What is Genocide?

Martin Shaw’s new study, What is Genocide, addresses the question: ‘how should
we understand the idea of genocide?’ He offers a new definition of genocide which
he claims represents a return to the spirit of Raphael Lemkin’s original formulation
of the concept. Shaw states: ‘The book argues that genocide studies have lost some
of the central insights of their founding thinker, Raphael Lemkin.’ [1] In order to
recover Lemkin’s original meaning, Shaw argues, the idea of genocide needs to
be vigorously conceptualised through sociological methodology. He offers a new
definition of genocide and I will return to it towards the end of this essay.
For the moment, however, let us consider Shaw’s argument that the major problem
with the idea of genocide in the contemporary world is the way it is conceptualised.
I will argue in this review that, despite some extremely valuable insights and analysis,
Shaw’s articulation of the major problems with current definitions of genocide is
flawed. Definition, in the social science sense of this term, i.e. conceptualisation,
has never been the central difficulty the idea of genocide raises. Moreover, ‘genocide
studies’ as a field, which is in its infancy, has seen a remarkably rich conceptual
debate. Such debates, have not, it is true, yet settled around either a return to some
sort of founding doctrine or a new conception of genocide. The old definition has
not been successfully transcended by a new synthesis. The debate has not ‘settled’
because it does not need to. The problems genocide presents to the world are not
primarily problems of definition but problems of prevention and punishment. The
political difficulty of defining an event as genocide, for example in Rwanda, was
not caused by our inability to understand what the term genocide referred to. The
problem was with the implications for action that an acceptance of the fact that
the events in Rwanda constituted genocide would have entailed. The problem of
prevention was ever thus.
On Lemkin
In 1947 Raphael Lemkin looked back to the moment, in 1933, when he first
articulated the concept that would later become the term genocide and, later still,
the basis for the first Convention of the United Nations in the field of Human
Rights:

The question arose whether sovereignty goes so far that a government can
destroy with impunity its own citizens and whether such acts of destruction
are domestic affairs or matters of international concern. Practically speaking,
should the moral right of humanitarian intervention be converted into a right
under international law? If the destruction of human groups is a problem of
international concern, then such acts should be treated as crimes under the
law of nations, like piracy, and every state should be able to take jurisdiction
over such acts irrespective of the nationality of the offender and of the place
where the crime was committed. In line with this thought the present writer
submitted a proposal to the International Conference for Unification of
Criminal Law held in Madrid in 1933 to declare the destruction of racial,
religious or social collectivities a crime under the law of nations (delictum
iuris gentium). There was envisaged the creation of two new international
crimes: the crime of barbarity, consisting in the extermination of racial,
religious or social collectivities, and the crime of vandalism, consisting in
the destruction of cultural and artistic works of these groups. The intention
was to declare these crimes punishable by any country in which the culprit
might be caught, regardless of the criminal’s nationality or the place where
the crime was committed. This proposal was not accepted. [2]
The style of the quotation above is typical of Lemkin’s prose – clear and precise
but with barely concealed outrage and passion. The content of the quotation is
important for understanding the nature of the concept of genocide, its origins and
the fundamental challenges and problems that we face with the crime today. Lemkin’s
original formulation of the crimes that would become genocide was submitted as a
proposal to the International Conference for Unification of Criminal Law held in
Madrid in 1933. It followed the massacre in Iraq on 7 August 1933 of the Assyrian
population of the town of Semile. This massacre evoked memories of the Armenian
massacres during the First World War and inspired Lemkin to propose that:
Whosoever, out of hatred towards a racial, religious or social collectivity,
or with a view to the extermination thereof, undertakes a punishable action
against the life, bodily integrity, liberty, dignity or economic existence of a
person belonging to such a collectivity, is liable, for the

