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The term genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin in 1943 and is a combination of the Greek word ‘genos’ (meaning race or tribe) and the Latin word ‘cide’ (meaning to kill). The term was adopted by the UN at the Convention on Genocide in December 1948. Article Two of the UN convention defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”. This includes killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Furthermore, a general duty to “prevent and to punish” the crime of genocide was imposed on states who were party to the Convention. Arguably the most well-known cases of genocide in recent years have occurred in Rwanda, the Holocaust and former Yugoslavia.

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