Genocide. Crimes Against Humanity. What's the Difference?

Genocide. Crimes Against Humanity. What's the Difference?

Genocide. Crimes Against Humanity. What's the Difference?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Aug. 2 2001 4:02 PM

Genocide. Crimes Against Humanity. What's the Difference?

A United Nations war crimes tribunal convicted former Bosnian Serb Gen. Radislav Krstic of two counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity, and one count of war crimes, or "violations of the laws or customs of war." What's the legal definition of genocide? How does it differ from war crimes and crimes against humanity?

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When the Security Council established the tribunal that tried Krstic (officially, "The International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991"), it statutorily defined the crimes for which the war crimes tribunal had the power to prosecute.

Genocide was defined as committing any of five acts "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group." The five acts: 1) killing members of the group; 2) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; 3) deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the group's physical destruction; 4) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; 5) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. In addition to genocide, the tribunal is authorized to punish conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempted genocide, and complicity in genocide.

Crimes against humanity were defined as any of nine crimes directed against civilians during armed conflict: 1) murder; 2) extermination; 3) enslavement; 4) deportation; 5) imprisonment; 6) torture; 7) rape; 8) persecutions on political, racial, and religious grounds; 9) "other inhumane acts."

War crimes, or "violations of the laws or customs of war," include but aren't limited to: 1) using poisonous weapons or weapons calculated to cause unnecessary suffering; 2) wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity; 3) attack or bombardment of undefended towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings; 4) seizing, destroying, or willfully damaging historic monuments, works of art and science, or institutions dedicated to religion, charity, education, or the arts and sciences; 5) plunder of public or private property.

Explainer thanks Bob Vander Lugt of Vinson & Elkins and the International Criminal Tribunal for the formerYugoslavia Web site.