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Democide is a term coined by political scientist R. J. Rummel to describe the mass murder of persons by a government or its agents. It is distinct from genocide, as the targeted group may not be chosen for reason of nationality or ethnicity. For example, government-sponsored killings for political reasons would be considered democide.

While of relatively recent origin, the word has gained in use, particularly by legal and social activists for human rights. It should, however, be noted that the term democide is not yet widely accepted, and despite the clear difference from the formal definition of genocide, genocide, is very widely used to refer to acts of democide.

Accusations of Democide

Accusations of mass killings by a government are relatively common. Less common are well-documented cases with enough evidence to support the accusation. Almost all accusations are disputed to some degree, although the evidence in some cases is stronger than in others. For instance, many of the figures cited in Death by Government, in which R.J. Rummel first coined the term, have been criticized for not taking into account numbers of deaths caused by the absence of government by means such as anarchy, civil disorder, or foreign invasion.

For example:

  • The United States and Pakistan have been accused in collaborating in democide in Afghanistan during 2001, by the restricting access of humanitarian aid during a period of severe famine. Noam Chomsky has been one of the more prominent voices laying this accusation. The number of deaths that can be attributed to the restriction is heavily disputed (numbers range from none to over a million deaths). Also significantly disputed are whether the restriction was used deliberately as a weapon of war.

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