Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

 on 9 December 1948 as General Assembly Resolution 260. The Convention entered into force on 12 January 1951. It defines genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 in legal terms, and is the culmination of years of campaigning by lawyer Raphael Lemkin
Raphael Lemkin
Raphael Lemkin was a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent. He is best known for his work against genocide, a word he coined in 1943 from the root words genos and -cide...

. Yaur Auron writes "When Raphael Lemkin coined the word genocide in 1944 he cited the 1915 annihilation of Armenians as a seminal example of genocide". All participating countries are advised to prevent and punish actions of genocide in war and in peacetime. The number of states that have ratified the convention is currently 140.

Definition of genocide

Article 2 of the Convention defines genocide as
Article 3 defines the crimes that can be punished under the convention:

The convention was passed to outlaw actions similar to the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

 by Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The first draft of the Convention included political killings, but the USSR
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 along with some other nations would not accept that actions against groups identified as holding similar political opinions or social status would constitute genocide, so these stipulations were subsequently removed in a political and diplomatic compromise.


Provisos granting immunity from prosecution
Immunity from prosecution (international law)
Immunity from prosecution is a doctrine of international law that allows an accused to avoid prosecution for criminal offences. Immunities are of two types. The first is functional immunity, or immunity ratione materiae. This is an immunity granted to people who perform certain functions of...

 for genocide without its consent were made by Bahrain, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, the United States, Vietnam, Yemen, and Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

. Prior to its ratification of the convention, the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 was treated to a speech by Senator William Proxmire
William Proxmire
Edward William Proxmire was an American politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as a United States Senator from Wisconsin from 1957 to 1989.-Personal life:...

 in favor of this treaty every day that the Senate was in session between 1967 and 1986.


The first time that the 1948 law was enforced occurred on 2 September 1998 when the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is an international court established in November 1994 by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 955 in order to judge people responsible for the Rwandan Genocide and other serious violations of international law in Rwanda, or by Rwandan...

 found Jean-Paul Akayesu, the former mayor of a small town in Rwanda, guilty of nine counts of genocide. The lead prosecutor in this case was Pierre-Richard Prosper
Pierre-Richard Prosper
Pierre-Richard Prosper is an American lawyer, prosecutor and former government official. He served as the second United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues under President George W...

. Two days later, Jean Kambanda
Jean Kambanda
Jean Kambanda was the Prime Minister in the caretaker government of Rwanda from the start of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide...

 became the first head of government to be convicted of genocide.


The first state to be found in breach of the Genocide convention was Serbia. In the Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro case the International Court of Justice presented its judgment on 26 February 2007. It cleared Serbia of direct involvement in genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 during the Bosnian war, but ruled that Belgrade
Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

 did breach international law by failing to prevent the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, and for failing to try or transfer the persons accused of genocide to the ICTY, in order to comply with its obligations under Articles I and VI of the Genocide Convention, in particular in respect of General Ratko Mladić
Ratko Mladić
Ratko Mladić is an accused war criminal and a former Bosnian Serb military leader. On May 31, 2011, Mladić was extradited to The Hague, where he was processed at the detention center that holds suspects for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia...


The ICD Initiative on the Genocide Convention

In 2010, Janez Jansa
Janez Janša
Janez Janša is a Slovenian politician who was Prime Minister of Slovenia from November 2004 to November 2008. He has also been President of the Slovenian Democratic Party since 1993...

, the former prime minister of Slovenia
Prime Minister of Slovenia
There have been six Prime Ministers of Slovenia since that country gained its independence in the breakup of Yugoslavia. Unlike the President of Slovenia, who is directly elected, the Prime Minister is appointed by the National Assembly, and must control a majority there in order to...

 in collaboration with the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy is an international, not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation based in Berlin. Founded in 1999 by Mark Donfried, its activities focus on promoting and developing the field of cultural diplomacy by conducting research, initiatives and programs, holding...

, a non-governmental organisation based in Berlin, initiated “The Initiative on the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide". This initiative or "model convention" focuses on achieving a fast-track, concrete legal resolution to halting current instances of genocide taking place in conflict zones across the world. The dominant feature of this initiative is the incorporation of the "Responsibility to Protect" into the Convention, with the primary aim of preventing mass civilian casualties. This initiative has not yet been successful in amending the Genocide Convention.

See also

  • Command responsibility
    Command responsibility
    Command responsibility, sometimes referred to as the Yamashita standard or the Medina standard, and also known as superior responsibility, is the doctrine of hierarchical accountability in cases of war crimes....

  • Human rights abuse
  • International law
    International law
    Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

  • International human rights law
    International human rights law
    International human rights law refers to the body of international law designed to promote and protect human rights at the international, regional and domestic levels...

  • War crimes

Further reading

External links

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