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UN’s Genocide Convention

Why is it in the news?

  • South Africa has recently approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with a case accusing Israel of violating its commitments under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

  • The Genocide Convention is an essential instrument of international law that formally codified the crime of genocide for the first time.
  • Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1948, it was the inaugural human rights treaty.
  • The Convention stipulates that genocide is a crime that can occur both in times of war and peace.
  • It provides a comprehensive definition of genocide, encompassing acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.
  • Signatory countries can request relevant UN organs to take necessary actions to prevent and suppress acts of genocide.
  • The Convention places an obligation on state parties to enact legislation and punish perpetrators, aiming to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.

The Convention specifies five acts that constitute genocide:

  • 1) Killing members of the group.
  • 2) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.
  • 3) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
  • 4) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.
  • 5) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.


International Court of Justice (ICJ)

  • The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.
  • Established in June 1945 by the UN Charter and commenced its operations in April 1946.
  • The primary role of the ICJ is to settle legal disputes submitted by states.
  • It also provides advisory opinions on legal questions referred by authorized UN organs and specialized agencies.
  • The ICJ consists of 15 judges elected for terms of office lasting nine years by the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.
  • The Court is located at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, making it the only one among the six principal UN organs not situated in New York.
  • The official languages of the ICJ are English and French.

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