Blogs > Cliopatria > When Was Genocide First Defined?

May 21, 2004 8:54 pm

When Was Genocide First Defined?

Ian Johnston, in the (May 21, 2004):

THE term "genocide" was first used in an attempt to describe the organised extermination of six million Jews, gypsies and others by Nazi Germany.

In 1948, the United Nations adopted a formal convention against genocide - a word that combines the Greek genos, meaning tribe or race, with the Latin word for killing, cide - and defined it as an act that was designed to destroy or partially destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

This usually refers to killing people, but causing serious physical or mental harm, deliberately reducing conditions of life - such as cutting off food supplies - or stopping people having children or forcibly removing children from a group are also classed as genocide.

One of the worst recent cases took place in Rwanda in 1994, when an estimated million people were murdered as the extremist Hutu government tried to wipe out the rival Tutsi tribe as well as moderate Hutus during a 100-day massacre.

In the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, six national armies, two rebel groups and numerous militias have been involved in a war that has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2.5 million people, including many civilians, over six years.

The little-reported conflict, marked by sporadic outbreaks of fighting followed by ceasefires, has been called Africa’s own world war.

The outbreak of fighting following the collapse of Yugoslavia led to the worst slaughter in Europe since the Second World War. Some 100,000 civilians were killed and two million made homeless in Bosnia and Croatia in the 1990s.

The former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, is being tried on charges of genocide and war crimes by Serb forces in those two now-independent countries, and Kosovo.

The massacre of 7,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces when they over-ran the UN "safe area" of Srebrenica in July 1995 was the biggest single atrocity.

China has been accused of genocide in Tibet after its 1950 invasion when 1.2 million people - a fifth of the population - were killed.

comments powered by Disqus