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2 A Short History of the Crime of Genocide

From: International Crimes: Law and Practice: Volume I: Genocide

Guénaël Mettraux

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 03 October 2023


This chapter embarks on a more detailed history of the crime of genocide and international law. It notes that until World War II genocide was never really addressed by international law. The atrocities perpetuated by the Nazis on such a grand scale, however, necessitated the formation of a new category of law — genocide. Genocide means attacks aimed at the destruction of a group or nation. It is crime directed against a national group and refers to actions and policies aimed at the annihilation of the essential foundations of the life of a group. The chapter shows how, although it was formally recognized as a crime under international law by the General Assembly's Resolution 96(I), for some time genocide remained an unfulfilled crime of paper. Only with the advent of the Yugoslav and Rwanda Tribunals did it gain concrete practical significance. The statutes of both tribunals gave other tribunals jurisdiction over the crime of genocide and replicated, for that purpose, some of the core provisions of the Genocide Convention. With these statutes, the crime of genocide had found judicial homes where the law could thrive and develop.

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