The definition of genocide in the Genocide Convention has been universally accepted, in the statutes of the ad hoc international tribunals and the International Criminal Court, but it conceals a host of ambiguities. Sociologists, political scientists, and others have not devised any legally adequate substitute. This article proposes a non-linear definition of genocide, that is, a definition that takes into account the presence or absence of several factors, rather than one that attempts to generalize the crime of genocide. It disregards the motives or objectives of the perpetrator, sheds the secondary phenomena that often accompany genocide (such as dehumanization of the victims and global apathy), and separates genocide from ethnocide. It specifies that genocide requires the killing of humans and in absolutely large numbers; that the victims be objectively identifiable by race, religion, ethnicity, and similar criteria; that they comprise a relatively large proportion of that group in the national or global community; that the state (where there is a state) be a participant; and that legitimate warfare is inconsistent with genocidal conduct. The objective of the definition is to reflect genocide as most observers would acknowledge it, and to provide the foundation for a revised definition that could be applied in legal proceedings as a gloss on the Convention's definition.
Ryan, Alan A. Jr.
"Genocide: What Do We Want it To Be?,"
New England Journal of Public Policy: Vol. 19:
2, Article 9.
Available at: https://scholarworks.umb.edu/nejpp/vol19/iss2/9
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