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Larissa van den Herik: The term genocide in political usage is problematic

After Zelensky and Putin, President Biden has also used the word ‘genocide’. We should not use the term genocide too loosely, says Professor of Public International Law Larissa van den Herik.

‘You cannot use this term in a vacuum, that way you get a “double life” of the term genocide, where it is used without first thoroughly investigating and establishing the facts’, says Van den Herik in Dutch newspaper Trouw.

Since 1948, the United Nations has used an official definition of the term genocide, as laid down in the Genocide Convention. States and individuals can be held liable under international law for ‘acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, religious or racial group’.

At this point, it is important to await the results of the investigations. Genocide is not easy to prove. ‘It is particularly difficult to prove intent to destroy a group as such’, says Van den Herik.

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