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The Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948, is one of the most important instruments of contemporary international law.
It was drafted in the aftermath of the Nuremberg trial to give flesh and blood to the well-known dictum of the International Military Tribunal, according to which 'Crimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced'.
At Nuremberg, senior state officials who had committed heinous crimes on behalf or with the protection of their state were brought to trial for the first time in history and were held personally accountable regardless of whether they acted in their official capacity.
The drafters of the Convention on Genocide crystallized the results of the Nuremberg trial and thus ensured its legacy. The Convention established a mechanism to hold those who committed or participated in the commission of genocide, the crime of crimes, criminally responsible. Almost fifty years before the adoption of the Rome Statute, the Convention laid the foundations for the establishment of the International Criminal Court. It also obliged its Contracting Parties to criminalise and punish genocide.
This book is a much-needed Commentary on the Genocide Convention. It analyses and interprets the Convention thematically, thoroughly covering every article, drawing on the Convention's travaux préparatoires and subsequent developments in international law. The most complex and important provisions of the Convention, including the definitions of genocide and genocidal acts, have more than one contribution dedicated to them, allowing the Commentary to explore all aspects of these concepts.
The Commentary also goes beyond the explicit provisions of the Convention to discuss topics such as the retroactive application of the Convention, its status in customary international law and its future.