Genocide convention: Preventing genocide

News: Speeches of Yati Narsinghanand have ignited the debate of hate speech. The Speeches called for violence against Muslims, a clear threat to minorities. This also goes against India’s international legal obligations like the convention on prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide of 1948, which has been signed and ratified by India.

What is genocide convention?

The word Genocide is credited to Raphael Lemkin who also campaigned for its international treaty. General assembly resolution 96(I) against genocide was co-sponsored by Cuba and India. This resulted in a convention against genocide in 1948 which came into effect in 1951 with more than 150 states party to the convention. Its provisions include:

1. Article I: prevent genocide and punish genocide, 2. Article V: enact legislation to give effect to the convention, effective penalties for those guilty of the crime, 3. Article VI: try those charged with genocide in a competent tribunal.

What is the international legal development related to the genocide convention?

Recently, Gambia initiated proceedings against Myanmar in International Court of Justice. It raised a key point that even though a state may not be affected, it can still raise the issue of genocide against each other state.

Also read: ICJ orders Myanmar to prevent Rohingya genocide

The ICJ had previously addressed the question of violation of genocide convention in Bosnia and Herzegovina v Serbia and Montenegro. In the final judgement, The court found a breach of the convention by Serbia.

What is the status of the genocide convention in India?

Instead of a key sponsor of the General Assembly resolution condemning genocide, India still has not enacted any legislation in accordance with Article VI of the Genocide Convention. Also, India is in violation of its international obligation to criminalise genocide within its domestic law per Articles V, VI and VII.

Indian Penal Code provisions relating to rioting, unlawful assembly and ‘promoting enmity between different groups’ do not incorporate the basic elements of the crime of genocide.

The convention calls for prevention and creating the conditions in which such hate speech and other associated acts are not allowed to flourish, which may facilitate the commission of genocide. Indian laws do not consist of this key aspect of the Genocide Convention.

Given these, it is important to incorporate legal provisions against genocide into domestic laws.

Source: This post is based on the article “Preventing genocide” published in The Hindu on 19th January 2022.

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