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Genocide International Response in the 20th Century Raphael Lemkin Jewish legal scholar working for the Polish government. Became interested in the case of Soghomon Tehlirian 1933 Madrid Conference—warned against Nazism and attempted to persuade international lawyers to adopt a law against genocide 1944—first to use the term genocide in book on Nazis laws and policies 1946—persuaded U.N. to adopt a resolution banning genocide The Principle of State Sovereignty Countries have been slow to adopt an international ban on genocide because they wish to protect the principle of state sovereignty. State sovereignty is the principle that states have absolute authority to govern themselves free of outside interference. Nuremburg Trials After WWII, Nazis leaders were put on trial by the international community for committing crimes against humanity. This set three important principles that weakened state sovereignty as a principle for protecting leaders who violate international safeguards for human rights 1st principle: Any person (even a political leader) who commits a crime under international law is responsible for his actions 2nd principle: The fact that one’s own state does not impose penalties for acts considered crimes under international law does not protect people who violate the international law 3rd principle: Acting under the orders of one’s superiors does not protect a person from prosecution under international law 1948 U.N. Treaty Banning Genocide In the aftermath of Nazi Germany, the member nations of the U.N. signed a treaty in which all agreed that genocide should be an international crime. However, the U.S. Senate did not ratify the treaty, arguing that it contains unclear language, and reference to “mental harm” might be used to prosecute treatment of African or Native Americans in the U.S. 1986: The U.S. Senate finally ratifies the treaty President Reagan created an outcry when he paid respects at a cemetery in Bitburg, Germany, where Nazis S.S. had been buried. In order to assure Jewish American voters of his sympathies, he successfully pushed the Senate into ratifying the U.N. treaty banning genocide. Further Precedents Weakening State Sovereignty to Protect Groups Between the 1st and 2nd Gulf War, the international community intervened in Iraq to protect Kurds from the Iraqi army In 1999, a U.S.-led international force went to war against Serbia in order to protect Albanians in Kosovo from genocide.
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