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J.I.L.P. Online Forum

The Trouble of Proving “Genocidal Intent”: The Modern Rohingya Crisis in Historical and Political Context

Essay by Ash­ley S. Kin­seth

On the heels of the Holo­caust, the then-nascent Unit­ed Nations Gen­er­al Assem­bly adopt­ed the Con­ven­tion on the Pre­ven­tion and Pun­ish­ment of the Crime of Genocide—its first-ever inter­na­tion­al human rights treaty. As such, the Con­ven­tion is arguably the most sacred text in mod­ern inter­na­tion­al law—but also the most dis­re­gard­ed. The rea­sons for this indif­fer­ence are large­ly polit­i­cal, yet typ­i­cal­ly explained away under the guise of law: gov­ern­ments rou­tine­ly argue that it is impos­si­ble to know whether mass atroc­i­ties were inten­tion­al, as is required in the legal def­i­n­i­tion of geno­cide. The present Rohingya cri­sis, for which ample evi­dence of geno­ci­dal intent has emerged, pro­vides a clear exam­ple of this bla­tant dis­re­gard for inter­na­tion­al law. As one of the worst geno­cides in the past cen­tu­ry con­tin­ues to unfold in Myan­mar, near­ly all states sit on their hands.

51 J. Int’l L. & Pol. Online Forum 1 (2019)

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