What is the Genocide Convention?
Last Updated: Jul 06, 2022     Views: 7051

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention) is an international law instrument that codifies genocide as a crime under International Law. It was adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1948. Currently, over 140 states are party to the convention.

Article II of the convention defines the crime of genocide to mean any of the following acts "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.​" 

The Convention states that genocide is a crime that could be committed in time of war as well as in time of peace. Punishable acts are listed in Article III.

The negotiation process was initiated with General Assembly resolution 96 (I) of 11 December 1946, which requested the Economic and Social Council to prepare a draft convention to be submitted to the next regular session of the General Assembly.

History of the Genocide Convention

  • In 1947, the Secretary-General, assisted with the Division of Human Rights and three experts of International Criminal Law, presented a first draft convention accompanied with a commentary (E/447).

  • In 1948, Economic and Social Council resolution 117 (VI) established the Ad Hoc Committee on Genocide, which created a second draft Convention with commentaries (E/794).

  • From September to December 1948, the Sixth Committee considered this second draft at the third session of the General Assembly and recommended to the General Assembly for adoption an amended version of the draft convention (A/760, p.9).

  • On 9 December 1948, at its 3rd session (A/PV.179), the General Assembly adopted the Genocide Convention by unanimous vote (A/RES/260(III)). It was opened for signature on 11 December 1948 and entered into force on 12 January 1951.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the Depositary of the agreement. Therefore, the text and status of the agreement, including the signatories and parties to the treaty, can be found on the UN Treaty Information website, in the Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary-General (MTDSG) database, otherwise known as the Status of Treaties database.


Disclaimer: answers are prepared by library staff using resources available at the time of writing. This site may include links and references to third-party databases, websites, books and articles, this does not imply endorsement by the United Nations.


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