The term Genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish criminal and international law specialist of Jewish descent, in 1944. A survivor of the Jewish Holocaust, Lemkin sought to describe Nazi policy of systematic murder, violence as well atrocities committed against the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
The word genocide was created by combining the Greek word ‘geno,’ for race or tribe and the Latin word ‘cide,’ for killing. In 1945, when the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg condemned Nazi officials for crimes against humanity, the word “genocide” was included in the verdict, but as a descriptive, and not a legal term.
On December 9, 1948 the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, that defines genocide as an international crime. The signatory states are obliged to prevent and punish the perpetrators.
According to the Convention, a genocide is one of the following acts aiming to completely or partially exterminate a national, ethnic, racial or religious group:
- Murder of the members of a group;
- Serious bodily or mental harm to the members of a group;
- Deliberate creation of such living conditions for a group that brings about its complete or partial physical extermination.
- Implementation of measures aimed at preventing birth rates within the group;
- Forcible transfer of children from one group to another.