Students ended lesson two by looking at the definition of genocide contained in Article II of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the "Genocide Convention"). This lesson continues students' exploration of the Genocide Convention. There are several ways students can learn more about this treaty. Students could read “Negotiating the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” as well as the text of the Genocide Convention.
If time is limited, you might just have students read the convention, a fairly short document, either on their own or by assigning pairs of students to paraphrase particular articles. Of special importance are Articles I-VI. Below are examples of comprehension questions you might use to assess students' understanding of the Genocide Convention or to guide their reading of this text. Before reading the document, you may wish to review the concept of the United Nations. Here is a simple description you can use:
United Nations [UN]: An international organization made up of 192 countries whose purpose is to help countries work together to solve problems related to human rights, military conflicts, and economic development. The United Nations adopts treaties, resolutions, and conventions, and in doing so, establishes international law.
Genocide Convention Comprehension Questions
- Where in the Genocide Convention does it say that genocide is a crime under international law?
- True or False: Genocide is not against international law if it is committed in time of war.
- This treaty refers to "Contracting Parties." What does this mean?
- Which groups are protected under the Genocide Convention? Extension question: Which groups are not protected under the Genocide Convention?
- If a government killed members of an ethnic group accidentally-for example, if a state-sponsored nuclear reactor leaked and killed or maimed the community surrounding the reactor, which happen to be largely people of one ethnic group-would that constitute genocide according to this definition?
- Why do you think the drafters of this treaty include "forcibly transferring children of the group to another group" in the definition of genocide?
- If someone plans a genocide, but the plan fails, could this person still be punished under the terms of this treaty?
- True or False: The Genocide Convention only concerns the crimes committed by public officials, not private individuals.
- According to Article V, what must nations do as part of adopting this treaty? What does it mean "to enact, in accordance with their respective Constitutions, the necessary legislation to give effect to the provisions of the present Convention, and, in particular, to provide effective penalties for persons guilt of genocide..."?
- According to this treaty, who will judge cases involving crimes of genocide?
- Why might some countries be reluctant to sign the convention?
After students have a basic understanding of the Genocide Convention, you might ask them what they know about its effectiveness in preventing and stopping genocide. You might refer students to the reading, “International Law in the Age of Genocide”, which addresses this issue.
The purpose of the rest of this lesson is to help students consider why genocides have continued to occur-in Cambodia, in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda, and now in Sudan-despite having an international treaty designed to prevent it.