Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
Historically, so-called “crimes against humanity” were limited to times of war, and by formal state actors. These crimes were punishable by international military tribunals, but were difficult to prosecute, as there was limited language or case law upon which to rely. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, and entering into force in 1951, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide finally codified genocide as a crime, and expanded the bases upon which individuals and states can be prosecuted. Perhaps most importantly, defining an act as “genocide” compels all governments to act. By requiring that states include the prohibition of genocide in their respective constitutions, it therefore compels members of the global community to act when genocide occurs.
Perhaps most compelling are Articles 2, 3, and 4, which define genocide, provide punishable offenses, and declare that individuals, public officials or rulers. No longer would governments of heads of state be immune for their actions.
While the Convention is written in the strongest terms, the global community has had considerable difficulty declaring specific incidents as “genocide,” and relying instead on the carefully worded “acts of genocide.”
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
Adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948.
The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of
war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.
In the present Convention, genocide means 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.
The following acts shall be punishable:
• (a) Genocide;
• (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
• (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
• (d) Attempt to commit genocide;
• (e) Complicity in genocide.
Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3 shall be punished,
whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.
The Contracting Parties undertake to enact, in accordance with their respective Constitutions, the
necessary legislation to give effect to the provisions of the present Convention and, in particular,
to provide effective penalties for persons guilty of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated
in Article 3.
Persons charged with genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3 shall be tried by a
competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed, or by such
international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties
which shall have accepted its jurisdiction.
Genocide and the other acts enumerated in Article 3 shall not be considered as political crimes
for the purpose of extradition.
The Contracting Parties pledge themselves in such cases to grant extradition in accordance with
their laws and treaties in force.
Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such
action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention
and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3.
Disputes between the Contracting Parties relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment
of the present Convention, including those relating to the responsibility of a State for genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3, shall be submitted to the International Court of
Justice at the request of any of the parties to the dispute.
The present Convention, of which the Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish texts are
equally authentic, shall bear the date of 9 December 1948.
The present Convention shall be open until 31 December 1949 for signature on behalf of any
Member of the United Nations and of any non-member State to which an invitation to sign has
been addressed by the General Assembly.
The present Convention shall be ratified, and the instruments of ratification shall be deposited
with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
After 1 January 1950, the present Convention may be acceded to on behalf of any Member of the
United Nations and of any non-member State which has received an invitation as aforesaid.
Instruments of accession shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Any Contracting Party may at any time, by notification addressed to the Secretary-General of the
United Nations, extend the application of the present Convention to all or any of the territories
for the conduct of whose foreign relations that Contracting Party is responsible.
On the day when the first twenty instruments of ratification or accession have been deposited, the
Secretary-General shall draw up a proces-verbal and transmit a copy of it to each Member of the
United Nations and to each of the non-member States contemplated in Article 11.
The present Convention shall come into force on the ninetieth day following the date of deposit
of the twentieth instrument of ratification or accession.
Any ratification or accession effected subsequent to the latter date shall become effective on the
ninetieth day following the deposit of the instrument of ratification or accession.
The present Convention shall remain in effect for a period of ten years as from the date of its coming into force.
It shall thereafter remain in force for successive periods of five years for such Contracting Parties as have not denounced it at least six months before the expiration of the current period.
Denunciation shall be effected by a written notification addressed to the Secretary-General of the
If, as a result of denunciations, the number of Parties to the present Convention should become less than sixteen, the Convention shall cease to be in force as from the date on which the last of these denunciations shall become effective.
A request for the revision of the present Convention may be made at any time by any Contracting Party by means of a notification in writing addressed to the Secretary-General.
The General Assembly shall decide upon the steps, if any, to be taken in respect of such request.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall notify all Members of the United Nations and the non-member States contemplated in Article 11 of the following:
• (a) Signatures, ratifications and accessions received in accordance with Article 11;
• (b) Notifications received in accordance with Article 12;
• (c) The date upon which the present Convention comes into force in accordance with Article 13;
• (d) Denunciations received in accordance with Article 14;
• (e) The abrogation of the Convention in accordance with Article 15;
• (f) Notifications received in accordance with Article 16.
The original of the present Convention shall be deposited in the archives of the United Nations.
A certified copy of the Convention shall be transmitted to all Members of the United Nations and to the non-member States contemplated in Article 11.
The present Convention shall be registered by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the
date of its coming into force.