Current Issue

Volume 77, Number 5

November 2002

In Whole or In Part: Group Rights, the Intent Element of Genocide, and the “Quantitative Criterion”

David Alonzo-Maizlish

In the 1990s, in the wake of large-scale massacres, the United Nations Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The statutes of these courts adopted the definition of genocide from the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention), which requires an “intent [by the accused] to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” to prove genocide. In practice, the tribunals have struggled to apply the intent requirement. The ICTR, in its first genocide conviction, ruled that intent may be inferred from certain presumptions of fact, including the general context of the acts in question and the nature and scale of atrocities. Later, the ICTY applied a “quantitative criterion” by ruling that any inference of genocidal intent requires that the accused’s actions affect a great number of people. In this Note, David Alonzo-Maizlish argues that, as a threshold for genocidal intent, the “quantitative criterion” contradicts the object and purpose of the definition of genocide in the Genocide Convention. By reviewing the theory and history of group rights and the Genocide Convention, Alonzo-Maizlish demonstrates that the quantitative element is incompatible with the group-held right to exist on which the concept of genocide is premised He concludes that the “quantitative criterion” is an obstacle to the development of a meaningful intent standard.