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Causing Bodily Harm to Members of the Group’: Rhetorical Phrase or Effective Tool for Prevention?

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by Caroline I. Fournet
ECIA Fellow
Global Dialogue - Volume 15 ● Number 1 ● Winter/Spring 2013—Genocide - Global Dialogue

The UN Genocide Convention has been criticised for allegedly providing insufficient guidance on how to prevent the crime it addresses. Yet, as this paper by Caroline Fournet, ECIA Fellow, proposes to argue, one of the acts it proscribes, that of “causing bodily harm to members of the group”, could serve as an early warning sign of genocide and so assist in the task of prevention. Although the Genocide Convention does not define the act of causing serious bodily harm, the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and for the Former Yugoslavia have considered it repeatedly. Analysis of these judicial findings shows that the act, once qualified, “could contribute to the fulfilment of the two promises made by the UN Genocide Convention itself, namely, the prevention and punishment of the crime”.

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