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Updated 06/06/2005

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide grew out of the Nuremberg trials following World War II and was adopted by the UN on December 9, 1949.  There are 135 states party to the Genocide Convention, including the United States. 

The Genocide Convention covers certain actions “committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group…” but excludes political and social groups. Thus, an event like the Cambodian massacres (now recognized as a de facto genocide), which targeted intellectuals and the middle class, would not be considered genocide according to the convention. 

The acts covered in the convention include not only the physical destruction of groups but also the cultural destruction such as prohibiting the use of a native language or the forced transfer of children and the biological destruction of groups such as forced pregnancy (rape) and forced sterilization. The convention also requires intent to destroy particular groups for acts to be considered genocide. Therefore, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians during wartime is not considered genocide because it does not involve a specific intent to destroy a particular group. 

For more information

Full text of the Genocide Convention 

Prevent Genocide International, a global education and action network working for the prevention of genocide