penalty of . . . unless his deed falls within a more severe provision of the given
code. The above crimes will be prosecuted and punished irrespective of the
place where the crime was committed and of the nationality of the offender,
according to the law of the country where the offender was apprehended. [3]
So, Lemkin at first proposed the crime of ‘barbarism’ and a separate crime of
‘vandalism.’ The crime of barbarity entailed the attempt to exterminate a racial,
religious or ‘social collectivity,’ through killing but also action against ‘bodily
integrity’ i.e., rape, ‘liberty’ i.e., the creation of concentration camps, ‘dignity’ i.e.,
laws which stigmatised certain identities within a polity and ‘economic existence’
i.e., the ability to earn a living. The crime of vandalism consisted of the destruction
of the cultural and artistic works of a group i.e., the burning of books. It is a macabre
irony that Lemkin’s 1933 articulation of the concept of genocide predicted almost
perfectly the policies the Nazis would enact against the Jews in the decade that
followed.
As the Nazis’ regime developed, Lemkin, who was a leading Polish Jurist, developed
his thinking on the nature of the crimes he then termed barbarism and vandalism.
Writing in the journal of the United Nations in 1946 he reflected on the policies
of the Nazis, not just in the period of the war itself but in the run up to the war
between 1933 and 1939. In this phase of the regime the assault on rights directed
against the Jews and others by the Nazis was based on the crime of vandalism
as much as on the crime of barbarism. These assaults then radicalised into the
destruction of the ‘national-biological power of the neighbours of Germany so
that Germany might win a permanent victory, whether directly through military
subjugation or indirectly through such a biological destruction that even in the case
of Germany’s defeat the neighbours would be so weakened that Germany would
be able to recover her strength in later years.’ [4] For Lemkin this destruction of a
people was not confined merely to killing but encompassed acts to prevent life such
as forced abortions and sterilizations and acts that could endanger life; for example,
artificial infections, working to death in special camps, deliberate separation of
families for depopulation purposes. Etc. But Lemkin argued that, awful as such
crimes are in and of themselves: ‘All these actions are subordinated to the criminal
intent to destroy or to cripple permanently a human group. The acts are directed
against groups, as such, and individuals are selected for destruction only because
they belong to these groups.’ [5] This, he argued, was different from other kinds
of extreme violence by states and was a new category of crime. This crime needed a
new word to describe it.

As we will see a little later, Martin Shaw argues that armed force is central to what
the definition of genocide should contain. Lemkin here seems to support this
view as he is giving priority to the destruction of life. Nevertheless, we should
notice that Lemkin instantly adds to this the word ‘cripple.’ For Lemkin, then, the
newness of the crime that he would call genocide was not merely the destruction
by armed force of a human group – a description central to Shaw’s characterisation
of Lemkin’s perception of genocide – but the crippling of the life of that group
by a range of actions not all of which would result in death. As Lemkin put it: ‘…
mass murder does not convey the specific losses to civilization in the form of the
cultural contributions which can be made only by groups of people united through
national, racial or cultural characteristics. The evidence produced at the Nuremberg
trial gave full support to the concept of genocide! However, the International
Military Tribunal gave a narrow interpretation of its Charter and decided that acts
committed before the outbreak of the war were not punishable offences.’ [6] Sir
Hartley Shawcross and others agreed with Lemkin’s view that ‘Had the Tribunal
punished such acts a precedent would have been established to the effect that a
government is precluded from destroying groups of its own citizens.’ [7] In his
study of the Axis policies of occupation, in which he first defined and articulated
the crime of genocide, Lemkin stated clearly that: ‘genocide is a problem not only
of war but also of peace.’ [8] But the crimes of the Nazis in peace did not feature at
Nuremburg.
When Lemkin’s book on Axis Occupation policies was published in 1944, it
contained a chapter on the crime of genocide. Early reviewers picked up on the
nature of the crime that Lemkin had described.
The massacres, the forced labor, the separation of families, the deprivation
of free movements – all these discriminations practiced upon the Jews
constituted part of a movement designated by Lemkin as ‘genocide,’ a name
which he believes should be used to denote something which has gone
much farther than the old political and cultural denationalization policies
familiar to historians, for ‘genocide’ has embraced political, social, cultural,
economic, biological, physical, religious and moral practices. [9]
Another reviewer noted that genocide, as Dr. Lemkin explains, signifies:
a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential
foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the

