The term genocide came into use after 1944 to designate crimes aimed at eliminating
national, ethnic, racial, or religious groups. The person responsible for creating the term was
Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish lawyer who could not find an appropriate word to describe
the systematic murders the Nazis committed when they tried to exterminate the Jews.
In this regard, Raphael Lemkin has defined genocide as "a coordinated plan, with actions of
various kinds, which has as its main objective the destruction of the fundamental foundations
of the life of national groups to annihilate them.”
The following year, in 1945, the International Military Tribunal founded in Nuremberg,
Germany, was responsible for accusing the Nazi leaders of having committed crimes against
humanity, where the word genocide was included, but until then, without a legal basis. It was
then in 1948 that the UN General Assembly passed the Convention on the Prevention and
Punishment of Crimes of Genocide. What this convention did was to establish that genocide
is a crime of international character and that the signatory nations of the United Nations
must commit themselves to take action to prevent this crime and to punish it.
The acts that can be considered genocide are: killing members of a national, ethnic, racial, or
religious group; causing harm to the physical or mental integrity of members of the group;
deliberately imposing on the group living conditions that may cause its physical destruction in
whole or in part; setting measures that prevent the physical reproduction of members of the
group; forcibly transferring children from one group to another.
The motivations for committing genocide are as diverse and absurd as xenophobia, hatred,
fear, or deep loathing of people of different nationalities or ethnic or religious disputes. The
UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide has established
the principle of individual responsibility for all acts relating to genocide and has determined
that there will be punishment for those who commit them.
The most prominent example today happened in World War II, with the death of more than
six million Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, blacks, communists, and Slavs. But it was not the first.
There was an Armenian genocide that historians consider to be the first act of systematic
extermination of an ethnic group. It happened in World War I when the Ottoman Empire
committed numerous mass murders against the population of Armenia, which resulted in the
death of 1.8 million people.
Another case that is also known and can bring us back to the present day is the so-called
Holodomor or Ukrainian genocide, which occurred between 1932 and 1933. This genocide led
from 3 to 3.5 million people to die from starvation, acts that were attributed to the Soviet
government of Josef Stalin.
Genocide then falls under the heading of a crime against humanity, and today there is the
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Crimes of genocide
are currently tried by the International Criminal Court, provided a government has no interest
or feasible conditions to hold such a trial on its territory.
Genocide, unlike war crimes, can be committed at any time, that is, in times of peace or war.
The punishments accepted by the International Criminal Court are imprisonment for a fixed
term, exceptionally life imprisonment, fines, and confiscation of property. Unfortunately,
there have been other crimes of genocide beyond World War II, such as in Cambodia, Kosovo,
Rwanda, and Bosnia.
Additionally, we must mention more than a million demands for #StopHazaraGenocide
globally. The Hazaras have a long history of discrimination, especially by the ISIS, so they have
every right to worry about genocide. The Hazara ethnic and religious minority of Afghanistan
is particularly at risk since the ISIS and the Taliban target and violate their human rights
The international community must protect the Hazara people by following legal, moral, and
political obligations. It must uphold the promise made in the Convention on the Prevention
and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to "never again."