Genocide Convention

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Concept.png Genocide Convention 

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG), or the Genocide Convention, is an international treaty that criminalises genocide and obligates state parties to pursue the enforcement of its prohibition. It was the first legal instrument to codify genocide as a crime, and the first human rights treaty unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, on 9 December 1948, during UNGA's third session. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide entered into force on 12 January 1951 and has 152 state parties as of 2022.[1]

UNGA resolution

The Genocide Convention was conceived largely in response to World War II, which saw atrocities such as the Holocaust that lacked an adequate description or legal definition. Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, who had coined the term genocide in 1944 to describe Nazi policies in occupied Europe and the Armenian genocide, campaigned for its recognition as a crime under international law. This culminated in 1946 in a landmark resolution by the General Assembly that recognised genocide as an international crime and called for the creation of a binding treaty to prevent and punish its perpetration. Subsequent discussions and negotiations among UN member states resulted in the CPPCG.[2]


The Convention defines genocide as any of five "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." These five acts include killing members of the group, causing them serious bodily or mental harm, imposing living conditions intended to destroy the group, preventing births, and forcibly transferring children out of the group. Victims are targeted because of their real or perceived membership of a group, not randomly. The Convention further criminalises "complicity, attempt, or incitement of its commission." Member states are prohibited from engaging in genocide and obligated to pursue the enforcement of this prohibition. All perpetrators are to be tried regardless of whether they are private individuals, public officials, or political leaders with sovereign immunity.

The CPPCG has influenced law at both the national and international level. Its definition of genocide has been adopted by international and hybrid tribunals, such as the International Criminal Court, and incorporated into the domestic law of several countries. Its provisions are widely considered to be reflective of customary law and therefore binding on all nations whether or not they are parties. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has likewise ruled that the principles underlying the Convention represent a peremptory norm against genocide that no government can derogate. The Genocide Convention authorises the mandatory jurisdiction of the ICJ to adjudicate disputes, leading to international litigation such as the Rohingya genocide case and the dispute over the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[3]

South Africa accuses Israel

On 29 December 2023, South Africa filed an application instituting proceedings against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, concerning alleged violations by Israel of its obligations under the Genocide Convention in relation to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.[4]

On 2 January 2024, in an interview with Democracy Now, Professor of International Law at Illinois State University, Francis Boyle said:

"I believe South Africa will win an order against Israel to cease and desist from committing all acts of genocide against the Palestinians.
"Israel has a history of listening to the United States' orders to stop its assaults on the Occupied Palestinian Territory. We here in the United States of America have the power to stop this.
"We have a campaign now to support South Africa at the ICJ and I'm part of a coalition to get members of the Genocide Convention to file 'Declarations of Intervention' at the World Court in support of and solidarity with South Africa against Israel and in support of the Palestinians."[5]


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Dikgang Moseneke to join bench of judges in Israel-Hamas world court caseArticle5 January 2024Kgaugelo MaswenengShould presiding American Judge Joan Donoghue recuse herself when it comes to determining whether US staunch ally Israel has committed genocide in Gaza?
Document:Ex-Israeli Supreme Court chief Aharon Barak appointed as ICJ judge for genocide caseArticle8 January 2024The New Arab StaffAharon Barak argued that the rules of collateral damage permit the killing of Palestinian fighters even if led to the deaths of children. This was approved by Barak himself in a 2006 Supreme Court ruling, as cited in a report by a Canadian news outlet.
Document:Has International Law Survived, or Has the Western Political Class Killed It?blog post28 January 2024Craig MurrayNow think of this: the very next day after President Herzog made a genocidal statement, as determined by the International Court of Justice, he was met and offered “full support” by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament
Document:ICJ to decide on emergency measures in Israel-Gaza genocide case this weekArticle24 January 2024Al Jazeera staffSouth Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor will travel to The Hague to be present at the International Court of Justice as it rules on the Israeli genocide in Gaza.
Document:International justice: the South African complaint against Israel for “genocide” in GazaArticle10 January 2024United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe
Document:Israel Goes to Court for the Crime of GenocideArticle12 January 2024Philip GiraldiThe plan by America’s “best friend” and “closest ally” to nuke the world even has a name: the “Samson Option,” recalling how the Biblical strongman Samson brought down the temple where the Philistines were mocking him, killing thousands of them.
Document:On Gaza, Sunak's Tories and Starmer's Labour have merged into a single pro-war partyArticle22 January 2024Peter OborneIf the ICJ rules in South Africa’s favour then Rishi Sunak, as well as US President Joe Biden, will be wide open to the charge that they are aiding and abetting genocide. And so will Labour’s Keir Starmer.
Document:South Africa institutes Genocide Convention proceedings against Israelstatement29 December 2023International Court of JusticeSouth Africa's 84-page Application instituting Genocide Convention proceedings against Israel
Document:South Africa’s Case Was a Display of International Solidarity - We Should Support ItArticle12 January 2024Jeremy CorbynAt the International Court of Justice, South Africa spoke on behalf of the billions of people who oppose Israel's genocide in Gaza — and put Western governments to shame for their deplorable complicity.
Document:Your Man in the Hague (In a Good Way) Part 1blog post11 January 2024Craig MurrayThe fact of genocide is incontrovertible and had been plainly set out. But several of the Judges are desperate to find a way to please the USA and Israel and avoid countering the current Zionist narrative, the adoption of which is necessary to keep your feet comfortably under the table of the elite.
Document:Your Man in the Hague (In a Good Way) Part 2blog post14 January 2024Craig Murray"These two days in the Hague were absolutely crucial for deciding if there is any meaning left in notions of international law and human rights. I still believe action by the Court could cause the US and UK to back off and provide some measure of relief. For now, let us all pray or wish, each in our way, for the children of Gaza."
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