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The Meaning of the Word “Destroy” and its Implications for the Wider Understanding of the Concept of Genocide

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses that the essence of the legal definition of genocide is captured in the word "destroy" - part of mental element of the crime - , namely, that an act is committed with the specific intent to destroy a group. A review of recent jurisprudence on the meaning of the word "destroy" will indicate to what extent, if at all, the definition of genocide, as applied by international judges, has moved beyond its original conceptualization. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was a pioneer in that it was the first international criminal tribunal to apply the definition of genocide to a specific case resulting in a conviction. The ICTR Trial Chambers thus emphasized that the word "destroy" should be understood as "the material destruction of a group either by physical and biological means and not the destruction of the national, linguistic, religious, cultural or other identity of a particular group.".

Keywords:biological destruction; Genocide Convention; International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)



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