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David Scheffer Defines Genocide

David Scheffer, United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues

Well genocide, of course, is defined by the 1948 Genocide Convention, and so that is the definition that we work with, and it’s a very well accepted definition. The United States is a full party to the Genocide Convention, so we work with that definition. And at its nub, it’s the intended action to eliminate, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. And there are various indicators within the convention that point you toward—to how that is accomplished. So we work with that definition; but I must emphasize that genocide, quite frankly, is the rare mega-crime that we deal with. Frankly, the more significant mega-crime that has to be dealt with on a daily basis by governments are crimes against humanity, and significant war crimes. And those fall below the actual definition of genocide, but they are nonetheless—can result in just as many, if not more, deaths than genocide can produce; and they are the more common types of crimes that erupt as conflicts are underway or as leaders seek to impose their power over their own population. They’re more apt to resort to those types of crimes then they are to genocide per se.