groups themselves. After analyzing the German techniques of genocide
carried out in the political, social, cultural, economic, and other fields in the
occupied countries, Dr. Lemkin concludes that the enemy has embarked upon
a gigantic scheme to change, in favor of Germany, the balance of biological
forces between it and the captive nations for many years to come. For all the
acts committed by the German occupying forces in the occupied countries,
Dr. Lemkin holds the entire German people responsible, with which this
reviewer, on the basis of his own work in the field, fully agrees. As Dr. Lemkin
forcefully points out, ‘The present destruction of Europe would not be so
complete and thorough had the German people not accepted freely its plan,
participated voluntarily in its execution, and up to this point profited greatly
there from.’ Furthermore, the author rightly emphasizes the significant fact
that ‘The German techniques of exploitation of the subjugated nations are
so numerous, thoughtful and elaborate, and are so greatly dependent upon
personal skill and responsibility that this complex machinery could not have
been successful without devotion to the cause of the persons in control’
(p. xiv). He therefore urges ‘that the considerable number of Germans
responsible for the carnage and looting should be punished or reduced to a
condition in which they may not again be dangerous to the social order and
international peace’ (p. xii). [10]
Both reviewers are clear that the nature of the crime being described is wideranging,
encompassing both peace and war, entailing many actions short of murder
and carried out by a broad cross section of a society.
Following the publication of this study, Lemkin, by now in the United States,
prepared a resolution for the newly formed United Nations general assembly. The
preamble to the resolution echoed the theme that had first been introduced in the
1933 submission to the Madrid conference – the destruction of racial, religious and
national groups both in the sense of their physical destruction and the destruction
of their cultural identity. It stated that genocide was ‘a denial of the right of existence
to entire human groups in the same sense as homicide is a denial to an individual
of his right to live.’ The resolution went on to call on the UN ‘to declare genocide
an international crime, to insure international cooperation in its prevention and
punishment; and to recommend that genocide be dealt with by national legislation
in the same way as other international crimes such as piracy, traffic in women and
children, and others.’ [11]

Lemkin’s resolution was sponsored at the second part of the first session of the
General Assembly at Lake Success by Cuba, India and Panama. It was adopted
as Resolution 96 (I) on 11 December 1946. The Economic and Social Council
instructed the Secretary General to prepare a draft convention on genocide which
should be considered by the Commission on Development and Codification of
International Law. The General Assembly, at its second session, reaffirmed the
former resolution by Resolution 180 (11) of November 21, 1947, and requested the
Economic and Social Council to continue the work. The Council later appointed
an Ad Hoc Committee, composed of the representatives of only seven Members,
to draft a convention. The Ad Hoc Committee met from April 5 to May 10, 1948.
It abandoned the former draft and adopted a proposal by China l2 as the basic text.
This Committee unanimously adopted a draft convention and transmitted it to
the Council. By Resolution 153 (VII) of August 26, 1948, the Council decided to
transmit the draft convention to the third session of the General Assembly. On 8
December 8, 1948, this Committee adopted the draft resolution. The next day the
General Assembly rejected several Soviet amendments and adopted the resolution
with the annexed convention, as submitted by the Sixth Committee, and two
accompanying resolutions. The vote was 55 to 0, no abstentions; Costa Rica, El
Salvador, and the Union of South Africa were absent. [12]
In the debates that followed, discussion quickly turned to the problem of
enforcement. While, as Kunz put it, genocide by a state against its own citizens
‘was morally condemned, it was generally recognized that a state is entitled to treat
its own citizens at discretion and that the manner in which it treats them is not
a matter with which international law, as such, concerns itself.’ In describing the
very first debate on the genocide convention, the real problem surfaced right away.
In considering humanitarian intervention and intervention to prevent genocide, a
central plank after all of the convention as drafted, ‘there is general agreement that,
by virtue of its personal and territorial supremacy, a state can treat its own nationals
according to discretion.’ The main texts of international law backed up the limited
scope of support for the notion of humanitarian intervention. Kunz argued that:
…in the previous editions of Oppenheim the view was expressed that ‘whether
there is really a rule of the Law of Nations which admits such intervention may
well be doubted.’ Lauterpacht, in the latest edition, also recognizes that states
had a disinclination to take responsibility for a humanitarian intervention
and that, on the other hand, it has been abused for selfish purposes.

