United NationsGenocide Convention, which was established in 1948, defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such" including the killing of its members, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately imposing living conditions that seek to "bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part", preventing births, or forcibly transferring children out of the group to another group. Victims have to be deliberately, not randomly, targeted because of their real or perceived membership of one of the four groups outlined in the above definition.
Political Instability Task Force estimated that, between 1956 and 2016, a total of 43 genocides took place, causing the death of about 50 million people. The
UNHCR estimated that a further 50 million had been displaced by such episodes of violence up to 2008.
Interned persons may be held in
prisons or in facilities known as internment camps, also known as concentration camps. The term concentration camp originates from the Spanish–Cuban
Ten Years' War when Spanish forces detained Cuban civilians in camps in order to more easily combat guerrilla forces. Imperialist powers over the following decades continued to use concentration camps (the British during the
Second Boer War and the Americans during the
Philippine–American War). (Full article...) (Full article...)
Raphael Lemkin was a lawyer of Polonized-Jewish descent who is best known for coining the word genocide and initiating the Genocide Convention. Lemkin coined the word
genocide in 1943 or 1944 from the rooted words genos (Greek for family, tribe, or race) and -cide (Latin for killing).
In 1933 Lemkin made a presentation to the Legal Council of the
League of Nations conference on international criminal law in Madrid, for which he prepared an essay on the Crime of Barbarity as a crime against international law. The concept of the crime, which later evolved into the idea of genocide, was based on the
Armenian Genocide and prompted by the experience of Assyrians massacred in Iraq during the 1933 Simele massacre. In 1934 Lemkin, under pressure from the Polish Foreign Minister for comments made at the Madrid conference, resigned his position and became a private solicitor in Warsaw. While in Warsaw, Lemkin attended numerous lectures organized by the Free Polish University, including the classes of Emil Stanisław Rappaport and Wacław Makowski.
Image 5"A relic of the Armenian massacres at Erzingan", image taken from US Ambassador Henry Morgenthau's memoirs (1918).
Image 6Mummified victims of the Rwandan Genocide (1994) at Murambi Technical School. Photograph taken in July 2001 by Emmanuel Cattier.
Image 7Bones of anti-Nazi German women still are in the crematoriums in the German concentration camp at
Buchenwald), Germany, taken by the 3rd U.S. Army. Prisoners of all nationalities were tortured and killed. 04/14/1945
Image 8Gas canisters and hair of Holocaust victims from a Nazi concentration camp.
International prosecution of genocide (ad hoc tribunals)
It is commonly accepted that, at least since
World War II, genocide has been illegal under
customary international law as a
peremptory norm, as well as under
conventional international law. Acts of genocide are generally difficult to establish, for prosecution, since intent, demonstrating a chain of accountability, has to be established. International criminal courts and tribunals function primarily because the states involved are incapable or unwilling to prosecute crimes of this magnitude themselves.
International prosecution of genocide (International Criminal Court)
To date all international prosecutions for genocide have been brought in specially convened
international tribunals. Since
2002, the International Criminal Court can exercise its jurisdiction if national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute genocide, thus being a "court of last resort," leaving the primary responsibility to exercise jurisdiction over alleged criminals to individual states. Due to the
United States concerns over the ICC, the United States prefers to continue to use specially convened international tribunals for such investigations and potential prosecutions.