What exactly constitutes genocide and when can the term be applied?
Thousands of Ukrainian children have been transferred to Russia from occupied territories in eastern Ukraine, reports say. Is this, as the government in Kyiv has claimed, an act of genocide? Defined as an intent to destroy a particular group of people, the term genocide was first coined amid the horrors of the Holocaust during the World War II.
The UN Genocide Convention states that everyone can be prosecuted and punished for genocide, including elected leaders. Article Two of the convention defines genocide as any acts 'committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.'
The International Criminal Court has a mandate to investigate and prosecute genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. According to its Statute, anyone who commits, orders, assists and even incites genocide can be prosecuted.
A separate court, the International Court of Justice at the Hague, deals with interstate disputes and can also rule that states are responsible for genocide. 'The problem with proving genocidal intent is that you’re likely not going to have perpetrators in court make some direct admission,' William Schabas, emeritus professor of International Law at Middlesex University in London and Leiden University told Deutsche Welle.
'So the courts have to infer the intent of the perpetrators based on their conduct. So you have to rely on circumstantial evidence. And the rule is that it has to be beyond reasonable doubt. That’s where it gets harder.'
The UN Genocide Convention does include the forcible transfer of children to another group, Schabas told, emphasizing that this is only genocide if it can be established beyond a reasonable doubt that a transfer was conducted with the intent to destroy a group physically and to the exclusion of any other reasonable explanation.
Read the article in the Deutsche Welle