What is Genocide?What Is Genocide?
By Gregory H. Stanton, President, Genocide Watch. The crime of genocide is defined in international law in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
The Genocide Convention was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948. The Convention entered into force on 12 January 1951. More than 130 nations have ratified the Genocide Convention and over 70 nations have made provisions for the punishment of genocide in domestic criminal law. The text of Article II of the Genocide Convention was included as a crime in Article 6 of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Raphael Lemkin in his masterpiece "Axis Rule in Occupied Europe" (1943) invented the term "genocide,"by combining "genos" (race, people) and "cide" (to kill).
Lemkin defined genocide as follows:
"Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups."
When Lemkin proposed a treaty against genocide to the United Nations in 1945, he defined it as follows:
"The crime of genocide should be recognized therein as a conspiracy to exterminate national, religious or racial groups. The overt acts of such a conspiracy may consist of attacks against life, liberty or property of members of such groups merely because of their affiliation with such groups. The formulation of the crime may be as follows:
Whoever, while participating in a conspiracy to destroy a national, racial or religious group, undertakes an attack against life, liberty or property of members of such groups is guilty of the crime of genocide."
The Genocide Convention adopted by the UN in Paris in 1948 defines genocide without the precursors and persecution that Lemkin noted in his definitions. The Convention defines genocide as follows:
"Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Article III: The following acts shall be punishable:
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide."
The following are genocidal acts when committed as part of a policy to destroy a group's existence:
* Killing members of the group includes direct killing and actions causing death.
* Causing serious bodily or mental harm includes inflicting trauma on members of the group through widespread torture, rape, sexual violence, forced or coerced use of drugs, and mutilation.
* Deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to destroy a group includes the deliberate deprivation of resources needed for the group's physical survival, such as clean water, food, clothing, shelter or medical services. Deprivation of the means to sustain life can be imposed through confiscation of harvests, blockade of foodstuffs, detention in camps, forcible relocation or expulsion into deserts.
* Prevention of births includes involuntary sterilization, forced abortion, prohibition of marriage, and long-term separation of men and women intended to prevent procreation.
* Forcible transfer of children may be imposed by direct force or by through fear of violence, duress, detention, psychological oppression or other methods of coercion. The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines children as persons under the age of 14 years.
Genocidal acts need not kill or cause the death of members of a group. Causing serious bodily or mental harm, prevention of births and transfer of children are acts of genocide when committed as part of a policy to destroy a group's existence:
* It is a crime to plan or incite genocide, even before killing starts, and to aid or abet genocide: Criminal acts include conspiracy, direct and public incitement, attempts to commit genocide, and complicity in genocide.
The crime of genocide has two elements: intent and action.
* "Intentional" means purposeful. Intent can be proven directly from statements or orders. But more often, it must be inferred from a systematic pattern of coordinated acts. Intent is different from motive. Whatever may be the motive for the crime (land expropriation, national security, territorial integrity, etc.,) if the perpetrators commit acts intended to destroy a group, even part of a group, it is genocide.
The phrase "in whole or in part" is important. Perpetrators need not intend to destroy the entire group. Destruction of only part of a group (such as its educated members, or members living in one region) is also genocide. Most authorities require intent to destroy a substantial number of group members -- mass murder. But an individual criminal may be guilty of genocide even if he kills only one person, so long as he knew he was participating in a larger plan to destroy the group.
The law protects four groups - national, ethnic, racial or religious groups.
* A national group means a set of individuals whose identity is defined by a common country of nationality or national origin.
* An ethnic group is a set of individuals whose identity is defined by common cultural traditions, language or heritage.
* A racial group means a set of individuals whose identity is defined by physical characteristics.
* A religious group is a set of individuals whose identity is defined by common religious creeds, beliefs, doctrines, practices, or rituals.
Copyright 2002 Genocide Watch.
A Genocide Emergency is declared when genocide is actually underway.
A Genocide Warning is called when politicide or genocide is imminent, often indicated by genocidal massacres.
Genocide Information by Region Genocide Information by Issue
A Genocide Warning is called when politicide or genocide is imminent, often indicated by genocidal massacres.
- Syria - Since the first uprisings began in the Syrian Arab Republic in early March 2011, President Bashar al-Assad’s government has violently repressed civilian protests and launched attacks on both rebel forces and Sunni Arab civilians. Data collected by the UN Human Rights office estimates the death toll to be greater than 60,000 people. According to the UN Refugee Agency, over 700,000 registered Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries, mainly Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, with thousands more leaving daily. President Assad continues to label the armed rebel forces as “terrorists” and has rejected the offer of peace talks made by Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, the main opposition leader. Nations should call for a cease-fire, convince Assad to step down, and bring in more humanitarian assistance. If Assad will not stop bombing his own nation into rubble, NATO forces led by Turkey should destroy his air force.
- Sudan - Since the Bush Administration first recognized the genocide in Darfur, at least 250,000 more men, women, and children have died. Using its own military and the Janjaweed militia, Sudan's regime has conducted a systematic campaign to kill and drive out Darfur's ethnic Fur, Massalit, and Zhagawa peoples. Supported by aircraft and helicopter gunships, the Janjaweed attack towns, villages, and refugee camps, kill the men and boys, rape the women and girls, and poison the wells. Their goal is to replace these African peoples with Arab herders.
