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1948: The Genocide Convention Is Adopted

1948: The Genocide Convention Is Adopted

On October 14, 1950, the number of countries that signed the UN Genocide Convention surpassed the 20 necessary for the convention to come into effect, which it did in January 1951. Several delegates from signatory nations: front, from left: Korea; Haiti; Iran; France; Costa Rica; rear, from left: Assistant Secretary General for Legal Affairs; Secretary General; representative from Costa Rica; and Raphael Lemkin, the Convention's chief proponent.

Due in no small part to the efforts of Raphael Lemkin, the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was unanimously adopted on December 9, 1948. The Convention entered into force on January 12, 1951, after more than 20 countries from around the world ratified it.

The Convention defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with  "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such":

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 in part;
d. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
e. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Photo: US Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of United Nations.