Southern Africa Experts Stress Links between Apartheid and Genocide

UN Chronicle, March 1985 | Go to article overview

Southern Africa Experts Stress Links between Apartheid and Genocide


The relationship between apartheid and genocide is a topic currently under consideration in human rights bodies.

The Commission on Human Rights has taken note of the studies and findings of the Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Southern Africa on this question as contained in a Report by the Group (E/CN.4/1985/14), and has requested the Group to continue its study.

The decision was taken at the 1985 annual session of the Commission, held in Geneva from 4 February to 15 March. The Commission also reviewed a report (E/CN.4/1985/27) by a group of three of its members--the "Group of Three"--set up to monitor the implementation of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

The report of the Experts' Group had been prepared pursuant to resolution 1983/9 of the Commission, by which the Group was asked to continue studying the policies and practices which violated human rights in South Africa and Namibia, bearing in mind the Group's conclusion that the "criminal effects of apartheid amout to a policy bordering on genocide."

The Group made a number of recommendations to the Commission in its report, including a proposal that the Commission call on the General Assembly to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice "on the extent to which apartheid as a policy entails criminal effects bordering on genocide."

Another recommendation of the Group of Experts had stated that the way in which South Africa implemented the policy of apartheid "should henceforth be considered as a kind of genocide."

The Group, which has been in existence since 1967, observed that "if segregation and racial discrimination are strictly applied, jeopardizing the elementary conditions for normal development and livelihood of the oppressed ethnic group, then what at first appears to be only an effect of the policy of 'separate development' migh assume certain chracteristics of genocide in the literal sence of the world." It added "It must be remembered that genocide need not necessarily imply physical extermination of individuals or members of a group.

The Group observed that the Commission "may wish to take steps to revise" the Convention on the Preventation and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, which was drafted nearly 40 years ago "as a direct result of the bestial acts perpetrated by the Nazi and other totalitarian regimes during the Second World War against human groups because of their racial, ethnic, national or religous background". The Convention, which entered into force on 12 January 1951, "essentially covers that kind of genocide." Unfortunately, "genocide and practices close to genocide" as defined in the Convention did not stop once the Convention was adopted. Through the practices described as "bordering on genocide", not only in South Africa but also in other countries. The Convention should be revised "to establish what can still be regarded as genocide today, in the hope of arriving at a new and up-to-date definition of this international crime".

The Experts' Group said that the practical implementation of apartheid, almost 40 years after its institutionalization, had resulted in "certain criminal consequences", which coincided with the acts prohibited under article II (a), (b) and (d) of the Convention of Genocide. …

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