This is Relevant, Why Not?

The UN Convention on Genocide []

First, I must note that the Clinton administration cooked up the term “ethnic cleansing” in order to avoid invoking the convention on genocide in Rwanda. It was a typical bit of cowardice from a government that never even addressed its love for occasionally dropping loads of high explosive on noncombatants. By the way, let me say this: no progressive should use the term “ethnic cleansing” because if you do so you are a co-conspirator.

Article I
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
Article II
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
(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.

I’m trying to see where the UN Security Council gets to vote (subject to US veto) on any notice of genocide.

Article XII
Any Contracting Party may at any time, by notification addressed to the Secretary-
General of the United Nations, extend the application of the present Convention to all or
any of the territories for the conduct of whose foreign relations that Contracting Party is

It appears to bypass the Security Council.

Article XIII
On the day when the first twenty instruments of ratification or accession have been
deposited, the Secretary-General shall draw up a procès-verbal and transmit a copy
thereof to each Member of the United Nations and to each of the non-member States
contemplated in article XI.

Israeli ideology is often “Hamas has sworn our complete destruction” which is true, but the question is whether Israel would consider such an attempt to destroy them to be genocidal. I would. I wonder if Israel would try to invoke the convention? I would.

I suppose the political realities on the ground are such that if the people in Gaza attempted to invoke the convention, they would be punished worse. Also, for the UN to actually do anything, would require a resolution, which would be vetoed by the US. But, like the convention against torture, it may also interface with national law. I.e.: torture is a crime against International Humanitarian Law and under US law. That one is a capital crime under US law, which made it extremely “edgy” in my mind when Trump made “bloody Gina” Haspel CIA director.

There are also laws on the US books that say it is illegal to transfer weapons to a place where there is any credible belief they may be used in war crimes. That would apply to the large amount of artillery ammunition the Biden adminstration gave Israel right after the Hamas offensive. Here in America, we write laws just so we can break ’em, that’s how badass and uncaring we are. Next up, creating a desert and calling it a shopping mall.

I love that the authors of the convention used one of my favorite French words/concepts, procès-verbal – literally “oral trial.” In France, the police have a circumscribed ability to have an informal trial, and find someone guilty and fine them. So, for example, if you’re caught drunk-driving on someone’s cat, you may find yourself instantly subjected to a stiff fine. Of course, such a system is subject to all kind of abuses. The French also have a rule called garde a vue literally “keep in sight” – if someone is suspected of a crime but are considered a flight risk or a danger, the police can put them in detention while everything is sorted out. I think there’s a limit of a few days after which the suspect must be released or charged.

There were international attempts to bring justice on Haspel [ecchr] which, predictably, went nowhere.


  1. says

    Rousseau argued that part of the social contract is that we agree to follow government’s laws, and government also agrees to follow the rule of law – or the state has no legitimacy. Rousseau was widely attacked for writing a manual justifying revolution – but his point was good: everywhere government wants the people to follow its rules, while cheerfully breaking them. Rousseau’s point was dangerous, and I am always amused by right-wingers who talk about rule of law and sovereignty. Rousseau predated international law, which was necessary after the invention of easily manufactured high explosive – suddenly war was less of a fun sport for kings. But the people are still left in a situation where lawmakers pass laws to try to rein in their own government and it just ignores them. What is the point?

  2. sonofrojblake says

    I wonder if Israel would try to invoke the convention? I would.

    But you would then be tacitly endorsing the idea that the convention exists, has legitimacy and limits the behaviour of states. Israel would never want to do that.

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