Genocide: An Inhumane Crime Against Mankind and the UN Genocide Convention
Law Student, 4th Year, B.A.LL.B. (Hons.), Sastra School of Law, Thirumalaisamudram, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.
International Law lays down a set of rules as a means and methods to be followed during warfare between countries to minimize the harm and destruction it can cause. Any violations caused by the said means and methods to be followed are treated as a war crime. War crimes can be any criminal action done that grossly violates human rights, remember any crime against humanity not only during war even at peacetime is also a war crime. International Law treats war crimes as a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law which is a body of law that seeks to protect civilians and non-combatants during warfare. Genocide is an important aspect of war crime that is highly sensitive and brutal. Compared to any other war crimes and crimes against humanity, genocide is considered the most offensive crime. It is a mass killing or destruction of people based on their race, religion, ethnicity, or national identity. After the world witnessed the mass destruction of genocide during World War I and World War II, the United Nations for the first time adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the year 1948. In this article, the genocide from the 1900s till today and its impact will be discussed with the stages of genocide and how far the Genocide Convention is implemented and effective during armed conflicts in an international arena.
International law, Genocide, Holocaust, Rwanda Genocide, Armenian Genocide, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Human rights.
Every citizen apart from having his/her own rights that arise from the laws of the land additionally are entitled to Human rights. It is common for every human being to exist without any discrimination. It includes the right to life and liberty, and freedom from any form of violence, trafficking, slavery, discrimination etc. but when an individual’s above-mentioned rights are violated that becomes a serious and sensitive issue. International Humanitarian Law is a customary law that every country needs to follow irrespective of whether it has ratified any related convention. Every country needs to implement laws that protect its citizens’ rights to life and liberty and address the grievances of its citizens when such a right is violated. The United Nations has implemented various conventions that ensure the protection of human rights and when such a right is violated it is a serious crime. One such crime is Genocide as it violates the right to life and liberty of innocent civilians which the International Humanitarian law seeks to protect. As stated, international law considers war crimes as a serious violation of human rights. Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin was the first person to coin the term ‘genocide’ to describe the Nazi’s extermination policies against Jews and in response to the previous instances in history of targeted actions aimed at the destruction of particular groups of people. He held campaigns for establishing the Genocide Convention after surviving the horrifying holocaust. Genocide was first recognised as a war crime under international law by the United Nations General Assembly in the year 1946 and implemented a separate codified convention ‘Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide’ in 1948. This convention was ratified by 153 countries as of the year 2022. Article II of the Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide in 1948 defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such.” Actions included in this definition are:
- Killing members of a group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of a group;
- Deliberately inflicting on a group condition of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within a group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
In simpler words, genocide is the intentional extermination of a particular ethnic group, race, national, religion, or political group. Genocide can be characterised by mass killings of defenceless civilians which results in physical or mental injuries and bodily harm, further mechanisms are imposed to prevent birth in that group, mass killings of children and women of that particular group, putting conditions of life that result in mass destruction or permanent incompetence at both physical and mental level, finally putting an end to the existence of the particular group. There is a huge difference between war and genocide yet genocide is the worst war crime of all. War particularly aims at conquering and controlling the geographical or political regions whereas genocide mainly aims at devastating or putting an end to a whole community of humans, simply to eliminate a whole group of people. History has seen a lot of extermination and bloodshed in the process of genocide. For instance, the elimination of Jews by Nazis during World War II.