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Deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, religious, political, or ethnic group. The term was coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-born jurist who served as an adviser to the U.S. Department of War during World War II, to describe the premeditated effort to destroy a population (seeHolocaust). In 1946 the UN General Assembly declared genocide a punishable crime. By this declaration, genocide by definition may be committed by an individual, group, or government, against one's own people or another, in peacetime or in wartime. This last point distinguishes genocide from crimes against humanity, whose legal definition specifies wartime. Suspects may be tried by a court in the country where the act was committed or by an international court (seeInternational Criminal Court). An example of genocide more recent than the Holocaust is the slaughter of Tutsi people by the Hutu in Rwanda in the 1990s.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on genocide, visit Britannica.com.