Explained: What is United Nations Genocide Convention?

In the Article below know all about Genocide Convention of the United Nations or the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Know all about the origins and the definition of genocide and the details related to it.

Tulika Tandon
Mar 16, 2021, 14:15 IST
UN Genocide convention
UN Genocide convention

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

In the second world war Raphael Lemkin lost his whole family. After this he left no stone unturned to make genocide a punishable offence. It was then in December 1948 the UN recognised it as a crime. 

The day was decided to be celebrated in the honour of those who lost their lives in such genocides on 11th September 2015. The day chosen was December 9 every year. 

What is Genocide Convention?

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention) is an instrument abiding by the international law which codified the crime of genocide for the first time. 

Its preamble says, “at all periods of history genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity” and that international cooperation is required to “liberate humankind from such an odious scourge”.

As written in the convention, genocide is a crime that can take place in war time and also in the time of peace. The definition of Genocide is mentioned in Article II of the Convention. It describes genocide as a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part.

The definition reflects the compromise reached among United Nations Member States while drafting the Convention in 1948. 

Event Details
Date of adoption 9th December 1948
Date of entry into force 12th January 1951
Number of parties 150

What is included in Genocide?

As stated in the Article II of the 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:

  1. Killing members of the group
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
  5.  Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

To be specific the term consists of two elements, the physical element — the acts committed; and the mental element — the intent.


Genocide Convention can be seen as a crucial step towards the making and development of international human rights and international criminal law. 

This was the first of its kind human rights treaty that was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

It also signified the international community’s commitment to work towards controlling the crime of genocide after seeing the atrocities faced during World War 2. 

Ratification of the convention:

The Genocide Convention has been ratified by 152 States of the world. Among the major ones who have not ratified are some states from Africa, Asia and America. Check the map below for the details 

Conditions on the states after Ratification:

  1. Obligated not to commit genocide
  2. Obligated to prevent genocide (Article I) which, according to the ICJ, has an extraterritorial scope
  3. States must punish genocide
  4. States must be obligated to enact the necessary legislation to give effect to the provisions of the Convention
  5. States must ensure effective penalties provided for persons found guilty of criminal conduct according to the Convention
  6. States have to put persons to trial who are charged with genocide in a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed, or by an international penal tribunal with accepted jurisdiction
  7. States are obligated to grant extradition when genocide charges are involved
  8. It must all be done in accordance with laws and treaties related to the protection granted by international human rights law prohibiting refoulement where there is a real risk of flagrant human rights violations in the receiving State.

Genocide Law and India:

The genocides that have been associated with India are Godhara Riots in 2002 or Sikh Violence in the 1980s among others.  Being colonial laws, IPC and Cr. P C do not include any provisions pertaining to offences by the state. Moreover, both of these laws are not fit to deal with crimes committed by large gatherings of people or mass crimes. What is saddening is that even after decades, the judiciary has failed in its duty and the cases are still getting investigated and recommendations are being made by the committees.

Read| What is Terai Independence Movement in Nepal

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  • When did the UN Genocide Convention come into force?
    The United Nations Genocide Convention came into force on 12th January 1951
  • When was the UN Genocide convention adopted?
    9th December 1948 was when the Genocide convention was adopted
  • Who coined the term genocide?
    Raphael Lemkin coined the tern genocide
  • What is the genocide convention of UN called?
    Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is the complete name of UN Genocide Convention


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