In the UN's Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court you'll find the definition of genocide,

Article 6 Genocide

For the purpose of this Statute, "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; [...]

It makes sense if you're trying "with intent to destroy [...] in part a ethnic, racial, or religious" group to utilize the term "genocide." But if one nation state's army declares war on another nation state's army and enters into open hostilities both will be actively trying to destroy at least a part of the other's national group (the enlisted armed combatants if nothing else).

Does that mean every war is genocide?


1 Answer 1



"Destroy", in the context of the crime of genocide, refers to elimination of the entire collective "nation" and not merely some people, even a significant number of people, who are part of that nation. The notion is that "Killing members of the group" together with the other means identified, leaves the group with no members if the attempt is successful (or at least, eliminates all but an insignificant number of members of the group).

Typically, a war is fought for control of territory, or people or resources in a territory, not to destroy the people of a nation and completely replace them.

  • "entire collective" seems to contradict "in whole or in part". In what way would you reconcile "intent [...] to kill in part" with your notion of "entire collective". Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 17:53
  • @EvanCarroll Fair, and yet, in practice, this is basically how it breaks down. Perhaps another way to think about it would be to say that if killing members of the nation is merely a means to an end (e.g. the end of controlling the territory) it isn't genocide, while it the whole point and purpose is to destroy a substantial share of the nation (an isolated murder is not genocide, even if it is a hate crime directed against the victim's nation), rather than some other end, it is genocide. I can't think of a case where the motive was to actually destroy only part of a nation.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 17:58
  • 4
    Example: The Holocaust was an attempt to annihilate a religious group, but the War during which it happened was mostly for the control of the Polish soil. The Holocaust was a genocide, but WW2 was not just fought to conduct it. The Holocaust is also the reason we even have article 6 formulated how it is.
    – Trish
    Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 20:11

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