Most understand that genocide is the gravest crime against humanity.
It is defined as the mass extermination of a specific group of people, exemplified by the Nazi efforts to exterminate the Jewish population in the 1940s.
However, behind this simple definition is a complicated web of legal concepts about what genocide is and when the term can be applied.
definition and discussion
The term genocide was coined in 1943 by the Polish-Jewish jurist Raphael Lemkin, who combined the Greek word "genos" (race or tribe) with the Latin word "cide" (to kill).
after dr. After witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust, which killed every member of his family except his brother, Lemkin worked to have genocide recognized as a crime under international law.
His efforts led to the acceptance of theUnited Nations Genocide ConventionDecember 1948, which entered into force in January 1951.
Article 2 of the Convention defines genocide as "any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy as such, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group":
- Kill party members.
- Causing severe physical or mental harm to party members.
- Deliberately subjecting the group to living conditions that could lead to its total or partial physical destruction
- Imposition of measures to prevent births within the group
- Compulsive transfer of children from the group to another group
The convention also imposes a general duty on signatory states to "prevent and punish" genocide.
Since its adoption, the UN treaty has been criticized on several fronts, mainly by people frustrated with the difficulty of applying it to specific cases. Some have argued that the definition is too narrow; others who abuse it devalue it.
Some analysts say the definition of genocide is so narrow that none of the mass murders committed since the treaty was approved would fall within it.
Some of the most common objections to the contract include:
- The convention excludes certain political and social groups
- The definition is limited to direct actions against people and excludes actions against the environment that nurtures them or their cultural specificity.
- It is extremely difficult to prove intent beyond a doubt.
- UN member states are reluctant to single out other members or intervene, as was the case in Rwanda.
- There is no international law clarifying the parameters of the convention (although this is changing as the UN war crimes tribunals hear the indictments).
- Difficulty defining or measuring “partial” and determining how many deaths correspond to genocide
But despite these criticisms, there are many who say that the genocide is self-evident.
In his book Rwanda and genocide in the 20th century, former Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Secretary General Alain Destexhe wrote: “Genocide differs from all other crimes in the motivation behind it.
"Genocide is a crime on a scale unlike any other crime against humanity and involves the intent to completely eradicate a chosen group. Genocide is therefore both the gravest and the greatest crime against humanity." .
Destexhe has expressed concern that the term genocide "has fallen victim to a kind of verbal inflation, just like the word fascist" and has become "dangerously common".
Michael Ignatiev, former director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, agrees, arguing that the term has come to be used as "an endorsement of any kind of victimhood."
"Slavery, for example, is called genocide, if that is what it is, and it was a shame, it was a system to exploit rather than exterminate the living," Ignatiev told a conference.
Differences over how genocide should be defined have also led to disagreements over how many genocides have taken place in the 20th century.
How many genocides have there been?
Some say that there has been only one genocide in the last century: the Holocaust.
Others say that there have been at least three genocides as defined by the 1948 UN Convention:
- The mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1920, an accusation the Turks deny
- The Holocaust, which killed more than six million Jews
- Rwanda, where an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in the 1994 genocide
And in recent years, a few more cases have been added to the list. In Bosnia, the 1995 Srebrenica massacre was classified as genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Other cases include the Soviet-induced famine in the Ukraine (1932-33), the Indonesian invasion of East Timor (1975), and the Khmer Rouge assassinations in Cambodia in the 1970s, which killed an estimated 1.7 million. Cambodians by execution or death by starvation. or forced labor.
There is disagreement that many of the Khmer Rouge victims were targeted because of their political or social status, which leaves them outside the UN definition of genocide.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2010 on charges of genocide, accusing him of leading a campaign against the citizens of Sudan's Darfur region that is said to have killed an estimated 300 billion. more than displaced in seven years of struggle. .
Most recently, in March 2016, the US accused the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group of committing genocide against Christian, Yazidi and Shiite minorities in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS was "genocide by self-declaration, ideology and actions, in what it says, believes and does," then-Secretary of State John Kerry said.
In 2017, The Gambia filed a case with the International Court of Justice accusing Myanmar of committing genocide against the Rohingya and claiming to have carried out "widespread and systematic cleansing operations" in Rohingya villages.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh and elsewhere, with thousands believed to have been killed.
In 2021, the governments of the US, Canada, and the Netherlands previously accused China of committing genocide against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, while several other countries filed parliamentary resolutions with the same accusation.
Evidence suggests China abandoned the Uyghursforced sterilization,forced labor,mass, Ysystematic rape and torture- Actions that many say meet the criteria of genocide. China denies the accusations.
Genocide prosecutions in history
The first case in which the genocide convention was put into practice was that of Jean Paul Akayesu, the Hutu mayor of the Rwandan town of Taba at the time of the killings. In a landmark ruling on September 2, 1998, a special international tribunal convicted Akayesu of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Subsequently, more than 85 people were sentenced by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, 29 of them for genocide.
In August 2010, a leaked UN report claimed that Rwandan Hutus, perpetrators of the 1994 genocide, may have been victims of the same crime.
In 2001, General Radislav Krstic, a former Bosnian Serb general, became the first person to be convicted of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Krstic appealed his conviction, arguing that the 8,000 people killed were "too insignificant" a number to be considered genocide. In 2004, the ICTY rejected his appeal.
In 2007, former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladić, nicknamed the "Butcher of Bosnia", was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
And in 2018, Nuon Chea, 92, and Khieu Samphan, 87, were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the killings of the Khmer Rouge on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
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