The prevention and punishment of genocide, as an international crime, was laid down in a UN Convention adopted in the aftermath of the Second World War. The crime of genocide generally involves the deliberate and systematic extermination of a group. Art. II of the UN Genocide Convention notes that the following acts, if committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, may constitute genocide:

  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 in whole or in part;
  4. imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

In addition to the genocidal acts themselves being punishable as international crimes, other punishable conduct includes conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempts to commit genocide and complicity in genocide (Art. III of UN Genocide Convention).

 Genocide may occur in the absence of an armed conflict. If committed in time of war, acts of genocide also correspond to war crimes.

See Breach, Violations; War Crimes; Crimes Against Humanity; International Criminal Court; ICTY; ICTR; International criminal law; Individual criminal responsibility;




Suggested reading:
AMBOS Kai, “Genocide and War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia Before German Criminal Courts”, in FISCHER Horst (ed.), International and National Prosecution of Crimes Under International Law, Berlin, Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, 2001, pp. 769-798.
AMBOS Kai, “What Does “Intent to Destroy” in Genocide Mean?”, in IRRC, Vol. 91, No. 876, December 2009, pp. 833-858.
BOUSTANY Katia (ed.), Génocide(s), Brussels, Bruylant, 1999, 518 pp.
DES FORGES Alison, Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda, New York, Human Rights Watch, 1999, 789 pp., online:
FRONZA Emanuela, “Genocide in the Rome Statute”, in LATTANZI Flavia & SCHABAS William A. (eds), Essays on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Ripa Fagnano Alto, Sirente, 1999, pp. 105-137.
GAETA Paola, The UN Genocide Convention: a Commentary, Oxford, OUP, 2009, 580 pp.
JUROVICS Yann & MOULIER Isabelle, “Le génocide: un crime à la croisée des ordres juridiques internes et international”, in DELMAS-MARTY Mireille (dir.), Criminalité économique et atteintes à la dignité de la personne, Paris, Édition de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Vol. VII, 2001, pp. 179-187.
LEMKIN Raphaël, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, Washington, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944, 674 pp.
LEMKIN Raphaël, “Genocide, a New International Crime: Punishment and Prevention” suivi de “Le génocide”, in Revue Internationale de Droit Pénal, 1946, pp. 360-386.
LIPPMAN Matthew, “Genocide: The Crime of the Century: The Jurisprudence of Death at the Dawn of the New Millennium”, in HoustonJournal of International Law, Vol. 23/3, 2001, pp. 467-535.
MARTIN Pierre-Marie, “Le crime de génocide : quelques paradoxes”, in Le Dalloz, 1.176, 31, 2000, pp. 477-481.
SCHABAS William A., Genocide in International Law: The Crime of Crimes, Cambridge, CUP, 2nd ed., 2009, 741 pp.
SHAW Martin N., “Genocide and International Law”, in DINSTEIN Yoram (ed.), International Law at a Time of Perplexity. Essays in Honour of Shabtai Rosenne, Dordrecht, M. Nijhoff, 1989, pp. 797-820.
STERN Brigitte, “Le crime de génocide devant la communauté internationale”, in Études, No. 3903, March 1999, pp. 297-307.
TERNON Yves, L’État criminel. Les génocides au XXe siècle, Paris, Seuil, 1995, 442 pp.
VERHOEVEN Joe, “Le crime de génocide. Originalité et ambiguïté”, in RBDI, Vol. 24/1, 1991, pp. 5-26. “Génocide”, in LA ROSA Anne-Marie, Dictionnaire de droit international pénal – Termes choisis, Paris, PUF, 1998, pp. 46-49.
Further reading:
ALONZO-MAIZLISH David, “In Whole or in Part: Group Rights, the Intent Element of Genocide, and the ‘Quantitative Criterion”, in New York University Law Review, Vol. 77/5, 2002, pp. 1369-1403.
BERLE Adolf Augustus Jr, “Mise hors la loi du génocide – Examen des objections concernant la ratification de la Convention par les États-Unis”, in Revue internationale de Droit Pénal, Vol. 2, 1950, pp. 147-151.
CASSESE Antonio, “La communauté internationale et le génocide”, in Le droit international au service de la paix, de la justice et du développement, Mélanges Michel Virally, Paris, Pedone, 1991, pp. 183-194.
DADRIAN Vahakn N., “The Armenian Genocide and the Legal and Political Issues in the Failure to Prevent or to Punish the Crime”, in UWLA Law Review, Vol. 29, 1998, pp. 43-78.
DENIKE Howard J. (ed.), Genocide in Cambodia: Documents from the Trial of Pol Pot and Ieng Sary, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000, 559 pp.
CHARNY Israel W. (ed.), Le livre noir de l’humanité: encyclopédie mondiale des génocides, Toulouse, Privat, 2001, 718 pp.
GREENAWALT Alexander K.A., “Rethinking Genocidal Intent: The Case for a Knowledge-Based Interpretation”, in Columbia Law Review, Vol. 99/8, 1999, pp. 2259-2294.
LAQUEUR Walter (ed.), The Holocaust Encyclopedia, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2001, 765 pp.
MAISON Rafaëlle, “Le crime de génocide dans les premiers jugements du Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda”, in RGDIP, Vol. 103/1, 1999, pp. 129-145.
MILANOVIC Marko, “State Responsibility for Genocide”, in EJIL, Vol. 17, No. 3, 2006, pp. 553-604.
NTANDA NSEREKO Daniel D., “Genocidal Conflict in Rwanda and the ICTR”, in NetherlandsInternational Law Review, Vol. 48/1, 2001, pp. 31-65.
SASSÒLI Marco, “Le génocide rwandais, la justice militaire suisse et le droit international”, in Revue suisse de droit international et de droit européen, Vol. 12, 2002, pp. 151-178.
SCHABAS William, “The Crime of Genocide in the Jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda”, in FISCHER Horst (ed.), International and National Prosecution of Crimes Under International Law, Berlin, Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, 2001, pp. 769-798.
SCHABAS William A., “Hate Speech in Rwanda: The Road to Genocide”, in McGill Law Journal, Vol. 46/1, 2000, pp. 141-171.
THWAITES Nadine L.C., “Le concept de génocide dans la jurisprudence du TPIY : avancées et ambiguïtés”, in RBDI, Vol. 30/2, 1997, pp. 565-606.
VAN DER VYVER Johan David, “Prosecution and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”, in Fordham International Law Journal, Vol. 23/2, 1999, pp. 286-356.
VERDIRAME Guglielmo, “The Genocide Definition in the Jurisprudence of the ad hoc Tribunals”, in ICLQ, Vol. 49/3, 2000, pp. 578-598.
VETLESEN Arne J., “Genocide: A Case for the Responsibility of Bystander”, in Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 37/4, 2000, pp. 519-532.
ZAKR Nasser, “Analyse spécifique du crime de génocide dans le Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda”, in Revue de Science Criminelle et de Droit Pénal Comparé, No. 2, April-June 2001, p. 263-275.