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The sanctions: a crime against humanity but not genocidal?

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 

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


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