- Democratic Republic of the Congo - The DRC is plagued by enduring conflict in its eastern provinces. Formally the second Congolese war came to an end in 2002. However, in practice the conflict drags on and is the most deadliest since the second World War. Estimates of the dead range from three to five million persons. The victims are civilians, in particular women and girls, and ethnic groups such as the Banyamulenge, the Hutu Banyarwanda, the Hema and the Lendu. Many of the killers and rapists are former genocidists who escaped into the DRC from the Rwandan genocide.
- Ethiopia - In September 2008, Genocide Watch declared a Genocide Warning regarding the war that was being waged against small ethnic minority called Burji in a town of Hagre Mariam by an ethnic Oromo group called Guji. Since then the Guji Oromo have continued to wage protracted war against Burji in various localities, especially in towns and villages surrounding the city of Soyama, which is 60 Km west of the city of Hagremariam. Over the course of the last several months there have been heavy loss of lives and damage to Guji properties including destruction of crops and farm equipment. In January 2009, there were reports of heavy fighting on three different fronts, namely Nadale/ Chuluse front and Gara and Tisho vicinities. News from Hagremariam stated that Guji Oromo warriers were advancing towards Soyama in great numbers. According to Genocide Watch sources, Guji/Oromo attacks on Buji began on January 22, 2009. The situation is continues to be dire, and urgent action must be taken to avert further attacks.
- Burma/Myanmar - Burma, Southeast Asia's most oppressed nation, remains under the forty-three year tyranny of a military junta and should be a grave concern to the international community. Abuse of ethnic minorities, mass rape of women, mandatory relocations, extrajudicial state executions, military recruitment of children, and forced labor are only a few of the many violations of human rights currently practiced in the resource rich but economically impoverished nation.1 The regime change of 2004 which deposed General Khin Nyunt in favor of Lieutenant General Soe Win continues to suppress the strong movement for democracy, keeping Burma in a cyclical state of tyranny.
- Nigeria - The insurgency of the radical Islamist movement Boko Haram in the north of Nigeria poses a great threat of genocidal massacres. Since the summer of 2011 Boko Haram has struck different targets in Nigeria ranging from government buildings, especially the security sector, to churches. The latter category of attacks is alarming as they might radicalize relations between the Muslim north and the Christian south of the country.
- Chad - Chad is largely influenced by the situation in neighboring country Sudan. The Sudanese government has supported rebels who have made three attempts to overthrow the Chadian government by force. These situations made Genocide Watch declare Genocide Warnings for Chad in 2005, renewed in April 2006 and January 2008. Today Chad remains at Stage 6, the Preparation stage preceding genocide. Since 2010, ties between the Sudanese president al-Bashir and the Chadian president have improved, but this has not ended the hopeless situation of hundreds of thousands refugees in Chad. In February 2011, a report of the International Crisis group raised an Alert about Chad’s Northwest, as the next high-risk area where violence and famine could endanger human lives.
- Equatorial Guinea - There is deep ethnic division in Equatorial Guinea, and also clan division within ethnicities. The majority of the population belong to the Fang group. Within this group there are clans. President Obiang Nguema favors his own clan, the Esangui. The Bubi people represent the minority ethnicity and are indigenous to Bioko Island. They are subject to systematic discrimination and persecution by the government, and were the main victims of the genocide carried out by president Macías Nguema from 1978 - 1979. Genocide Watch considers Equatorial Guinea to be at early warning stage 6: Preparation for potential massacres.
- Yemen - Genocide Watch has downgraded the risk of genocide and politicide in Yemen from stage 7 (active massacres) to stage 6: potential massacres. Genocide Watch welcomes the recent transfer of power in Yemen and the large participation in elections by Yemeni citizens. However, the following risk factors are evidence that the security situation in Yemen is still of great concern. The roots of national identity and democracy are shallow. Yemen could again degenerate quickly into violence.
- Kenya - Genocide Watch has called a Genocide Alert because of genocidal massacres that are increasing daily in Kenya in the wake of a disputed election between President Mwai Kibaki, who is a member of the Kikuyu ethnic group, and Mr. Raila Odinga, who is ethnically a Luo. Ethnic riots have broken out in Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret, and numerous other places in Kenya. People have been pulled from their cars and their identification cards checked for their names, which symbolize their ethnic identity, and then killed if they belong to groups being targeted. Hundreds of people have already been murdered. Today a church in Eldoret was locked and the people inside were burned to death by a mob.Ethnic massacres are an indicator that the risk of genocide in Kenya has risen to Stage 6, the Preparation stage.Kenya has not yet descended into actual genocide. However, the next stage in the process is actual genocide, and Kenya is close to that stage.
- Central African Republic - Since its independence from France in 1960, the political situation in CAR has always been unstable. Last years, the CAR has also become a refuge for the Lord’s Resistance Army, led since 1987 by the mass murderer, Joseph Kony of Uganda. Kony is notorious for abducting child soldiers and girl sex slaves and was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005, but still not arrested. Another pressing security threat in the CAR is the Front Populaire Pour le Redressement (FPR), a Chadian armed rebel group backed by Sudan that has carried out sporadic attacks in northern CAR since 2008. Because crimes against humanity by the LRA and FPR have led to widespread terror and forced displacement, Genocide Watch considers CAR at stage 6: potential massacres.