This low incidence of intervention seems at odds with the agreement entered into by most countries in the Genocide Convention of 1948 wherein they committed, under Art 1, “to prevent and to punish”2 the crime of genocide. Could this failure to intervene in the genocidal activities of sovereign states be rooted in the inability of the human rights movement to propel international action? The case of Darfur provides a timely opportunity to examine the truth of that theory.
It is imperative that a definition of genocide be explored and established first since much of the controversy surrounding international inaction today are in many ways related to the very definition and application of the term “genocide”. As is best exemplified by Shelly’s wordplay above, the definition and use of the term genocide has been muddled by political stratagems which seem to follow an unspoken rule to never use the term at all costs. Instead of the term “genocide”, terms such as “ethnic violence”, “ethnic cleansing”, “acts of genocide”, and “civil war” have become the trademark of the politically-savvy. It would be as though by avoiding the term genocide, a humanitarian crisis such as Rwanda or Darfur would cease to be genocide and transform into something more palatable to the taste. We must thus resort back to the definition of genocide agreed upon by the same international community before they actually found themselves bound to make good on such definition. In the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the following definition is clearly detailed.