What is Genocide?

The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention defines Genocide as:

“any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."[1]

[1]United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, http://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide.html

There was no name for the crime of genocide until after World War II. Raphael Lemkin, a Jewish lawyer of Polish descent, coined the term genocide. “He settled on a neologism with both Greek and Latin roots: the Greek ‘genos,’meaning race or tribe, and Latin ‘cide,’ or killing.”[1]Many acts of violence and crimes against humanity could fall under the definition of genocide but semantics and politics sometimes prevent this. Weitz argues that the term genocide is “much contested and overused.”[2]

[1]Adam Jones, Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction,(New York, NY: Routledge, 2006) 10.

[2]Weitz, Century of Genocide,8.

What is Genocide?