The term ‘genocide’ entered international law in 1948. Since that time intense debate about the adequacy of the Genocide Convention in preventing genocide has ensued. What are the conceptual and theoretical shortcomings of the Genocide Convention as discussed by scholars? Do you agree with these arguments? Critically discuss with reference to one example of genocide since 1948.
Since Polish legal scholar Raphael Lemkin coined the term ‘genocide' in 1943 it has proven problematic in terms of its precise definition. Although many theorists have attempted to define genocide, an academic consensus is yet to be reached. The term entered international law in 1948 with the establishment of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (hereafter the Convention) by the UN General Assembly. Not only has the Convention definition also been criticised but much debate has surrounded its effectiveness in preventing the occurrence of acts of genocide.
The following paper will briefly discuss some theories on the causes and nature of genocide before assessing the effectiveness of the convention in preventing acts of genocide. The Convention will be assessed through its efficacy in two areas of prevention: 1) its ability to take punitive action against perpetrators of genocide in order to act as a deterrent for future genocides and 2) its ability to intervene to stop or mitigate the effects of genocidal acts once they have been initiated. The Convention’s effectiveness in intervening to end genocide will be discussed with brief reference to the events which occurred in East Timor during the period of Indonesian occupation from 1975 to 1999.
The Nature of Genocide
Before assessing the effectiveness of the Convention in preventing the occurrence of acts of genocide it is necessary to briefly discuss the nature of genocide and some of the theories concerning the causes of genocide. Although specific definitions of genocide are numerous and...