Authored by: Paola Gaeta

Routledge Handbook of International Criminal Law

Print publication date:  November  2010
Online publication date:  November  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415552035
eBook ISBN: 9780203836897
Adobe ISBN: 9781136866685


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The destruction of, or the attempt to destroy entire groups—whether national, racial, religious, cultural, and so on—is by all evidence an ancient phenomenon in the history of mankind. However, the word ‘genocide’, which etymologically describes it, has only been coined in 1944 by the Polish lawyer R. Lemkin. 1 In just a few short years the term ‘genocide’ has spread and asserted itself as the authoritative description of an age-old behaviour. 2 The relatively modern construct of the term explains why the word ‘genocide’ itself, which is now commonly used also to describe the Holocaust of the Jews before and during World War II, cannot be located within the Statute of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (IMT), nor in its final judgment. 3 As a matter of fact, the Holocaust was punished by the IMT under the charges of extermination and persecution, which constituted two of the underlying offences of crimes against humanity. 4

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