Kunz concludes, somewhat optimistically, that the Convention, ‘therefore creates
in this and other points new law binding only on the states which have ratified it.’
The innovations in the Convention as originally drafted went further. ‘The crimes
referred to in Article II and III which hitherto if committed by a government in
its own territory against its own citizens, have been of no concern to international
law, are made a matter of international concern and are, therefore, taken out of
the ‘matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State,’ of Article 11,
paragraph 7 of the United Nations Charter.’ Although only contracting parties can
invoke Articles VIII and IX of the Convention, United Nations organs are called
to intervene.’ Kunz concludes, writing in 1949: ‘This confirms our construction
of the Convention. Individuals are criminally liable for genocide in a domestic
court under domestic law, but they are not internationally liable. States alone are,
under the general conditions of state responsibility, internationally responsible,
but under international law, not under criminal law; only this international state
responsibility includes – and here lies the innovation – genocide committed by a
state against its own citizens. Article VIII gives to any contracting party the right
to call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under
the Charter as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of the
crimes named in Articles II and III.’ [13] The only problem is that no state has ever
succeeded in doing so.
Despite this potential innovation – the response to which I will explore in a
moment – debates gradually watered down the convention. The jurist, Kunz writes,
borrowing the words of the Belgian philosopher of law, Jules Dabin, ‘is primarily
an artist of definitions; and good definitions are in no field more essential than
in criminal law.’ Article 11, giving the definition of genocide, is, therefore, ‘the
heart of the convention. The Sixth Committee decided on a definition by way
of enumeration. The five types of acts enumerated cover physical and biological
genocide.’ Gradually these types of genocide were amended. Mental harm was
diluted. Then all forms of cultural genocide were eliminated from the convention.
[14] There then followed the elimination of the protection of political groups from
the scope of the convention.
The American Bar Association responded to this development with a ringing
condemnation: ‘The excluded groups are the only ones that are presently in the
process or common danger of extermination. Compromise on a matter of principle
is tantamount to abandoning the principle.’ [15] The American Jurists’ assault on
the Convention was wide ranging. They attacked the basic principles on which

it was drafted and the possibility of it being enforced. [16] They argued that the
convention would fail to prevent a repetition of the crimes of Nazi Germany
because its approach ‘is that of individual crime and not of persecutions instigated
by governments…It foresees the eventual establishment of an international court,
but for the purpose of trying individuals.’
The failure at the heart of the convention was the inability of the United Nations
assembly to face up to the protection given to genocidal states by the limits of the
legal remit of the prosecution dimension of the convention, let alone the prevention
ambition. Mass killing could only take place with the approval of governments. The
crime of genocide referred to acts affecting many thousands. Therefore the crimes
which the convention is designed to prevent and to punish, can only take place with
the considerable mobilisation of the state – a point Lemkin was at pains to stress in
his study of the Axis Occupation policies. How, the Bar Association asked in 1949,
‘can it be expected that a government engaged in such a policy will voluntarily
turn over its officials or citizens to any other government or international court for
punishment for carrying out that policy? To take the accused by force would require
an act of war. The Genocide Convention is an attempt to carry over into time of
peace the so-called Nuremberg principle under which captured enemies were
held personally liable for acts of aggression and crimes against humanity; but the
Nuremberg Tribunal had the physical custody of the persons whose condemnation
was demanded.’
The US lawyers were also highly critical, as mentioned above, of the selectivity of
the groups covered by the terms of the convention: ‘The Convention is selective
among the groups it would protect in whole or in part. Those singled out for
preferred consideration are national, ethnical, racial and religious groups “as such.”
Political and economic groups were apparently not considered as needing or worthy
of protection.’ They concluded that ‘The Genocide Convention as submitted
would not apply to many such cases. The Soviet Government and its Communist
satellites, should they accept the Convention, which they have not done up till
now, may liquidate property owners and others who believe in private enterprise on
the ground that they are political enemies of the state and therefore are not covered
by the Convention.’ [17]
The Convention, eventually signed by 41 states and ratified by 133 around the
world, was a watered down version of Lemkin’s original conception of the crime
of genocide. It was more limited in scope and did not take into account the

