What is genocide?

A New York Times report of a massacre during the Armenian Genocide, 1915
Copyright © New York Times

Genocide is a deliberate, co-ordinated plan to destroy a group of people, usually members of a certain national, ethnic or religious group. The Holocaust was a genocide.

The term “genocide” did not exist prior to 1944, but examples of its occurrence, such as the Armenian Genocide of 1915, pre-date this.

The ‘Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’ was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948, as result of the events of the Holocaust. The Convention came into force on 12 January 1951.

Article 2 states that genocide means “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

  • Acts of genocide include:

    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
    Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group