Saving lives. One word at a time.

5. Genocide Definition

The definition and characteristics of genocide

Genocide is defined by the Genocide Convention promulgated by the United Nations as “The deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group “. According to the United Nations’ Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, “Genocide prevention revolves around the constructive management of diversity,” and governments have a duty to protect populations from genocide… and crimes against humanity,” which are often perpetuated by non-state armed groups”.

“While conflict has many causes, genocidal conflict is identity-based. Genocide and related atrocities tend to occur in societies with diverse national, racial, ethnic or religious groups that are locked in identity-related conflicts.

It is not simply differences in identity, whether real or perceived, that generate conflict, but the implication of those differences in terms of access to power and wealth, services and resources, employment, development opportunities, citizenship and the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms.

These conflicts are fomented (stirred up) by discrimination, hate speech inciting violence and other violations of human rights.”

Actions that stimulate genocide

Examples of violations of human rights that encourage genocide include:

1. Hate speech by State Officials

2. Limitations of the freedom of the press and State Secrecy

3. Police brutality

 Actions that amount to genocide

The United Nations states that any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group meet the definition of Genocide and are punishable under International Law:

1. Killing members of the group; or

2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to the group; or

3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; or

4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; or

5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

According to the international alliance, Genocide Watch, genocide is not necessarily limited to acts that result in the death of members. The other 4 actions listed above are acts of genocide when committees as part of a policy to destroy a group’s existence. It is also an international crime to plan or incite genocide even before killing starts as well as to aid or abet genocide through conspiracy, direct and public incitement. Finally any attempts to commit and complicity in genocide is also an international crime.

Genocide Watch explains that a key element of genocide is Intent, which means that to be deemed genocide actions are purposeful. Although intent can be proven directly from statements or orders, it is more common to prove intent form a systematic pattern of coordinated acts.

Regardless of motive for intentional acts of genocide (eg: land expropriation, national security, territorial integrity, etc), if these actions are intended to destroy a group or a part of a group, it is genocide. Destruction of part of a group such as educated members or members of the group living in a certain region is also genocide. 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.

Article III: The following acts shall be punishable:

(a) Genocide;

(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;

(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;

(d) Attempt to commit genocide;

(e) Complicity in 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.

Genocide Watch also defines the groups who are protected by international law as:

a. National – a set of individuals whose identity is defined by a common country of nationality or national origin;

b. Ethnic – a set of individuals whose identity is defined by common cultural traditions, language or heritage;

c. Racial – a set of individuals whose identity is defined by physical characteristics;

d. Religious group is a set of individuals whose identity is defined by common religious creeds, beliefs, doctrines, practices, or rituals.

Genocide Watch has developed a framework of the path to genocide and lists six stages that lead up to Genocide, which are followed by denial:

1. Classification

2. Symbolization

3. Dehumanization

4. Organization

5. Polarization

6. Preparation

7. Extermination

8. Denial

The South African European Minority are now on level 6:  Preparation for mass murders as determined by Genocide Watch


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