destruction of the cultural identity of a group during peacetime and extent to
which political groups could be included. It was true to Lemkin’s vision in the sense
that, in contrast to the American Bar Association, he believed in the possibility of
extending international law to encompass this new crime and for this crime to be
based on the bringing of charges against an individual. Though he was unsatisfied
with this he did not propose the end of national sovereignty.
On Shaw
Martin Shaw’s arguments need to be considered in this context. Shaw’s central
argument (which could have been stated in a long article and is stretched and
repeated in book form) needed saying and he says it, several times, extremely well.
There is a need to recover aspects of Lemkin’s original concept of genocide. We do
not require a plethora of terms for the types of mass killing that take place but we
do need a proper use of the term genocide. We need better answers to the questions
of which groups are defined by the convention and how the convention can be
made to operate. On this later question, which surely matters above all others, Shaw
has little constructive to say. Where he is much more convincing is presenting the
idea that we should look at genocide from a social group perspective and exam
the ‘conflict structure’ of the context in which genocide takes place, seeing this as
a relationship which is two-sided rather than a one-sided relationship in which
the victims are killed by the perpetrators. Thinking about genocide in this way is
useful but Shaw takes it too far. He wants us to abandon the idea that genocides
are one-sided conflicts between unarmed groups and militarised ones. Even if the
victim group does fight back against overwhelming odds and with the certainty
of destruction, as in, for example, the Warsaw Ghetto, Shaw wants us to think
about this as a power relation in which force on both sides can be compared. Shaw
also argues that few genocidists set out to kill all members of the victim group.
[18] Shaw argues this position because he sees one of the main problems with the
genocide studies field – dominated as he sees it by lawyers and historians [19] –
spends too much time thinking about the intentions of the perpetrators and the
meaning of their actions.
The problem with Shaw’s approach is that it does not match the facts of at least two
of the most clear-cut cases of genocide of the last century – Hitler’s war against the
Jews and the Huti genocide against the Tutsi. In these two cases there is no problem
of definition and no one denies that what happened was genocide. Few writers on
these two genocides would suggest that the power relationship between the two

was balanced enough to describe the conflict as being anything other than onesided.
Even fewer would suggest that the genocidal intent was anything other than
to kill all members of the victim group wherever they could be found. The heart
of understanding genocide is to move beyond Shaw’s formulation – ‘…the killing
of all members of any large-scale group is inconceivable; some will always survive,
either by losing their group identity or by moving beyond the reach of genocidal
power.’ [20] Such killing is not inconceivable to the genocidists and that is why so
much attention has been paid to trying to understand them. Grasping the audacity
of their intent is central to an understanding of the nature of genocide compared to
other kinds of repression.
Despite my reservations about the ramifications of some of Shaw’s arguments, Shaw
has presented a new definition of genocide that, is worth taking seriously even if we
do not adopt it. His definition is:
Genocide is a form of violent social conflict, or war, between armed power
organisations that aim to destroy civilian social groups and those groups and
other actors who resist this destruction.
The type of action carried out needs also to be defined. So he defines genocidal
actions as:
Action in which armed power organisations treat civilian social groups as
enemies and aim to destroy their real or putative social power, by means
of killing, violence and coercion against individuals whom they regard as
members of the group.
The strength of Shaw’s new definition is that it emphases that genocide is not
outside normal social phenomena – or indeed history – and that it is a form of
conflict and war. Its first main weakness is that it attempts a ‘radical break with the
ideas of ‘one-sidedness’ and ‘helplessness.’ And it also stresses that genocide, even in
peacetime, is a form of war. There are problems with both these last two features.
The one-sidedness thesis is flatly contradicted by evidence from important cases.
The argument about genocide being a feature of war is already generally accepted.
How best to evaluate the usefulness of Shaw’s definition? Let us compare Shaw’s
definition with the text of the main elements of the genocide convention as it was
eventually passed.

