International and Comparative Law Quarterly

Articles

The Genocide Definition in the Jurisprudence of the Ad Hoc Tribunals

Guglielmo Verdiramea1

a1 University of Nottingham.

The permanence of the genocide definition1 over more than five decades is remarkable considering how much criticism has been directed against it since the adoption of the Genocide Convention in 1948.2 The existence of a stable internationally agreed definition of genocide presents indubitable advantages, particularly if compared with the lasting uncertainties in the definition of other international crimes, such as crimes against humanity. However, the genocide definition is also characterised by a number of problematic aspects and unresolved interpretative questions, some of which have been addressed in the decisions of the ad hoc Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.3 Divergent approaches to the mens rea requirement, to the definition of the four protected groups against whom genocide can be committed, or to the identification of acts that constitute genocide had been confined to an exclusively academic ambit until not long ago, but can now be determinative of an acquittal or conviction. With the exception of one decision by the ICTY,4 all other judgments on genocide have come from the ICTR, in whose custody are some of the most prominent members of the interim government and of the militias accused of having organised and carried out the 1994 Rwandan genocide.5