10 Genocide Warning Signs

Learn to identify genocides before they start, and what measures can be taken to prevent them.


Photo of Professor Gregory H. Stanton
Professor Gregory H. Stanton

In 1996, Professor Gregory H. Stanton presented a paper identifying 8 stages of genocide and strategies for prevention. He later added two more stages - Discrimination/Stigmatization and Persecution - to his concept. See the stages below and the preventative measures to counteract them. Do you recognize any of these warning signs occurring today?

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Stage 1/10 - Classification

A preventative measure for this stage is to promote common identities and actively oppose racist and divisive politicians and parties.

Image with quote “People are divided into ‘us and them.’”

Stage 2/10 - Symbolization

A preventative measure for this stage is to make sure ethnic, religious, racial, and national identities do not appear on ID cards and passports. Work to make sure negative or racist words for groups become culturally unacceptable.

Image with quote “When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of (outcast) groups…”

Stage 3/10 - Discrimination

The preventative measure for this stage is to pass and enforce laws prohibiting discrimination, and have full citizenship and voting rights for all groups.

Image with quote “Law or cultural power excludes groups from full civil rights: segregation or apartheid laws, denial of voting rights.”

Stage 4/10 - Dehumanization

A preventative measure for this stage is to vigorously protest the use of dehumanizing words that refer to people as filth, vermin, animals or diseases.

Image with quote “One group denies the humanity of the other group, members of it are eqated with animals, vermin, or insects”

Stage 5/10 - Organization

A preventative measure for this stage is to deny visas to leaders of hate groups and freeze their foreign assets. Impose sanctions and arms embargoes on hate groups and governments that support ethnic or religious hatred, and create commissions to investigate acts of genocide.

Image with quote “Genocide is always organized… special army units or militias are often trained and armed…”

Stage 6/10 - Polarization

A preventative measure for this stage is to protest laws or policies that segregate or marginalize groups or deprive whole groups of citizenship rights. Physically protect moderate leaders and demand their release if they are arrested. Oppose coups d’état by extremists.

Image with quote “Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda…”

Stage 7/10 - Preparation

A preventative measure for this stage is for the UN Security Council to warn that it will act.

Image with quote “Mass killing is planned. Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethic or religious identity…”

Stage 8/10 - Persecution

At this stage, a genocide emergency should be declared; international intervention prepared. The preventative measure at this point is to assist victims, sanction persecutors, mobilize humanitarian assistance, and protect refugees.

Image with quote “Exportation, forced displacement, ghettos, concentration camps.”

Stage 9/10 - Extermination

The preventative measure for this stage is armed intervention. Safe areas or refugee escape corridors should be established with heavily armed international protection.

Image with quote “It is ‘extermination’ to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be full human.”

Stage 10/10 - Denial

Preventative measures for this stage include confronting denial with facts, exposing the motivation of the deniers, collecting and preserving evidence, including survivor and witness testimony.

Image with quote “The perpetrators deny that they have committed any crimes…”