Genocide: Definition and Meaning

Genocide is an intentional mass murder that has been planned and executed by a single person, or by multiple people, depending on who created the plan, gave the order, or actually carried out the executions. Regardless of its size, genocide is composed of individual acts and individual decisions to carry them out.

What is the Meaning of Genocide?

Raphael Lemkin (1900–1959), a Polish-Jewish law professor, first used the Latin phrase gens, gentis, which means tribe, clan, or race, or the Greek root genos (family, tribe, or race - gene), before using the Latin suffix -cide to create the word "genocide" in 1943. (occido-to massacre, kill). According to Lemkin, unless it is done by the wholesale slaughter of all citizens of a nation, genocide generally does not imply the instant collapse of a nation.

Instead, it is meant to denote a planned strategy of various activities aimed at destroying the fundamental tenets of national groups' existence, with the ultimate goal of eradicating the groups themselves.

Genocide, especially on a massive scale, is frequently seen as the height of human wickedness. It is a controversial label since it is moralising and has been applied as a moral classification since the late 1990s.

So, human beings ought to decide as early in life as possible that they will not have anything to do with it. To do that, it is necessary to comprehend how genocide might occur. According to the Political Instability Task Group, between 1956 and 2016, 43 genocides took place, killing an estimated 50 million people. Up until 2008, the UNHCR calculated that such violent incidents had caused the displacement of an additional 50 million people.

History of Genocide

Through the course of human history, entire populations have been systematically eliminated. The ways in which a crime manifests itself are as varied as the causes and circumstances of the act. The 20th century was notably marked by genocide. Turkish-based Armenians were the target of an extermination campaign at the beginning of World War I, which is thought to have resulted in between 500,000 and a million deaths. The Nazi slaughter of the European Jewish population, known as the Holocast, served as the sad culmination of genocidal history.

Due to Hitler's policy of annihilation, more than six million Jews perished. They treated them in a very inhumane manner and used them as a means of execution by gassing them to death. They were also made to serve as bonded labourers. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted on December 9, 1948, in response to Nazi genocide. But World War II did not put an end to the ongoing atrocities. It resurfaced in Nigeria and shook the entire world.

In 1994, a civil conflict that eventually erupted into genocide broke out in Rawanda around the close of the 20th century. Genocide was once again committed in July 1995, while Bosnia was at war. Despite the passage of the Genocide Agreement in 1948, it took 50 years before the Yugoslavia Tribunal, an international court with limited jurisdiction and time, was established.

The Rwanda Tribunal was established shortly after by the UN Security Council to address the genocide in Rwanda. For the first time, a global organisation that can stop genocide anywhere on the globe has been established with the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

Cases Related to Genocide

There are dozens of cases related to genocide; however, some of them are −

Rawanda Genocide

The Rwandan Genocide, which took place in 1994, involved the wholesale murder of thousands of Hutu and Tutsi political moderates in Rwanda by Hutus acting on behalf of the Hutu Power ideology. Between Juvénal Habyarimana's murder on April 6 and mid-July, a period of roughly 100 days, at least 500,000 people were slain. According to the majority of estimates, between 800,000 and 1,000,000 people died—up to 20% of the population. Invading from Uganda in 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) was a rebel organisation made up primarily of Tutsi refugees.

Hutu Power, an ideology that emphasised that the Tutsi intended to enslave Hutus and that, as a result, it must be resisted at all costs, rose to power as a result of the Rwandan Civil War, which was fought between the Hutu regime, supported by Francophone nations of Africa and France itself, and the RPF, supported by Uganda.

Despite persistent racial unrest, notably the rebels' mass displacement of Hutu in the north and the periodic localised ethnic cleansing of Tutsi in the south, pressure on the Juvénal Habyarimana administration resulted in a cease-fire in 1993 and the initial execution of the Arusha Accords.

The mass executions of Tutsis and Hutus who supported peace were directly brought about by Habyarimana's assassination in April 1994. It was principally carried out by the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi, two Hutu militias connected to political organisations. The Akazu, a faction of Hutu Power, was in charge of orchestrating the genocide.

Bosnia Genocide

Conflict between the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina's three major ethnic groups—Serbs, Croats, and Muslims—led to the Serbs' genocide of Bosnian Muslims. Slobodan Milosevic, a Serbian, took over in the late 1980s. Bosnia, a predominantly Muslim nation where the Serb minority made up barely 32% of the population, saw the beginning of ethnic cleansing in 1992.

After Bosnia declared its independence, Milosevic attacked Sarajevo, where Serb snipers killed civilians. The Serbs were gaining momentum while outgunning the Bosnian Muslims.

They forcibly repopulated entire towns after forcibly rounding up local Muslims, deporting men and boys to concentration camps, and committing acts of mass murder. Additionally, by using rape as a weapon against women and girls, Serbs terrorised Muslim families. The Serbs brutally killed about 200,000 Muslim citizens, and 200,000 of them fled, becoming refugees. The 1995 massacre at Srebrenica was deemed genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 2001.

The Srebrenica massacre was deemed to constitute genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Bosnia and Herzegovina (ICTY) on February 26, 2007. However, the ICJ found that, contrary to what the Bosnian government claimed, the Serbian government did not take part in a larger genocide on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war.


One of the most horrific crimes against humanity is genocide. The desire to entirely wipe out the targeted group makes genocide a crime on a distinct level from all other crimes against humanity. So, the biggest and gravest of all crimes against humanity is genocide. The natural right of an individual to exist is implied in cases of homicide, much as it is obvious that any national, racial, or religious group has a natural right to exist in cases of genocide as a crime.

Since, a genocide is an attempt to completely destroy a group; hence, it needs a well-coordinated plan of action. Genocide perpetrators and starters are rational theorists first and barbarians only second. The uniqueness of genocide stems solely from its purpose: the eradication of a group. It has nothing to do with the quantity of the murders, their brutality, or the resulting notoriety. As a result, legislation and strong action should be taken against genocide. The penalty must have a deterrent effect.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the requirements for genocide?

Ans. A national, ethnical, racial, or religious group must have been physically destroyed with the offenders' knowledge and consent in order for the act to be considered genocide. Both cultural destruction and merely dispersing a people are insufficient.

Q2. What happens if you do genocide twice?

Ans. After a genocide run, you sell your soul to do another run. The world is erased again after a second genocide run.

Updated on: 09-May-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started