small arms.

Where were these weapons coming from and why were the suppliers not being held accountable?

It’s these questions that were the primary catalyst for UBC Law professor James Stewart to pursue a career in international criminal law, specifically focusing on the relationship between commerce and atrocity.

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