The first article of the convention states that: ‘The Contracting Parties confirm
that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime
under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.’ This
article conforms to Lemkin’s view that the crimes of the Nazis before 1939 should
be included and is clearly stated. The acceptance that genocide can be a feature of
peace as well as war is not clearly stated in Shaw’s definition though it is mentioned
in his elaborations of the definition. [21] This is major issue of contention. What is
a ‘time of war’ and what is a ‘time of peace.’ In terms of the operation of international
law and the force of jurisdiction differences in these states of affairs matter in
terms of law and reality. The current case in Darfur is of course a case in point. The
government of Sudan is not at war but neither is it a state at peace. Moreover, acts
by a state in terms of social and cultural groups have never been seen as part of the
genocide debate. They are, however, central elements in the study of the possibility
of prevention. Acts against political, ethnic or national groups before conflict
begins are recognised as being signposts on the road to the physical destruction
of those groups. Identifying actions against specific groups that go outside human
rights norms, and then stopping governments from extending them, are vital parts
of prevention. Prevention is given equal weight in the formation of this article
in the convention. In these respects the existing definition in the convention is
actually truer to the spirit of Lemkin’s intent and potentially more useful in terms
of prevention than Shaw’s definition.
The second article states that in the ‘present Convention, genocide means any of
the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national,
ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b)
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately
inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical
destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births
within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’
This is the ‘definition by way of enumeration.’ The problems with the enumeration
we have already discussed. Political groups are excluded. Lemkin’s hope that cultural
assaults could be included was rejected. The much debated ‘mental harm’ clause
survived. But here again the meaning is quite clear and the intention of the Article
transparent. Even the omissions do not detract from the potential of the Article and
the definition is clear and in many ways clearer than Shaw’s definition and closer
to Lemkin’s intent. Having established the nature of the crime, the Convention
sets out the acts that will be punished (a) Genocide; (b) Conspiracy to commit
genocide; (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide; (d) Attempt to

commit genocide; (e) Complicity in genocide. It then defines who will be held
accountable in Article 4.
Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article
III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers,
public officials or private individuals.
This definition of crimes and those responsible has no ambiguity about it and
because it is designed to be connected to actions is clearer and more analytically
useful than Shaw’s definition, especially when this is read without the elaboration.
The rest of the Convention goes beyond definition and deals with the real nature
of the problem with genocide. These are the key Articles:
Article 5. The Contracting Parties undertake to enact, in accordance with
their respective Constitutions, the necessary legislation to give effect to the
provisions of the present Convention, and, in particular, to provide effective
penalties for persons guilty of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated
in article III.
Article 6. Persons charged with genocide or any of the other acts enumerated
in article III shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in the territory
of which the act was committed, or by such international penal tribunal as
may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties which shall
have accepted its jurisdiction.
Article 7. Genocide and the other acts enumerated in article III shall not be
considered as political crimes for the purpose of extradition. The Contracting
Parties pledge themselves in such cases to grant extradition in accordance
with their laws and treaties in force.
Article 8. Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the
United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations
as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of
genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III.
Article 9. Disputes between the Contracting Parties relating to the
interpretation, application or fulfilment of the present Convention, including
those relating to the responsibility of a State for genocide or for any of the

