Ця стаття також доступна українською мовою тут.
Since the start of the full-blown Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, world leaders have used statements to convey their outrage and their views on the nature of Russia’s violations of international law. In particular, the question of “genocide” has sparked debate on the meaning and use of the term and its applicability to the case of Ukraine. Some leaders have unequivocally called Russian violence in Ukraine a genocide, while others have refrained.
In order to shed light on the global view of the issue of genocide designation in Ukraine, we have gathered all relevant public statements by State leaders or officials, dating from the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, 2022 to the present (readers are invited to submit any that we may have missed here). This resource tracks statements made in U.N. bodies, such as the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the Human Rights Council; comments or statements from government leaders and heads of state on the subject; and official resolutions and statements from legislative bodies.
In these statements, it is not always clear whether officials are referring to the legally defined crime of genocide, or if they are employing a broader meaning of the term. The legal definition of “genocide” comes from Article II of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention):
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
(This definition is also replicated in the treaty for the International Criminal Court.)
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has interpreted this definition narrowly, emphasizing the need to establish perpetrators’ specific genocidal intent, to the complete exclusion of other motives. Notably, the Convention’s definition of genocide excludes “cultural genocide”—i.e., the annihilation of a group’s identity by attacking cultural symbols, traditions, language, etc.—even though many commentators may use “genocide” more broadly to include such attacks. In fact, Raphael Lemkin, the Polish lawyer who coined the term “genocide,” intended to include cultural genocide in his original definition. Therefore, government leaders may be using this broader meaning of genocide in their statements, instead of the narrower legal sense under the Genocide Convention.
Moreover, while official statements generally register in the frame of law, it is not always clear from the statement itself whether the speaker intends the words to track the Convention’s legal definition of genocide or instead a broader concept – an ambiguity that may be strategic. In the collected examples, some leaders explicitly note that their remarks reflect a personal opinion as opposed to a legal determination; in other cases, the leaders and officials are less transparent about their intent and the meaning they ascribe the term.
We hope that this collection will help to contextualize the current legal and policy debates on the use of the term “genocide” and the international processes for deploying this morally and legally weighty term.