The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
was adopted by the UN General Assembly
in December 1948 and came into effect in January 1951. It defines and outlaws genocide
, as a result of campaigning by Raphael Lemkin[?]
who had coined the term some years earlier.
The Convention (in article 2) defines genocide as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, 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 convention was passed in order to outlaw actions similar to the Holocaust by Nazi Germany during World War II. Because the convention required the support of the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc, it excluded actions undertaken by those nations. Most notably, the convention excludes from the definition of genocide the killing of large numbers of people because they belong to an economic class, as part of a general economic program, or because they seek to overthrow the government.
All signatories are required to prevent and punish actions of genocide in war and peacetime.
A notable late signer of the convention was the United States who waited 37 years before the United States Senate approved the treaty on February 19, 1986.
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