UN Convention on Genocide 1948

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UN Convention on Genocide 1948

Post by David Thompson » 11 Dec 2004 16:12

The term "genocide" is often seen and heard, but there are considerable differences of opinion on what it means. To assist our readers in assessing claims of genocide, here is the 1948 United Nations Convention of the subject. The text was taken from Dr. Stuart D. Stein's Web Genocide Documentation Centre at: http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/documents/gncnvntn.htm

Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide


The Contracting Parties,

Having considered the declaration made by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 96 (I) dated 11 December 1946 that genocide is a crime under international law, contrary to the spirit and aims of the United Nations and condemned by the civilized world,

Recognizing that at all periods of history genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity, and

Being convinced that, in order to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge, international co-operation is required,

Hereby agree as hereinafter provided:

Article I

The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.

Article II

In the present Convention, genocide means 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.

Article III

The following acts shall be punishable:

(a) Genocide;

(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;

(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;

(d ) Attempt to commit genocide;

(e) Complicity in genocide.

Article IV

Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.

Article V

The Contracting Parties undertake to enact, in accordance with their respective Constitutions, the necessary legislation to give effect to the provisions of the present Convention, and, in particular, to provide effective penalties for persons guilty of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III.

Article VI

Persons charged with genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed, or by such international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties which shall have accepted its jurisdiction.

Article VII

Genocide and the other acts enumerated in article III shall not be considered as political crimes for the purpose of extradition. The Contracting Parties pledge themselves in such cases to grant extradition in accordance with their laws and treaties in force.

Article VIII

Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III.

Article IX

Disputes between the Contracting Parties relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment of the present Convention, including those relating to the responsibility of a State for genocide or for any of the other acts enumerated in article III, shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice at the request of any of the parties to the dispute.

Article X

The present Convention, of which the Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish texts are equally authentic, shall bear the date of 9 December 1948.

Article XI

The present Convention shall be open until 31 December 1949 for signature on behalf of any Member of the United Nations and of any non-member State to which an invitation to sign has been addressed by the General Assembly. The present Convention shall be ratified, and the instruments of ratification shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. After 1 January 1950, the present Convention may be acceded to on behalf of any Member of the United Nations and of any non-member State which has received an invitation as aforesaid. Instruments of accession shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Article XII

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.

Article XIII

On the day when the first twenty instruments of ratification or accession have been deposited, the Secretary-General shall draw up a proc s-verbal and transmit a copy thereof to each Member of the United Nations and to each of the non-member States contemplated in article XI.

The present Convention shall come into force on the ninetieth day following the date of deposit of the twentieth instrument of ratification or accession. Any ratification or accession effected, subsequent to the latter date shall become effective on the ninetieth day following the deposit of the instrument of ratification or accession.

Article XIV

The present Convention shall remain in effect for a period of ten years as from the date of its coming into force. It shall thereafter remain in force for successive periods of five years for such Contracting Parties as have not denounced it at least six months before the expiration of the current period. Denunciation shall be effected by a written notification addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Article XV

If, as a result of denunciations, the number of Parties to the present Convention should become less than sixteen, the Convention shall cease to be in force as from the date on which the last of these denunciations shall become effective.

Article XVI

A request for the revision of the present Convention may be made at any time by any Contracting Party by means of a notification in writing addressed to the Secretary-General. The General Assembly shall decide upon the steps, if any, to be taken in respect of such request.

Article XVII

The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall notify all Members of the United Nations and the non-member States contemplated in article XI of the following:

(a) Signatures, ratifications and accessions received in accordance with article XI;

(b) Notifications received in accordance with article XII;

(c) The date upon which the present Convention comes into force in accordance with article XIII;

(d) Denunciations received in accordance with article XIV;

(e) The abrogation of the Convention in accordance with article XV;

(f) Notifications received in accordance with article XVI.

Article XVIII

The original of the present Convention shall be deposited in the archives of the United Nations. A certified copy of the Convention shall be transmitted to each Member of the United Nations and to each of the non-member States contemplated in article XI.

Approved and proposed for signature and ratification or accession by General Assembly resolution 260 A (III) of 9 December 1948

ENTRY INTO FORCE: 12 January 1951, under the terms of article XIII

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Post by David Thompson » 11 Dec 2004 16:19

Here is a learned essay by Dr. Stuart D. Stein on the definition of genocide. The essay was taken from the Web Genocide Documentation Centre at: http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/gendef.htm

Genocide: Definition and Controversies

Genocide Convention 1948

The definitional article included in the 1948 convention stipulates:

Article II

In the present Convention, genocide means 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.


