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8 Special Genocidal Intent/Dolus Specialis

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: 31 May 2023

Persecution — Genocide

This chapter examines the role of special intent in the international law on genocide. It argues that the perpetrator's ultimate purpose, rather than the nature of the underlying act, is central to the crime of genocide. By their conduct, the perpetrator must have intended to contribute to the destruction, in whole or in part, of a protected group. This particular intent element is what makes genocide a unique crime and what triggers its application. Moreover, this special intent and the associated concern for the protection of certain groups are what give the crime of genocide its particular currency. This requirement also distinguishes genocide from other international crimes, including other discrimination-based crimes such as the crime of persecution. The law of genocide does not require that the intent to destroy a group be the sole or primary purpose of the perpetrator. A perpetrator could therefore be found guilty of genocide even if their personal motivation went beyond the criminal intent to commit genocide. Evidence of unrelated motives explaining their actions will not preclude a finding that they also possessed the requisite genocidal intent.

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