Benedict Rogers: Preventing Genocide

Benedict Rogers, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Watch shares his thoughts on the prevention of genocide. 


When I heard that pupils at Hampton School are planning a ‘Genocide Prevention Week’, I was inspired and delighted. I want to congratulate you on this initiative and express my support.

Genocide is the crime of crimes. It is a specific, defined legal term that should never be used lightly. Raphael Lemkin coined the phrase and campaigned for the introduction of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

Genocide does not necessarily mean mass killing, though that can be a component of it. And it does not mean the total elimination of a group. It can include “causing serious bodily or mental harm; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to
prevent births; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” Crucially, it entails the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. To prove genocide, you have to prove intent, though intent can, of course, be inferred.

After the Armenian Genocide of 1915-17 and the Holocaust in the 1940s, the world witnessed genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia, and many would argue that currently genocide is being perpetrated against the Rohingyas in Myanmar and the Uyghurs in China. After every genocide, world leaders wring their hands and say “Never Again” – but every time it is “Never Again” all over again. I applaud those at Hampton School who are determined to raise awareness and mobilise action to stop these appalling atrocities in the world today, and prevent genocide in the future.


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