other acts enumerated in article III, shall be submitted to the International
Court of Justice at the request of any of the parties to the dispute.
We know what the crime of genocide is. We know who commits it. We know who
the victims of the crime are. We know who the bystanders are. We have seen it too
often since 1945 not to be pretty good at recognising it, though it can always be
debated. Shaw has taken on one of the vital debates about definition in his book
by ensuring that the one-sidedness of the conflict does not present an obstacle to
defining acts as genocide. He does this because of Darfur and the violence from the
rebel groups against government forces. The problem with this is that the victims
in Darfur are not the rebel groups, some of whom have now been joined by Arab
tribes, but the civilian populations of the African villages that have been attacked.
Those fights are one-sided, even if the overall conflict is not. Shaw’s intentions
are noble but not necessary. Clearly the events in Darfur meet the definition of
genocide in the convention and even more those of the original writings of Lemkin.
The problem is translating what we know about this crime and its occurrence into
prevention. On this question Martin Shaw takes us no further and his purpose to be
fair was not to do so. He set out to enrich our conceptual thinking about genocide
and he has done this. But definition and conceptual thinking about genocide have
never really been the problem.
The frustration is that we have known the major problem since the Convention
was drafted. Let me repeat the words of the American Bar Association from 1949:
‘How can it be expected that a government engaged in such a policy [genocide] will
voluntarily turn over its officials or citizens to any other government or international
court for punishment for carrying out that policy?’ The question the world faces is
not ‘What is genocide?’ The question is ‘How do we prevent Genocide?’ Martin
Shaw’s takes us a little closer to being able to think better about genocide, and his
book will be near the top of my reading lists for that reason, but it takes us no closer
to answering the real question.
Brian Brivati is Professor of Contemporary History at Kingston University. An
advisory editor of Democratiya, his new book The End of Decline: Blair and
Brown in power will be published in September 2007. He is a member of the Iraq
Commission, an independent, cross-party group tasked with producing a blueprint
for Britain’s future commitment to Iraq.

References
Finch, George A., 1949, ‘The Genocide Convention,’ The American Journal of International Law,
Vol. 43, No. 4, pp. 732-8.
Horniker, Arthur Leon 1945, (review) Military Affairs, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 69-73.
Kunz, Josef L 1949, ‘The United Nations Convention on Genocide,’ The American Journal of
International Law, Vol. 43, No. 4, pp. 738-46.
Lemkin, Raphael 1944, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Lemkin, Raphael 1946, ‘The Genocide Convention,’ Journal of the United Nations, No. 41.
Lemkin, Raphael 1947, ‘The Crime of Genocide,’ The American Journal of International Law, Vol.
41, No. 1. pp. 145-151.
Mander, Linden A, 1945, (review) The American Historical Review, Vol. 51, No. 1. pp. 117-120.
Shaw, Martin 2007, What is Genocide?, Polity: London.
Notes
[1]Shaw 2007, p. 4
[2]Lemkin 1947.
[3]Lemkin 1947, p 146.
[4]Lemkin 1946, p. 52.
[5]Lemkin 1946, p. 52.
[6]Lemkin 1946, p. 52.
[7]Lemkin 1947, p. 148.
[8]Lemkin 1944, p. 93.
[9]Mander 1945, pp. 117-20.
[10] Review by Arthur Leon Horniker in Military Affairs, Vol. 9, No. 1. (Spring, 1945), pp. 69-73.
[11] Lemkin 1947, p. 149.
[12] Kunz 1949.
[13] Kunz 1949, p. 746.
[14] Kunz 1949, quoting Oppenheim-Lauterpacht, International Law, Vol. I (7th ed., London,
1948), p. 583. Cf., also, ‘ N e i propri territori la libertd di ciascun Stato B illimitata verso
I propri cittadini sccondo il diritto internaaionale generale,’ in G. Balladore Pallieri, Diratto
Internaaionale Pubblico (5th ed., Milan, 1948), p. 382. and Oppenheim-Lauterpaclit, op. cit.,
p. 279.
[15] Kunz 1949, p. 746.
[16] All quotes from the American Bar Association from Finch 1949.
[17] Finch1949, pp. 732-738.
[18] Shaw 2007, p. 108.
[19] Shaw 2007, p. 37-96.
[20] Shaw 2007, p. 108.
[21] Shaw 2007, pp.155-6.