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Genocide is the intentional destruction of a people — usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious group — in whole or in part. Raphael Lemkin coined the term in 1944, combining the Greek word γένος (genos, "race, people") with the Latin suffix -caedo ("act of killing").
In 1948, the United Nations Genocide Convention defined genocide as any of five "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such." These five acts were: killing members of the group, causing them serious bodily or mental harm, imposing living conditions intended to destroy the group, preventing births, and forcibly transferring children out of the group. Victims are targeted because of their real or perceived membership of a group, not randomly.
The Political Instability Task Force estimated that 43 genocides occurred between 1956 and 2016, resulting in about 50 million deaths. The UNHCR estimated that a further 50 million had been displaced by such episodes of violence up to 2008. Genocide is widely considered to signify the epitome of human evil. As a label, it is contentious because it is moralizing, and has been used as a type of moral category since the late 1990s.
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On any ranking of crimes or atrocities, it would be difficult to name an act or event regarded as more heinous. Genocide arguably appears now as the most serious offense in humanity’s lengthy—and, we recognize, still growing—list of moral or legal violations.
Genocide is an action-oriented model designed for moral condemnation, prevention, intervention or punishment. In other words, genocide is a normative, action-oriented concept made for the political struggle, but in order to be operational it leads to simplification, with a focus on government policies.
... genocide has become the yardstick, the gold standard for identifying and measuring political evil in our times. The label 'genocide' confers moral distinction on its victims and indisputable condemnation on its perpetrators.
The term 'genocide' is also contentious in that it has an inherent moral judgment, ... one that privileges the morality of the victims over the perpetrators.
In the late 1990s, the word 'genocide' began to be used as a type of moral category, taking on a symbolic quality as the crime of crimes, the darkest of humanity's inhumanity.