Genocide Convention

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Genocide Convention
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
Signed 9 December 1948
Location Paris
Effective 12 January 1951
Signatories 41
Parties 146 (complete list)
Depositary Secretary-General of the United Nations

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948 as General Assembly Resolution 260. The Convention entered into force on 12 January 1951.[1] It defines genocide in legal terms, and is the culmination of years of campaigning by lawyer Raphael Lemkin. Yair Auron writes "When Raphael Lemkin coined the word genocide in 1944 he cited the 1915 annihilation of Armenians as a seminal example of 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 146.

Definition of genocide[edit]

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


Sixteen nations conditioned ratification, accession, or succession to the Convention on one or more declarations, reservations, or understandings which explicitly require that the nation grant consent to trial of its citizenry before an international court for the crime of genocide. [6][7] 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 nations asserting such reservations are:

  • Bahrain Bahrain
  • Bangladesh Bangladesh
  • China China
  • India India
  • Malaysia Malaysia (reservation opposed by the Netherlands and the United Kingdom)
  • Morocco Morocco
  • Burma Myanmar
  • Philippines Philippines (reservation opposed by Norway)
  • Rwanda Rwanda (reservation opposed by the United Kingdom)
  • Singapore Singapore (reservation opposed by the Netherlands and the United Kingdom)
  • United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates
  • United States United States (reservation opposed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom)
  • Venezuela Venezuela
  • Vietnam Vietnam (reservation opposed by the United Kingdom)
  • Yemen Yemen (reservation opposed by the United Kingdom)
  • Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Yugoslavia (now Montenegro and Serbia)

Application to Non-Self-Governing Territories[edit]

Any Contracting Party may at any time, by notification addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, extend the application of the present

Convention to all or any of the territories for the conduct of whose foreign relations that Contracting Party is responsible

— Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 12[3]

Several countries opposed this article, considering that the convention should apply to Non-Self-Governing Territories:

  • Albania Albania
  • Belarus Belarus
  • Bulgaria Bulgaria
  • Hungary Hungary
  • Mongolia Mongolia
  • Burma Myanmar
  • Poland Poland
  • Romania Romania
  • Russia Russia
  • Ukraine Ukraine

The opposition of those countries were in turn opposed by:

  • Australia Australia
  • Belgium Belgium
  • Brazil Brazil
  • Ecuador Ecuador
  • China China
  • Netherlands Netherlands
  • Sri Lanka Sri Lanka
  • United Kingdom United Kingdom



The first time that the 1948 law was enforced occurred on 2 September 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 International Court of Justice presented its judgment on 26 February 2007. It cleared Serbia of direct involvement in genocide during the Bosnian war,[8] 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.[9][10]

Other accusations[edit]

United States[edit]

One of the first accusations of genocide submitted to the UN after the Convention entered into force concerned treatment of Black people in the United States. The Civil Rights Congress drafted a 237-page petition arguing that even after 1945, the United States had been responsible for hundreds of wrongful deaths, both legal and extra-legal, as well as numerous other genocidal abuses. Leaders from the Black community, including William Patterson, Paul Robeson, and W. E. B. Du Bois presented this petition to the UN in December 1951.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Status of the Convention
  2. ^ Auron, Yair, The Banality of Denial, (Transaction Publishers, 2004), 9.
  3. ^ a b c 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. p. 267. ISBN 0-521-52750-3. 
  5. ^ Staub, Ervin. The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 8. ISBN 0-521-42214-0. ]
  6. ^ Prevent Genocide International: Declarations and Reservations to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
  7. ^ United Nations Treaty Collection: Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, STATUS AS AT: 01-10-2011 07:22:22 EDT
  8. ^ Hudson, Alexandra (26 February 2007). "Serbia cleared of genocide, failed to stop killing". Reuters. 
  9. ^ ICJ:Summary of the Judgment of 26 February 2007 – Bosnia v. Serbia
  10. ^ Court Declares Bosnia Killings Were Genocide The New York Times, 26 February 2007. A copy of the ICJ judgement can be found here
  11. ^ John Docker, "Raphaël Lemkin, creator of the concept of genocide: a world history perspective", Humanities Research 16(2), 2010.

Further reading[edit]