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1 J. Int'l Crim. Just. 39 (2003)
National Courts Finally Begin to Prosecute Genocide, the Crime of Crimes

handle is hein.journals/jicj1 and id is 45 raw text is: Journal of International Criminal Justice 1, 1 © Oxford University Press, 2003.
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National Courts Finally Begin
to Prosecute Genocide, the
'Crime of Crimes'
William A. Schabas*
Abstract
The 1948 Genocide Convention contemplates prosecution by the national
courts of the territory where the crime took place, and by an international
criminal court. The drafters of the Convention meant to exclude universal
jurisdiction, although courts have since tended to interpret Article VI of the
Convention as being merely permissive, and in no way a prohibition of
universal jurisdiction. Finally, within the past decade, the national courts of the
territory where genocide was committed, other national courts and the
international tribunals created by the Security Council have undertaken genocide
prosecutions. Alongside the activities of the two ad hoc international tribunals,
national courts in Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo have
held trials based on the provisions of the Convention. The Rwandan trials now
number in the thousands, but those in the other jurisdictions have been
essentially symbolic. As for universal jurisdiction, the mere handful of genocide
prosecutions (for instance in Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium) show that it
can fill the gaps in the Convention. The problems appear to be political rather
than judicial.
Article VI of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,
adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1948, declares that genocide
prosecutions should take place before 'a competent tribunal of the State in the
territory of which the act was committed, or by such international penal tribunal as
may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties which shall have
accepted its jurisdiction'.' Until the 1990s, neither of these institutions showed any
*   Professor of Human Rights Law, National University of Ireland, Galway and Director, Irish Centre for
Human Rights.
1   (1951) 78 UNTS 277. On the Convention generally, see: W. A. Schabas, Genocide in International Law
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
Journal of International Criminal Justice  (2003), 39 -63

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