A genocide or genocide since the Genocide Convention of 1948, a criminal offense in international criminal law , which is characterized by the intention to directly or indirectly, "a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such in whole or in part, to to destroy"; it is not subject to the statute of limitations . The legal definition, which goes back to Raphael Lemkin , also serves as a definition of the term genocide in science.
Genocide is often viewed as particularly negative and is described as the “crime of crimes” or “the worst crime in international criminal law”. Since the decision by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948, the punishment for genocide has also been expressly anchored in various national legal systems .
UN Convention against Genocide
On December 9, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed resolution 260 on the " Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide " (Convention pour la prevention et la repression du crime de genocide , Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide ), which came into force on January 12, 1951. The Federal Republic of Germany ratified the convention in February 1955, Austria deposited the instrument of accession on March 19, 1958 and Switzerland on September 7, 2000. According to the convention, genocide is a crime under international law "which is condemned by the civilized world".
It was based on Resolution 180 of the UN General Assembly of 21 November 1947 was found in that "genocide an international crime [is] that requires national and international responsibility of people and states" to the international crimes in World War II to commemorate.
The Convention defines genocide in Article II as “any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such:
- a) killing members of the group
- b) inflicting severe physical or mental harm on members of the group
- c) the deliberate submission to living conditions aimed at the total or partial physical destruction of the group
- d) the ordering of measures to prevent births
- e) the forced transfer of children from the group to another group "
History of origin
The term genocide (genocide) was coined in 1944 by the lawyer Raphael Lemkin . Lemkin advocated an expanded definition of the term genocide, which also includes crimes against social, economic and political groups. Such a further definition was incorporated in the early drafts of the UN Genocide Convention, which also included crimes against social and political groups. However, the then Stalinist Soviet Union and its allies ensured that the final version of the UN Genocide Convention was drafted so narrowly that Stalinist crimes were no longer included.
"Crimes against humanity", "war crimes", "genocide" and "Holocaust" are often used incorrectly as synonyms. The first three terms are legal terms that are also scientific categories.
- Crimes against humanity are widespread or systematic attacks on civilians. In international law, they represent an umbrella term under which both “war crimes”, “ crimes against peace ” and “genocide” fall.
- War crimes are criminal acts that are committed during an armed conflict, most of which violate the Geneva Conventions .
- The National Socialists' plan to murder all European Jews during World War II is called the Holocaust .
Distinguishing features of the offenses
Note that only the intent to destroy the group is required, not the full execution of the intent. There must be an intention going beyond the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, religious or social group as such in whole or in part.
The acts according to Article II letters a) to e) of the Convention (implemented in Germany by VStGB ), on the other hand, must actually (and willingly) be committed. In particular, this means that it does not take many victims for the perpetrators to be guilty of genocide. Only their intention to annihilate must be directed towards the whole group or a significant part of it. The perpetrators fulfill the criminal offense, for example, if - with this particular intention - they inflict serious physical or mental damage on individual group members or want to prevent the group from continuing, for example by means of forced castration. A genocide charge does not therefore require the murder of a single person.Paragraph 1 No. 1 to 5
The reverse also applies: Acts under Article II letters a) to e) of the Convention are not genocide if their aim is not to destroy a group in whole or in part, regardless of how many members are killed or otherwise impaired. Such measures are also not genocide if their aim is to exterminate a group that is not defined by national, ethnic, racial or religious characteristics.
Whether the actual risk of the destruction of a protected (sub-) group must also exist is legally controversial. The answer to this question depends on whether international criminal law is to be applied to an isolated individual offender who acts in the hope of partial or complete destruction of the group .
The practical significance of the convention was very little until the Yugoslav wars. Until then, there were very few genocide charges. The first conviction by an international court on the basis of the Convention came in September 1998 through the Akayesu judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda .
Article 6 of the Convention is based on the principle of territoriality , according to which genocide is prosecuted in the courts in the countries in which the act was committed. In addition, the jurisdiction of international courts of law is provided, insofar as the contracting states have submitted to this jurisdiction.
In Germany, the criminal offense of genocide is laid down in International Criminal Code . According to VStGB, the principle of universal law applies to genocide , i. H. Acts can also be prosecuted in Germany if they were not committed in Germany and a German is not involved.the
The principle of universal law also applies under the Swiss Criminal Code (Art 264 m StGB ). A parliamentary immunity or similar protective clauses are not applicable and protect against a conviction not (Article 264 n ). Even the normally applied rule that in Switzerland it is no longer prosecuted whose offense is statute-barred abroad or who was acquitted there, is only applicable insofar as the foreign courts do not deliberately play down the offense. An “acquittal” by a regime that obviously approves of genocide and similar crimes or that commits itself should not be recognized as a final judgment (Art 265 m Section 3).
In 2011, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko , Rwanda's former minister for families and women, became the first woman to be convicted of genocide and rape as crimes against humanity.
