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Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime

Supporters of the second objection have argued that an approach that focuses solely on intent ignores the “structural violence” of social systems in which vast political and economic disparities can lead to the total marginalization and even extermination of particular groups. Defenders of the intentionality clause respond that it is necessary for differentiating genocide from other forms of mass killings and for devising effective strategies to prevent genocide.

The debates between supporters and opponents of the genocide convention have important policy implications, which can be seen in the discussion of the connection between war crimes and genocide. The two concepts differ principally in how the targeted group is defined and identified. Whereas the targeted group in the case of war crimes is identified by its status as an enemy, the targeted group in the case of genocide is identified by its racial, national, ethnic, or religious characteristics. The chief indication that the targeting is based on enemy status as opposed to racial, ethnic, or religious identity is primarily the behaviour of the group’s opponent once the conflict has ended. If the attacks against the targeted group cease, then the (probable) commission of war crimes is the issue at stake. If the attacks persist, however, the commission of genocide can legitimately be alleged. The importance attributed to post-conflict conduct reflects the realization that genocide can and does take place during wartime, usually under cover of war-related activities. The distinction between war crimes and genocide is of the utmost importance in any discussion of preventive action. In cases of war crimes, the termination of conflict would suffice, and no additional measures of protection would be necessary. In cases of genocide, the termination of conflict would necessitate the adoption of protective measures to ensure the group’s survival.