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5 Duties to Prevent and to Punish 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: 21 July 2024

Genocide — Customary international law

This chapter more closely examines the duties to prevent and punish genocide. The prevention and punishment of genocide are stated objectives of the Genocide Convention. Article I of the convention demands contracting parties to prevent and punish acts of genocide in order ‘to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge’. In so doing, the convention made preventing and punishing acts of genocide obligatory and not just optional. These duties are also now part of customary international law and are therefore binding even without any conventional obligation. As a result, they are binding on all states, including states that are not a party to the Genocide Convention. Moreover, the two obligations must be interpreted within the broader framework of international law so that the fulfillment of these obligations would not authorize a state to violate other international obligations. In other words, a state is not authorized to violate international law in order to fulfill those obligations. Within that general framework, states enjoy some discretion regarding the way in which they fulfill their obligations to prevent and punish genocide.

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