Summary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

Reference: United Nations

The Convention, a major pillar in the evolving framework of international humanitarian rules, declares genocide a crime under international law. It condemns genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, and provides a definition of this crime. Moreover, the prescribed punishment is not subject to the limitations of time and place.

Key Provisions
The Convention defines genocide as any of a number of acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group: 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, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The Convention also declares that there shall be no immunity. Persons committing this crime shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.

Furthermore, the Convention stipulates that persons charged with genocide shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in the territory in which the act was committed or by such international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction with respect to the Contracting Parties. The crime of genocide is a justiciable offence under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (17 July 1998, not yet in force).

Likewise, genocide shall not be considered as a political crime for the purpose of extradition. In such cases, Contracting Parties pledge themselves to grant extradition.

Unlike other human rights treaties, the Genocide Convention does not establish a specific monitoring body or expert committee. It stipulates that any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the United Nations Charter, which they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide. Thus, the matter may be brought before the International Court of Justice which may order interim measures of protection. At present, one such case is pending before the International Court of Justice.