What Is Genocide?

In cases of crimes against humanity and war crimes, the international community has a duty to prosecute genocide, Genocide is defined as “the extermination of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group by total or partial destruction as such.” If an act is committed with the intention of destroying such a group, it constitutes genocide under the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Genocide is punishable under Article 7 (1) and Article 8 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), but is not defined in the UN Convention against Torture.

The term “genocide” dates back to before the 1948 Convention, and scholars have discussed and presented a number of alternative definitions of what genocide is, and often want to expand the list of groups included in the UN definition. Few scientists are entirely satisfied with these definitions, partly because of practical difficulties in proving intent, but they are legally applicable to the definition of genocide. The Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin coined the term when discussing the systematic extermination of minorities by the Nazis.

Genocide occurs when an attempt is made to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group by various physical or psychological methods. The mass murder known as the Holocaust is one of the most famous genocides and claimed 12 million lives between 1933 and 1945. However, it is unlikely to be the first or last genocide in human history.

The definition of genocide in the genocide convention, while inclusive, is not exhaustive, as it is widely argued that some groups do not fit the definition covered by the convention. Although none of the four protected groups under the Genocide Convention, for example, has been attacked in Cambodia, some argue that a group of people was deliberately destroyed. In Australia, the children of indigenous Australians and white settlers were forcibly transferred from their own group to the care of settlers with the intention of ending the group.

The word came into common use during World War II, when the Nazi regime’s atrocities against European Jews during the conflict became known as genocide. The term was later to be applied to the terrible acts of violence against Jews in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 1948, the United Nations declared genocide an international crime. Genocide is a term used to describe the extermination of an entire group by murder, rape or other forms of genocide of a particular group of people.

The word genocide owes its existence to a Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959), who fled the Nazi occupation of Poland and went to the United States in 1941. In 1944, he tried to describe the Nazi policy of systematic murder, including the extermination of European Jewry. The word “genocide” was formed from geno (Greek word for race or tribe) in conjunction with cide (Latin for the word kill). Lemkin, when introducing the new term, had in mind various actions aimed at destroying a group or groups. Rather, it was meant to mean another action aimed at destroying the group itself, not as a means of extermination. Lemkin’s definition was used to define genocide in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other countries.

Nevertheless, the definition of genocide has been a highly politicized issue from the outset. Genocide is defined as “the act of destroying a group and killing all members of that group.” At Stalin’s insistence, the UN excluded the mass slaughter of a population from its definition of genocide, but continued to do so for political reasons. The UN definition of genocide included certain acts that killed several hundred people, such as the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews during World War II. Another genocide example would be the Armenian genocide was the systematic mass murder and ethnic cleansing of around one million ethnic Armenians from Anatolia and adjoining regions by the Ottoman Empire and its ruling party,

Although the Holocaust was an extreme example of genocide, it did not take the threshold to define genocide. Other crimes do not have to go so far as to be defined and punished as genocide under international law. The term genocide was coined by the lawyer Raphael Lemkin to describe the mass slaughter of a group of people in the name of religion, race, ethnicity or national origin. His aim was to use the term to create a framework for preventing and punishing the crimes in which British Prime Minister Winston Churchill described the name of the crime under international law.

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