The critical element is the presence of an "intent to destroy", which can be either "in whole or in part", groups defined in terms of nationality, ethnicity, race or religion. Thus, the imposition of restrictions during the nineteen-sixties and seventies on reproduction in India, through forced sterilization in many instances, or the continuing restrictions in China, do not constitute genocidal policies as the intent is to restrict the size of groups, not to destroy existing groups in whole or in part. Policies implemented during the Third Reich respecting Jewish, Roma and Sinti groups, on the other hand, were quite clearly genocidal in terms of this article as there was a clearly stated policy indicating the presence of an intent to destroy them. Members of all these groups were processed in extermination camps, were subjected to serious bodily and mental harm, and had conditions inflicted upon them intended to bring about their physical destruction, including starvation in ghettoes, and had measures applied to them intended to prevent births within the group (sterilization).

Many experts, legal and academic, consider these criteria deficient in various respects. Some consider that the criteria are insufficiently broad. For instance, it excludes the physical destruction of certain sub-groups that have regularly been the victims of extensive killing programs. Usually mentioned in this context are members of political or social classes, such as the bourgeoisie, the middle classes, the Kulaks and the intelligentsia. Also, the definition focuses on the physical destruction of the group. There have been many instances in which the group has physically survived but its cultural distinctiveness has been eradicated. A contemporary example is the destruction of Tibetan culture by the Chinese, or that of indigenous tribes in certain countries in South America, Paraguay and Brazil, for instance.

These and other deficiencies need to be understood in the context of the background to the passage of this convention. The term genocide is of recent derivation; etymologically, it combines the Greek for group, tribe-genos, with the Latin for killing-cide. In 1933, at a time when neither the extensiveness nor character of the barbarous practices subsequently carried out under the auspices of the Third Reich could have been foreseen, the jurist Raphael Lemkin submitted to the International Conference for Unification of Criminal Law a proposal to declare the destruction of racial, religious or social collectivities a crime in international law. In 1944 he published a monograph, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, in which he detailed the exterminatory and other practices and policies pursued by the Third Reich and its allies. He went on to argue the case for the international regulation of the "practice of extermination of nations and ethnic groups," a practice which he referred to now as genocide. Lemkin was also instrumental in lobbying United Nations officials and representatives to secure the passage of a resolution by the General Assembly affirming that "genocide is a crime under international law which the civilized world condemns, and for the commission of which principals and accomplices are punishable." The matter was referred for consideration to the UN Economic and Social Council, their deliberations culminating with the signing of the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide (UNCG).

There are considerable disagreements among experts concerning whether a specific complex of behaviours merits the designation genocide, even leaving aside clear-cut instances of attempts at moral appropriation of the concept. There are various reasons for this. First, like any other legal instrument, it was the outcome of negotiations between parties that held conflicting views as to the proper scope of its constituent parts. On this, see the analysis by Leo Kuper in his Genocide: Its Political Use in the Twentieth Century. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1981, Chapter 2. Although Article IX allows for disputes between parties to be adjudicated by the International Court of Justice, because accusations of genocide are invariable made by one state against another, this has never occurred. Consequently, there is no body of international law to clarify the parameters of the convention.

A second reason for uncertainty as to how the concept can be fitted to particular complexes of behaviour derives from the fact that the "ideal-typical" genocidal complex that Lemkin had in mind was the destruction of European Jewry. This instance of genocide was quite clearly also uppermost in the minds of those who drafted and negotiated the UNCG. Precisely because this particular instance was so central to the genesis of the UNCG, its application to other situations has been problematic. It is quite clear that the programs devised by the Nazi regime for the Final Solution of the Jewish Question lie at the extreme of any continuum of types of mass violence aimed at inflicting significant loss on members of particular groups, whether these be religious, national, ethnical or racial. Although the massacre of Armenians by the Turks during World War I, the destruction of the intelligentsia and others by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during 1975-1978, and the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s share some elements with the Nazi genocidal program, there are also important differences that call into question whether they meet the criteria specified by Article II of the UNCG.

[Source: S D Stein. "Genocide." In E Cashmore (ed.). Dictionary of Race and Ethnic Relations. Fourth Edition. London: Routledge, 1996]

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