In May 2013, Efraín Ríos Montt , President of Guatemala from 1982 to 1983, was sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity by a court in Guatemala. Although he would have been the first head of state to be convicted of genocide in his own country by a local court, the verdict was overturned a few days later by the Guatemalan Supreme Court due to formal errors. The new trial was discontinued in April 2018 because Montt had passed away.
Ongoing proceedings before the International Criminal Court
Currently (2018) only one case of genocide (genocide) in the Darfur conflict ( Darfur Sudan ) has been pending at the International Criminal Court since 2005 . Arrest warrants for the arrest of Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir , President of the Republic of Sudan , were issued in 2009 and 2010. The trial is on hold as the suspect remains on the run.
The expression genocide appears for the first time in the German lyric poet August Graf von Platen (1796-1835) in his "Polenlied", in the 1831 ode Der Zukunft Held . He opposes the dissolution of the Polish state, which Austria , Prussia and Russia have divided up among themselves, and campaigns for the resurrection of the Polish state with other West German democrats who raised the Polish national flag next to the German one at the " Hambacher Fest " in 1832 . In particular, he castigates Russia's policy of oppression by shouting after the punishment of the Dschingiskhans , “Those who only care for murder, and not battle, / Of genocide!” For the liberal East Prussian MP Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Jordan , the expression is in relation to the Poles so familiar that he used it in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt on July 24, 1848 when discussing the Polish question , and he increased it even more:
“The last act of this conquest, the much-vaunted partition of Poland, was not, as it has been called, genocide, but nothing more than the proclamation of a death that had already occurred, nothing but the burial of a corpse that had long since been in the process of dissolving more could be tolerated among the living. "
“It was genocide, that can't be denied; but after the annihilation was completed, it became a blessing. What could the Prussians have achieved in history? The superiority over the Prussians was so great that it was fortunate for them as well as for the Wends when they were Germanized. "
The term genocide ( new formation in ancient Greek genos “gender, tribe, descendant, ethnic group, people” and Latin caedere meaning “kill, murder”) already had a history shaped by the imperialist discussion of the 19th century, as the Polish - Jewish history In 1943, lawyer Raphael Lemkin used it as a translation of the Polish ludobójstwo (from lud “people” and zabójstwo “murder”) in a draft law for the Polish government-in-exile to punish the German extermination campaigns in Poland .
Since 1941 at the latest, Lemkin had been looking for a word that aptly describes crimes such as those of the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians and the Nazi regime. The fact that he had not been able to convince the League of Nations committee at the Madrid conference in 1933 with his draft was also due to the fact that words such as barbarism and vandalism, which he had used at the time, ultimately glossed over such deeds. It should be a word that should make all aspects of targeted attacks on a population group tangible, including measures such as mass deportations, the forced reduction in the birth rate, economic exploitation and the targeted repression of the intelligentsia . A term such as “ mass murder ” did not encompass all of these aspects. Nor should it be a term that, like barbarism and vandalism, has already been used in other contexts. Lemkin developed the term “genocide”, which also played a role in the fact that it (unlike genocide) could be used in numerous languages in a correspondingly modified form. In his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe he also gave a first definition of the term (translated here): Genocide is
“A coordinated plan of various actions aimed at destroying the essential foundations of the life of a population group with the aim of destroying the group. […] Genocide has two phases: a first in which the typical characteristics and ways of life of the oppressed group are destroyed, and a second in which the characteristics and way of life of the oppressive population group are imposed on the oppressed. This enforcement, in turn, can take place while the oppressed population group is allowed to remain, or it can even be enforced only on the area alone, in that the population is eliminated and this area is colonized by the oppressive population group. "
The term genocide quickly became common in the English-speaking world after several US newspapers began using it in late 1944 to cover the Nazi mass crimes in Europe at length. This is partly due to Lemkin's direct intervention. So he convinced Eugene Meyer , the editor of the Washington Post , that this name alone was suitable for these crimes. In fact, an editorial appeared in the Washington Post in December 1944 , in which genocide was the only suitable word to describe that between April 1942 and April 1944 a total of 1,765,000 Jews were killed and burned by gas in Auschwitz-Birkenau were. It would be wrong, the article went on to say, to use the term atrocity (“ atrocity ”), because there is always an undertone of non-directionality and randomness in it. The crucial point, however, is that these acts were systematic and targeted. The gas chambers and crematoria are not improvisations, but rather specifically developed instruments for the extermination of an ethnic group.
The Webster's New International Dictionary picked up the term relatively quickly. The French Encyclopédie Larousse used it in its 1953 edition, and it was listed in the Oxford English Dictionary as a 1955 update to the third edition.
Criticism of the term
The legal definition of genocide has often been criticized as inadequate. The American political scientist Rudolph Joseph Rummel therefore developed the broader concept of democide , which includes all deadly genocides in its definition. In his table Democide of the 20th Century, he comes to 262 million dead.
Non-fatal acts by a government aimed at destroying a culture are often referred to as ethnocide .
Genocides in history
It is not known when the first genocides took place. Genocide research assumes that genocide occurred in almost all human-populated regions in all epochs. Genocides have come down to us from ancient times .
