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Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1948 and came into effect in January 1951. It defines and outlaws genocide, as a result of campaigning by Raphael Lemkin who had coined the term some years earlier. The total number of state parties is 135.
The Convention (in article 2) defines genocide as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such:"
- (a) Killing members of the group;
- (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The convention was passed in order to outlaw actions similar to the Holocaust by Nazi Germany during World War II. Because the convention required the support of the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc, it excluded actions undertaken by those nations. As a result, the convention excludes from the definition of genocide the killing of members of a social class, members of a political or ideological group, and that of cultural killings.
All participating countries are required to prevent and punish actions of genocide in war and peacetime.
The first time that the 1948 law was enforced, occurred on September 2, 1998 when the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda found Jean-Paul Akayesu, the former mayor of a small town in Rwanda, guilty of nine counts of genocide. The lead prosecutor in this case was Pierre-Richard Prosper.
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