What is Genocide?

The first image above is from a drone and it shows the movement of Uighur Muslims. It featured on the Andrew Marr show on the BBC  

The second image shows the deportation of Jews during the Holocaust.

Following Global Reports on the Chinese treatment of Uighur Muslims and other minorities, we asked Professor Brian Brivati, formerly Professor of Human Rights at Kingston University and the founder of the first course in Comparative Genocide in the UK, if we could reprint his essay, What is Genocide? As the first of an analysis section feature on the position in international law of current Chinese policy. The essay was first published in the Dissent journal in 2007.

In my original essay, which you can read here,I argued that the central problem of Genocide in the contemporary world was not a question of definition. There is little problem with the definition of Genocide. It is clear and unambiguous: especially Article II which defines the crime:

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.

And Article III.
Article III
The following acts shall be punishable:
(a) Genocide;
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.

The allegations being made again China concern:

Forced sterlisation and contraception,

Forced Labour and forced separation of families,

Re-education camps – reported as long ago as 2018 on the BBC

Clearly what is occurring is Genocide. The group is being identified as a group, treated as a group and attacked as a group. The attack on this group covers four out of the five definitions of the intent to destroy.

But as I argued in 2007-8 on Darfur, the problem is not one of definition but of prevention. In the coming weeks the issues raised by these events will be analysed here and questions of sovereignty and the functioning of the international system will be analysed.