Groningen Journal of International Law

International Law Under Construction


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Duty and semantics: Can legal responsibility under the Genocide Convention be avoided by circumventing use of the term “genocide”?

Narissa Ramsundarnarissa.ramsundar@canterbury.ac.uk

I. Introduction

Today, with the rise of live media broadcasting, journalists can report on the threat of genocide as events unfold on the ground. The instantaneous transmission of news may raise state awareness that a genocide is imminent. So far, there have been examples whereby state responses to such reports have tended to downplay the intensity of the killings. This was prominently demonstrated in the responses to the Rwandan genocide that occurred in April 1994. President Clinton in a radio address on the 30th of April, 1994, some 3 weeks after the genocide spoke of “mass killings of civilians in Rwanda.” According to Samantha Power, [p. 359]. The Rwanda example is by no means unique, and states’ mistaken belief that circumvention of the term “genocide” somehow avoids legal responsibility under the Genocide Convention (GC) and other instruments proscribing Genocide remains persistent. Continue reading