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date: 27 January 2021

The Law of Genocidelocked

  • Robert WeinerRobert WeinerDepartment of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Boston

Summary

Genocide is described as the most extreme form of crime against humanity; Winston Churchill even called it the “crime with no name.” The word “genocide” was coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer who embarked on a mission to persuade the international community to accept genocide as an international crime under international law. In 1946, the first session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring genocide as a crime under international law. This resolution became the basis for the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, introduced in 1948. However, it would take another fifty years before the Genocide Convention would establish an International Criminal Court that would prosecute international war criminals. In the 1990s, special ad hoc tribunals were created for Yugoslavia and Rwanda to deal with international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. In reaction to the failure of the international community to deal with genocide in Rwanda, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on the norm of “the Responsibility to Protect.” The Genocide Convention was tested in the case brought by Bosnia and Herzegovina against Serbia (originally Serbia and Montenegro) in 1993. It was the first time in history that a sovereign state was placed on trial for the commission of genocide. The implications and ramifications of the International Court of Justice’s ruling that the Serbian government did not commit genocide in Bosnia became a subject of considerable debate among legal scholars.

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