Sunday, 17 January 2021

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What is genocide?


09.12.2015 The United Nations observes 9 December as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime.

This international day aims to raise awareness to combat and prevent the crime of genocide, and to commemorate and honour its victims. The day aims to remind States the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, which entails the prevention of such a crime, including incitement to it, through appropriate and necessary means, and that fighting impunity for the crime of genocide is an important factor in its prevention.

What is genocide?

Genocide is any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious groups, including:

·         Killing members of the group;

·         Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

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

·         Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

·         Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

What is the difference between genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity?

Genocide often occurs in societies in which such groups become locked in identity-related conflicts. However, it is not the differences in identity per se that generate conflict, but rather the real or perceived inequality associated with these differences in terms of access to:

·         power and resources,

·         social services,

·         development opportunities,

·         enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms.

These conflicts are incited by discrimination, hate speech inciting violence and other violations of human rights. War crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity may be precursors to genocide as well as violations of international law in their own right.

War crimes are grave violations of the laws of armed conflict, as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Crimes against humanity can occur either within or outside the context of armed conflict. They include:

·         murder,

·         torture,

·         rape,

·         persecutions,

·         forced displacement

·         other inhumane acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.

Acts of ethnic cleansing, the strategy to remove a civilian population of a particular ethnic or religious group from a territory, may constitute one of the other three crimes.

"Genocide does not just happen; it unfolds over time. 
It is not part of the accidental “fallout” of conflict; most often, it is systematic, planned, with precise targets, and it can also take place outside of conflict situations. 
Preventing genocide means paying more attention to the warning signs, and being prepared to take immediate action to address them. 
This is the spirit of my Human Rights up Front initiative.  "  Ban Ki-moon


The duty to prevent and halt genocide and mass atrocities lies first and foremost with the State, but the international community has a role that cannot be blocked by the invocation of sovereignty. International intervention only happens when prevention fails. Therefore, prevention is the basis of the principle of the responsibility to protect.


Preventing genocide and genocidal conflicts understanding their root causes.

In terms of prevention, the critical step is to identify the factors (discriminatory practices) in a given situation that lead to or account for acute disparities in the treatment of a diverse population, and to seek ways to diminish and eventually eradicate these possible causes of genocidal violence.

Given that no country is perfectly homogeneous, genocide is a truly global challenge.


UNRICs Related Links

· The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

· Background information       

· Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide        

Photo Credits

· Cover Photo: Trocaire

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