AN APPRAISAL OF THE PREVENTION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE CRIME OF GENOCIDE UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
1.1 Background of the Study
Genocide as an experience of human behavior throughout history is old, but our concern and understanding about it are relatively new. Humans have probably been committing genocide since the beginning of our species.Killing in mass and committing crimes against other human groups is not new to human history. Human groups have considered, and unfortunately still consider genocide as a viable political course of action, contemplating the intentional destruction of other groups national, ethnic, racial or religious, in whole or in part, in such a way as defined by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
However, it is only in recent years that we have come to acknowledge genocide more systematically, trying to articulate understandings that were simply unavailable to our ancestors. There was a long delay in recognizing genocide as a crime despite its recurrence throughout human history. As a human race, we did not even have a name to describe genocidal violence before the World War II when Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide.”Until then, it was a crime without a name in the words of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The systematic mass murder of millions of people in the Holocaust, however, forced us to recognize that humans were killing other humans in systematic ways, with the intent to destroy groups in whole or in part, with terrifying results.
The UN Genocide Convention of 1948 emerged as the legal response, stipulating a detailed and quite technical definition as a crime against the law of nationswhich then engendered debates among scholars for decades to follow.Yet willful neglect prevailed in spite of numerous genocides in the later half of the 20th century, the world‟s leaders were mindful of what was unfolding and yet stood by and negligently let the crimes transpire. This indifference was partly justified by political calculations that made sense to the perpetrators and was tolerated by a desire to avoid intervention in violent strife by leaders of other countries who were desensitized by ideology to the Violence inflicted on the mass of victims and their communities. Genocide and mass atrocities also threaten the core of state interest. The reason of this research is to create an awareness of what happened in the past centuries and also what is obtainable presently. Some countries have witnessed violations of human rights which was premised on the fact that the perpetrators of such massive attacks were left unpunished. Also it is a sacred duty to be shared by all States to protect others from wanton destruction but this is impracticable as States shy away from their prerogatives to these violations.
The perpetrators of genocide feed on and fuel other threats in weak and corrupt states, with dangerous spillover effects that know no boundaries. Engaging in an early prevention of these crimes will be the smart move to do, states inevitably bear greater costs in feeding millions of refugees and trying to manage long lasting regional crises. In addition, States‟ credibility and leadership are compromised when they fail to work with international partners to prevent genocide and mass atrocities. Preventing genocide is an achievable goal, genocide is not the
inevitable result of “ancient hatreds” or irrational lead, it requires planning and is carried out systematically. There are ways to recognize its signs and symptoms, and viable options to prevent it at every turn if we are committed and prepared. Preventing genocide is a goal that can be achieved with the right organizational structures, strategies, and partnerships. The Convention confirms that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or war, is a crime under international law which parties to the Convention undertake to prevent and to punish.
The primary responsibility to prevent and stop genocide lies with the State in which this crime takes place. Genocide often occurs in societies in which different national, racial, ethnic or religious groups become locked in identity related conflicts. However, it is not the differences in identity per se that generate conflict, but rather the gross inequalities associated with those differences in terms of access to power and resources, social services, development opportunities and the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms. It is often the targeted group‟s reactions to these inequalities, and counter-reactions by the dominant group, that generate conflict that can escalate to genocide. Given that no country is perfectly homogeneous, genocide is truly a global challenge. Genocide may occur in times of peace, where groups are intentionally subjected to long term policies and practices affecting their ability to exist as an identity group, as well as in the context of both intra-State and inter-State conflicts. Decades after the World War II, several Tribunals were established to deal with various state sponsored crimes, part of these tribunals were the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia which were established in the early nineties. However due to the inadequacies embedded in these International Criminal Tribunals the International Criminal Court was later created to deal with the inadequacies in these courts.,