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Introducing Upcoming Blog Symposium on the Genocide Convention

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Editor’s note: Starting this afternoon, the blog will host a symposium arising out of the Nottingham International Law and Security Centre conference to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Genocide Convention.

On 9 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in response to the Holocaust. It was designed to prevent and punish ‘acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group’. At present, 150 states have ratified this treaty in the hope that current and future generations would not have to experience such heinous atrocities as committed during the Second World War.

Over the past seventy years, the legal concept of genocide has had time to evolve and mature. States and the international community have been given the impetus to prevent, prosecute and punish genocide to deliver on their historic promise that it would happen ‘never again’. The recent 70th anniversary of the Genocide Convention inspires reflection on its development and critical assessment of its legacy.

The Nottingham International Law and Security Centre, co-directed by Professors Mary Footer and Nigel White, organised and sponsored an interdisciplinary conference to mark the ‘70th Anniversary of the Genocide Convention’ in November 2018. In three panels, the participants focused on the conceptualisation of genocide, jurisdictional matters and universality, and responsibility. Three of the best papers, one for each panel, were then selected for this small blog symposium on EJIL: Talk!.

The first post, by Maja Munivrana Vajda, considers the advantages and drawbacks of the codification of the crime of genocide, dealing with the interpretative dilemmas of a definition that has remained unchanged for seventy years. Vajda engages with the tensions between conceptualisations of genocide as ‘the crime of crimes’, or alternatively as a redundant crime, advocating for an interpretation which ensures structural coherence without changing the essence of the offence.

In the second post, Amina Adanan analyses the connection between Article VI of the Genocide Convention and universal jurisdiction. Adanan firstly focuses on the origins of universal jurisdiction and the Genocide Convention, in which universal jurisdiction was deliberately omitted. This is followed by an exploration of the progressive developments that led genocide to be subject to universal jurisdiction, from the Eichmann case to the ad hoc Tribunals and, more recently, the International Criminal Court. 

Finally, Marco Longobardo’s post questions the International Court of Justice’s characterisation of the duty to prevent genocide as an obligation of conduct. Drawing on Roberto Ago’s differentiation between obligations of conduct and obligations of result, Longobardo assesses the ICJ’s conclusions in the 2007 Decision on the Bosnia v Serbia case and attempts to explain the role of the event ‘genocide’ within the context of the duty to prevent such a crime.

These contributions traverse the contested landscape of genocide in the seventy years since international codification. They speak to the changing demands of the shifting international landscape, looking towards the evolution of the crime of genocide as they track its history. The Organising Committee of the Conference hopes that these posts will therefore encourage both reflection on seventy years of practice, and consideration of future of the crime in a changing global context.

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