Genocides in history

Skulls of victims of the Rwandan Genocide

Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious or national group. The term was coined in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin. It is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) of 1948 as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the groups conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."[1]

The preamble to the CPPCG states that "genocide is a crime under international law, contrary to the spirit and aims of the United Nations and condemned by the civilized world" and that "at all periods of history genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity."[1]

Determining what historical events constitute a genocide and which are merely criminal or inhuman behavior is not a clear-cut matter. In nearly every case where accusations of genocide have circulated, partisans of various sides have fiercely disputed the details and interpretation of the event, often to the point of depicting wildly different versions of the facts.

Alternate definitions

The debate continues over what legally constitutes genocide. One definition is any conflict that the International Criminal Court has so designated. Many conflicts that have been labeled genocide in the popular press have not been so designated.[2]

M. Hassan Kakar[3] argued that the definition should include political groups or any group so defined by the perpetrator. He prefers the definition from Chalk and Jonassohn: "Genocide is a form of one-sided mass killing in which a state or other authority intends to destroy a group so defined by the perpetrator."[4]

Some critics[who?] of the international definition argued that the definition was influenced by Joseph Stalin to exclude political groups.[5][6]

According to R. J. Rummel, genocide has multiple meanings. The ordinary meaning is murder by a government of people due to their national, ethnic, racial, or religious group membership. The legal meaning is defined by CCPG. This includes actions such as preventing births or forcibly transferring children to another group. Rummel created the term democide to include assaults on political groups.[7]

In this article, atrocities that have been characterized as genocide by some reliable source are included, whether or not this is supported by mainstream scholarship. The acts may involve mass killings, mass deportations, politicides, democides, withholding of food and/or other necessities of life, death by deliberate exposure to invasive infectious disease agents or combinations of these. Thus examples listed may constitute genocide by the United Nations definition, or by one of the alternate interpretations.