genocide, in international law, the intentional and systematic destruction, wholly or in part, by a government of a national, racial, religious, or ethnic group. Although the term genocide was first coined in 1944, the crime itself has been committed often in history. It was initially used to describe the systematic campaign for the extermination of peoples carried on by Nazi Germany, in its attempts in the 1930s and 40s to destroy the entire European Jewish community, and to eliminate other national groups in Eastern Europe. In 1945, the charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal listed persecution on racial or religious grounds as a crime for which the victorious Allies would try Nazi offenders. It established the principle of the individual accountability of government officials who carried out the extermination policies. The United Nations, by a convention concluded in 1949, defined in detail the crime of genocide and provided for its punishment by competent national courts of the state on whose territory the crime was committed, or by international tribunal. Charging that the convention violated national sovereignty, especially in its provision for an international tribunal and in the potential liability of an individual citizen, the United States did not ratify it until 37 years later, in 1986. An international tribunal was established to prosecute genocide cases in the aftermath of the slaughter of more than 500,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. In 1995 top civilian and military Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat leaders were charged by an international tribunal with genocide in the killing of thousands of Muslims during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

See studies by I. L. Horowitz (1981), L. Kuper (1982), E. Staub (1989), S. Power (2001), and D. J. Goldhagen (2009).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Genocide: Selected full-text books and articles

A Century of Genocide: Critical Essays and Eyewitness Accounts By Samuel Totten; William S. Parsons; Israel W. Charny Routledge, 2004 (2nd edition)
A Century of Genocide: Utopias of Race and Nation By Eric D. Weitz Princeton University Press, 2003
Genocide: Approaches, Case Studies, and Responses By Graham C. Kinloch; Raj P. Mohan Algora, 2005
Genocide: The Psychology of Mass Murder By Peter du Preez Boyars/Bowerdean, 1994
The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective By Robert Gellately; Ben Kieman Cambridge University Press, 2003
Why Not Kill Them All? The Logic and Prevention of Mass Political Murder By Daniel Chirot; Clark McCauley Princeton University Press, 2006
Genocide and the Politics of Memory: Studying Death to Preserve Life By Herbert Hirsch University of North Carolina Press, 1995
Genocide: Conceptual and Historical Dimensions By George J. Andreopoulos University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994
Genocide in International Law: The Crimes of Crimes By William A. Schabas Cambridge University Press, 2000
The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution By Henry Friedlander University of North Carolina Press, 1995
Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide By Alexander Laban Hinton University of California Press, 2002
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