By: Audrey Ferdinand
Today 9 December 2019 marks the fifth year of celebration of the international day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime.
This international day has been set up in September 2015 by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly through resolution A/RES/69/323. The date of 9 December has been chosen in reference to 9 December 1948, date of the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, also known as the Genocide Convention.
By setting up this day, the General Assembly’s aim was to reaffirm the importance of the Genocide Convention and its role in preventing the crime of genocide, as well as commemorate the victims of such crime. Resolution 69/323, while creating this international day, also reminded to UN member States of their responsibility to protect their population from genocide, and to prevent such crime.
Through this resolution, the General Assembly thus recalled to States their “responsibility to protect”. This responsibility was enshrined in the 2005 World Summit outcome document’s (A/RES/60/01) paragraphs 138 and 139 on the “Responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”, which raise the responsibility of each States to protect its population against these crimes, “including their incitement.”
The word “genocide” has been created by Mr. Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer, in 1944 and used during the Nuremberg trials. The first legal definition of the term of “genocide” has been adopted through article 2 of the 1948 Genocide Convention. According to this article, genocide is "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group … ", including:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Article 1 of the Genocide Convention states that genocide can be committed in time of war or peace and is, in either cases, a crime under international law.
The Genocide Convention has been adopted on the aftermath of World War II and the Shoah, all States claiming that such terrible crimes must and will “never again” happen. Obviously, this engagement was not sustained. In 1993 was created the International Criminal tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, with the aim of putting into people into trial for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed there in the 1990s. And, in 1995, an International Penal Tribunal for Rwanda was created to prosecute persons responsible for serious violation of international humanitarian law during the Rwandan genocide of 1993.
These tribunals, focusing on one situation, have been followed by the creation, in 1998, of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Article 1 of its statute states that “It shall be a permanent institution and shall have the power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as referred to in this Statute, and shall be complementary to national criminal jurisdictions.” These “most serious crimes” are listed in article 5 and are the crime of genocide; Crimes against humanity; War crimes; The crime of aggression. The definition of genocide, in article 6, is the same as in article 2 of the Genocide Convention: the intent of destroying a specific group.
Under the twelve situation currently under investigation by the ICC, only the situation in Darfur presents one case of alleged genocide. This is the Al Bashir Case (ICC-02/05-01/09), who is charged of five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes, and three counts of genocide: “by killing, by causing serious bodily or mental harm, and by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction” at least between 2003 and 2008. According to the pre-trial chamber, “there are reasonable grounds to believe that Omar Al Bashir acted with specific intent to destroy in part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups.”
Moreover, on November 2019 the ICC decided to open an investigation into the situation in Bangladesh / Myanmar and the genocide against Rohingya that happened there.
These steps are essential to recognise officially the perpetration of a genocide, allow the reparation of victims and/or their families as well as their remembrance. Moreover, it gives tools to avoid the repetition of such crimes by identifying the signs that a situation could lead to genocide. Such signs include discrimination, hate crimes and violence towards particular groups and minorities. In the trouble times we are now, seeing the rise of hate speech and hate crime all around the world, Geneva International Centre for Justice believe it is of primary importance that States understand and respect their obligations under the Genocide Convention. It is equally important that civil society organisations and other relevant stakeholders act to raise awareness on the crime of genocide, the risk of hate speech and hate crimes, and educate people to foster inclusion and understanding between different parts of societies.
"At a time of rising anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and other forms of hatred, racism and xenophobia, let us reaffirm our commitment to upholding the equality and dignity of all." António Guterres, UN Secretary General.
 UN General Assembly resolution 69/323, International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of This Crime (11 September 2015). https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N15/278/49/pdf/N1527849.pdf?OpenElement
 UN General Assembly resolution 60/01, 2005 World Summit Outcome (26 September 2005). https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/generalassembly/docs/globalcompact/A_RES_60_1.pdf
 ICTY website. https://www.icty.org/en
 ICTR website. https://unictr.irmct.org/en/tribunal
 International Criminal Court, Statute (1998). https://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/EA9AEFF7-5752-4F84-BE94-0A655EB30E16/0/Rome_Statute_English.pdf
 ICC, Al Bashir Case. https://www.icc-cpi.int/darfur/albashir
 ICC, Bangladesh/Myanmar. https://www.icc-cpi.int/bangladesh-myanmar
 UN, International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime 9 December. https://www.un.org/en/events/genocidepreventionday/index.shtml
Keywords: UN General Assembly Resolution 69/323, 29 November, Genocide Convention, 9 December 1948, Prevent Genocide, Crime of Genocide, Justice, Geneva, Human Rights, Geneva4Justice.
Justice, Human rights, Geneva, geneva4justice, GICJ, Geneva International Centre For Justice