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Genocide Convention
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
9 December[1] 1948
New York
Effective 12 January 1951
Signatories 41
Parties 140 (Complete List)
Depositary Secretary-General of the United Nations

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1948 as General Assembly Resolution 260. The Convention came into effect in January 1951. It defines genocide in legal terms, and is the culmination of years of campaigning by lawyer Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term by reference to the Simele massacre, the Holocaust, and the Armenian Genocide[2]. 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

...any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 2[3]

Article 3 defines the crimes that can be punished under the convention:

 : (a) Genocide;

(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 3[3]

The convention was passed to outlaw actions similar to the Holocaust by Nazi Germany during World War II. The first draft of the Convention included political killings, but the USSR[4] along with some other nations would not accept that actions against groups identified as holding similar political opinions or social status would constitute genocide, [5] so these stipulations were subsequently removed in a political and diplomatic compromise.


Participation in the Genocide Convention      Signed and ratified      Acceded or succeeded      Only signed

Provisos granting immunity from prosecution for genocide without its consent were made by Bahrain, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, the United States, Vietnam, Yemen, and Yugoslavia. (See: (Also see: Prior to its ratification of the convention, the United States Senate was treated to a speech by Senator William Proxmire 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 September 2, 1998 when the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda 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. Two days later, Jean Kambanda 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 ICJ presented its judgement on 26 February 2007. It cleared Serbia of direct involvement in genocide during the Bosnian war,[6] but ruled that Belgrade 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.[7][8]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Auron, Yair, The Banality of Denial, (Transaction Publishers, 2004), 9.
  3. ^ a b Text of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, website of the UNHCHR.
  4. ^ Robert Gellately & Ben Kiernan (2003). The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 267. ISBN 0521527503. 
  5. ^ Staub, Ervin. The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 8. ISBN 0-521-42214-0.,M1. ]
  6. ^ "Serbia cleared of genocide, failed to stop killing". Reuters. February 26, 2007. 
  7. ^ ICJ:Summary of the Judgment of 26 February 2007 - Bosnia v. Serbia
  8. ^ Court Declares Bosnia Killings Were Genocide The New York Times, February 26, 2007. A copy of the ICJ judgement can be found here

Further reading

  • Henham, Ralph J.; Chalfont, Paul; Behrens, Paul (Editors 2007). The criminal law of genocide: international, comparative and contextual aspects, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., ISBN 0754648982, 9780754648987 p. 98


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