September 16, 2019
 In 2023-Definition of Genocide

Country: South Africa
Delegate Name: Fletcher Fahling

Topic: 2023-Definition of Genocide
Country: South Africa
Delegate Name: Fletcher Fahling
School: Mattawan High School

Genocide is one of the most despicable crimes defined by law today. Defined first by scholar Raphael Lemkin in response to the Holocaust and accepted by the UN shortly afterward, genocide is defined as specially as it is to reflect the uniqueness of this horrible crime. A strict, thoughtful, and complete definition of this crime and its consequences needs to be laid out by the international community because of the need to recognize, prevent, and punish it whenever it occurs. The Genocide Convention, adopted by the UN in 1948, built on Lemkin’s work and codified a definition of genocide, but many argue that this definition is broad and unclear, working against the goal of the UN to identify and punish cases of this crime.

South Africa ratified the Genocide Convention in 1998 (after the transition out of apartheid) just a couple years after the international community was horrified by the unconscionable genocide in Rwanda. This genocide should’ve been prevented or halted by the Genocide Convention but it wasn’t, showing a clear sign that the current legislation is not enough to ensure that crimes like this truly never happen again. Additionally, South Africa believes that the definition of genocide needs to be revisited because many questionable accusations of genocide have been arising, taking focus away from real events of crimes against humanity which deserve our attention. A more complete definition will not prevent people from misusing this incredibly weighty term, but it will allow for a clearer distinction of when this specific crime is taking place.

South Africa would support an amendment to the original Genocide Convention to clarify and specify the definition of genocide as well and strengthen the obligation of UN nations to prevent and punish genocide. Specifically, in line with Lemkin and modern scholars Abed, Chalk, and Johanssohn, clarity should be lent to how we define what groups can be victims of genocide and how we define and determine “intent.” South Africa, however, supports continuing to exclude so called cultural genocide from our definition of genocide, as this inclusion would expand the definition so much as to dilute its meaning and weight. Maintaining the furthering the significance and specificity of this term is a vital step to ensure the international community can continue its mission to prevent this devastating crime against humanity.

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