Most episodes of mass atrocities over the course of history have been perpetrated by states. As a result, most scholarship on mass atrocities has focused on understanding why states choose to attack large numbers of civilians and how they can be prevented from doing so. In recent years, however, some of the most visible and egregious campaigns of mass atrocities have been committed by non-state groups, such as the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Future efforts to prevent atrocities should be informed by a greater understanding of the ways in which non-state mass atrocities are similar to and different from those committed by states.
Paper: Read our 2016-17 Leonard and Sophie Davis Genocide Prevention Fellow Cyanne Loyle’s paper, “Understanding Nonstate Actor Behavior: The Determinants of Mass Atrocities.” Visit Dr. Loyle's website to learn more about the data that informed this paper.
Report: Read Research Fellow Colin Thomas-Jensen’s report, “Fighting Fire with Fire: The Growing Nexus between Atrocity Prevention and Counterterrorism and Its Implications for the Use of Force to Protect Civilians,” on improving policy processes for responding to mass atrocities perpetrated by non-state actors.
Seminar: Our 2016 Sudikoff Interdisciplinary Seminar on Genocide Prevention convened international scholars, civil society representatives, and US Government officials to discuss the state of research about mass atrocities perpetrated by non-state actors and policy efforts to prevent them. Learn more.