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Literally, genocide is the eradication or killing of a group of people based on their membership in the group (as defined by ethnicity, nationality, religion or other common factors) rather than based on any specific acts of individuals within the group. While genocides certainly occurred before the Holocaust, the term came into common use after the Second World War, and was formally defined by an early United Nations Convention against Genocide: "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]

  • (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.

Prosecutions for genocide began, under the term "crimes against humanity", in the International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg). Individual prosecutions have been made by the International Criminal Court, as well as specific tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Cambodia.


  1. United Nations General Assembly (9 December 1948), Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Resolution 260 (III) A