The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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This is an difficult and emotive subject. The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide defines genocide as 'any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or part, a national , ethical, racial or religious group: (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 part; (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.' This is a highly premissive definition (eg how small a part of that group? One person?) which goes well beyond the popular conception based on the Holocaust faced primarily by the Jews by the Nazis. In particular, people usually think primarily of genocide primarily in terms of mass killing in order to eliminate a particular group as completely as possible. A central issue of interpretation is 'intent': even if the sanctions are having the effect of destroying the Iraqi nation in whole or in part, the sanctions supporters deny that that is their intent (and indeed argue that they are trying to prevent such destruction). In the terms of the Convention, to say that the sanctions are genocidal in effect even if not in intent is just incoherent, as the Convention defines genocide in relation to intent. For analysis of the conceptual and legal relationship between 'genocide' and the increasingly widespread term 'ethnic cleansing', see Natan Lerner, 'Ethnic Cleansing' in Yoram Dinstein (ed.), Israeli Yearbook on Human Rights, 24, (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1995) 103-117 and Drazen Petrovic, 'Ethnic Cleansing - An Attempt at Methodology', European Journal of International Law (1994) 5: 342-59. The most important point in my view here is that whether or not one calls the sanctions genocidal is not an issue if indisputable fact but an irresolvable one of interpretation and values. My values and my interpretation lead me to not call the sanctions genocidal. I prefer to stick to 'crime against humanity'. But I do not think that that somehow closes the issue. It is perfectly understandable that some might decide that what is meant by genocide has changed or should change. Indeed, I am open to persuasion that this is so. There are good arguments on both sides of this. I hope that this is of some value. Best wishes Eric -- ------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Please do not send emails with attached files to the list *** Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html ***