Saturday, November 29, 2008

Genocide in Darfur? Let the court decide

By Philip Heymann and Martha Minow

IS THERE a legal basis for the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan for genocide?

The crime of genocide has been widely accepted as the most heinous offense against human dignity. Although the term can sometimes be used loosely in political debates, it has a very precise and narrow legal definition. And rightly so.

According to the Genocide Convention of 1948, the crime of genocide is "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

These definitional requirements are more than mere legal formalities. If the crime of genocide is deemed to occur, the Convention triggers mandatory prosecution requirements. The particular opprobrium that is attached to genocide should be reserved for those who have unquestionably violated its terms. Meanwhile, mass atrocities that do not satisfy the precise definition of genocide can still be prosecuted as crimes against humanity or war crimes. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>

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