The Crime of Genocide and International Law

War crimes, crimes against humanity, aggression and genocide – international law recognises many international crimes. None of these, however, attract the same attention as genocide does. When allegations of genocide are raised, the world pricks up its ears. Using the term genocide can have far-reaching implications.

In his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe the Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin introduced the concept of genocide, defining it as:

‘the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group […] 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 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. Genocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group.’

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Ratification of the Genocide Convention, 14 oktober 1950
The Secretary-General addresses the ICTR Staff, 27 February 2009