Genocides by colonial powers
The genocides in modern times took place mainly in colonies : first when colonization by European powers (e.g. against Indians during the Indian Wars ); then partly again during decolonization . After the withdrawal of a colonial power, different ethnic groups occasionally clashed , which now lived in one state due to the demarcation of their colonial power (such as in Biafra and Bangladesh ).
20th Century, Selection of Generally Recognized Genocides
- Genocide of the Herero and Nama (1904–1908): Colonial war between German troops and the Herero and Nama peoples in German South West Africa , which resulted in genocide by the German colonial power.
- Genocide against the Armenians with 300,000 and more than 1.5 million dead and genocide against the Syrian Christians ( Assyrians ) from 1915 in the Ottoman Empire under the responsibility of the Young Turkish regime.
- Genocide in Cyrenaica (1929–1934): Genocide by fascist Italy during the Second Italo-Libyan War against the Arab tribes of Cyrenaica , approx. 50,000 to 70,000 dead
- Porajmos (1939–1945): Genocide of the Sinti and Roma during the Nazi era.
- Holocaust (1941-1945): the genocide of the Jews in the time of National Socialism with 5.6 to 6.3 million deaths, particularly since the attack on the Soviet Union .
- Genocide of the Ustasha (1941–1945): In the genocide from June 22, 1941 by the Croatian Ustasha, mainly Serbs , but also Jews and Roma , died during the events , about 200,000 dead.
- Genocide in Bangladesh (1971–1972): Genocide by the Pakistani army and its local collaborators in East Pakistan (today Bangladesh ) mainly against the local Hindus, around 3 million dead.
- Genocide in Burundi (1965 and 1972): Genocide by Tutsi of Hutu , around 100,000 to 300,000 dead.
- Genocide in Rwanda (1994): In almost 100 days, members of the Hutu majority killed 800,000, i.e. around 75 percent of the Tutsi minority living in Rwanda, as well as moderate Hutu who did not participate in the genocide or who actively campaigned against it.
- Srebrenica massacre (July 1995): In the Srebrenica area, during the post-Yugoslav war in Bosnia, up to 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks - mostly men and boys between the ages of 13 and 77 - were killed by the army of Bosnian Serbs and Serb paramilitaries.
- Genocide of the Yazidis (August 2014): Genocide by the Islamic State of the Yazidis , approx. 5000 dead, 7000 abducted women and children and another thousand missing to this day.
The atrocities of the Congo in the years 1888-1908 were acts under the responsibility of the Belgian King Leopold II , which led to the decimation of the population of the Congo Free State through slavery , forced labor and massive hostage-taking and killings and an estimated eight to ten million deaths (about half of the population at that time). Whether the mass murder in the Congo, despite its genocidal proportions, was genocide is a matter of dispute. Because there was no systematic attempt to destroy a certain ethnic group, but the mass murder was the result of extreme exploitation.
The genocides of indigenous peoples , for example the Indian wars in North America, the genocide of the indigenous population in Australia (see History Wars # genocide debate ), Tasmania (see Tasmania # genocide of the indigenous population and Tasmanians ), Brazil (see Transamazônica # genocides ), Argentina (see Julio Popper # Genocide of the Sel'knam ) or during the settlement of Caribbean islands (see Kalinago Genocide 1626 ).
The Holodomor describes a severe, partially anthropogenic famine in the Ukraine in 1932 and 1933, which killed several million people. The reasons were the forced collectivization of Stalin in order to break the resistance of the Ukrainians, the deculakization and bad harvests caused by the weather . Estimates of the number of victims in Ukraine vary widely, ranging from 2.4 million to 14.5 million deaths from starvation. Since gaining independence in 1991, Ukraine has been trying to achieve international recognition of the Holodomor as genocide.
The Great Terror (1936–1938) in the Soviet Union was directed against politically “unreliable” and oppositional persons in cadres and elites, against “socially harmful” and “socially dangerous elements” like the kulaks , against so-called enemies of the people and against ethnic minorities like Volga Germans , Crimean Tatars , or some peoples of the Caucasus region . The number of victims reported in the research varies between 400,000 and 22 million deaths. Scientists such as Robert Conquest , Norman Naimark and others describe the terror, and in particular the actions against the ethnic minorities, as genocide. Other genocide researchers and Eastern European historians expressly reject the application of the term to the Great Terror. The American political scientist Rudolph Joseph Rummel describes the events as democide .
The mass murder of Indonesia's communists in 1965 and 1966 is also a special case, in which, depending on the estimate, between 500,000 and 3 million people were murdered. Although no religious, ethnic or national group was specifically murdered here, the aim was nonetheless to murder a clearly defined (namely political) population group as a whole. Because of this, and because the Chinese minority became the victim of these mass murders, some authors, including Yves Ternon, advocate viewing it as genocide. The term autogenocide could also be used in this case.
The events during the rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 are also a special case. Since the genocide in Cambodia was directed against the people of their own country, the term “ autogenocide ” (literally “genocide”) has also been used here . When the Khmer Rouge approached definable groups such as B. the Muslim Cham, however, applies the definition of genocide.
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