The law of genocide


Genocide is the intended, planned and systematic annihilation of a group either by a government, institution, religious, tribal or ethnic, groups. In the book the laws of genocide, the author describes how law can be used and has been used to fight hate related incidences, throughout history, he argues that we should confront hate from different perspective, that is from politician, jurist, educators scholars and citizens point of view, the author further points, the importance of applying the tool of reason in courts to comprehend and understand the concept of genocide. In this book thus the author gives historical accounts of genocides such as the Nazi, Bosnia, Serbs, the Rwanda’s, Tutsis and Hutus, and how law has been applied in understanding the elements of genocide


The term genocide came into use later after the world war two, often referring to the holocaust incidence which was perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews. Thus according to international law, genocide refers to the systematic and intentional annihilation or destruction of a group of people by either the government, religious, ethnic, tribal or racial group. Though this crime has been repeatedly perpetrated in the history of mankind, its first usage came into being while describing the intentional and mass slaughter of Jews by Nazis in the concentration camps.

Based on these facts, the author of the law of genocide tries to unearth the true aspect of genocide and extend to which we should or rather the international community should regard the controversial issue of hatred, which culminates into genocide.

Author’s arguments

The book the Law of Genocide by Simon W Thomas has been described as a normative and descriptive account of what constitutes genocide, with historical perspective based on case studies. The book defines how the law applies their off and how it improves understanding and subsequently expresses precisely ways of dealing with global injustices perpetrated against humanity. According to the author the context of genocide is wider than it’s normally thought in that, the international community and organizations should make use of the tools of reason if it’s to confront the ever present and increasing, hate related crimes and violence.

The author also ingeniously describes how we should confront hate related violence. For us thus to comprehend and confront hate, it’s wise to confront it from different angles for instance as politicians we should perhaps fight hatred with the same. As educators the author proposes that we ought to bring out, in seminars, schools, and books, the causes of hatred and the repercussions on the community.

Also the stories of the survivors should be told. As scholars we need to bring into life the concept of evil. As concerned people we need to either vehemently denounce or ignore this aspect of hate and finally the author argues as humanitarians’ jurists, we should charge and subsequently try individuals actively involved in hate campaigns against any group based on religious or ethnic affiliations.

With examples of genocides committed throughout history, the author tries to, criticize the way the international community especially the courts have continued to regard cases associated to the killing of innocent people, the author thus argues that, the courts provide the best mechanisms for applying what the author calls the tools of reason, in judging any act of injustice against humanity. In this situation Reason should use the given laws as tools to fight genocide or other hate related injustices.

What the author proposes is, joining both philosophy and reason in this fight. Simon (2007) states that law for long has made it possible for the jurists to apply both reason and ethics in fighting injustice through international public law, which recognizes war crimes, crime against humanity and genocide as injustices against humanity.

Also in this book a great account of what constitute genocide is provided, according to the author mass killing is the main act that defines genocide. He father states cogently ways in which we ought to interpret the laws of genocide. For instance according to criminal law, prosecutors rely on act and intent. However Simon (2007) argues, “that since the element for the crime of genocide includes act and intent, but international Jurists add or perhaps specify more explicitly, some additional ingredients as well. Besides Act and intent we propose that for the crime of genocide, prosecutors need to prove beyond Something about motive, victims and perpetrators” (pg 4)

What the author argues is that rather than prosecute the architects of this injustice based on criminal laws, international laws are needed to prosecute, this perpetrators. This laws if implemented need to specify the elements of genocide as consisting of victims, motive, and perpetrators. Victims are the targeted group while; the motive is what prompts either the government organizations or religious groups to commit the atrocious act of this injustice.

The perpetrators are the pioneers or the architects of the crime. Given the numerous acts of genocide committed in 20th century, the author tries to ascertain that for any justice to be achieved for the survivors and victims of any form of genocide, the international community need to take seriously the implements constituting this barbaric act.

Also Simon further argues that the international community has always treated genocide as an act of individual responsibility, in that ,the courts have  only been prosecuting individuals who are believed to have committed the atrocities, however the author argues that by prosecuting individuals only, the international community fail to destroy the core aspect of genocide since according to him genocide is based on organizational policies but not individual motive “organizational and not individuals are the primary agents of the crime of genocide.”(Simon,2007,

4).Thus he argues that, by allowing organizations to go scoot free after committing such crimes ,the international community has enabled the organizations to continue wreaking havoc ,even after some of its members have been charged.

Thus the author argues that, the international community need to have a common understanding of genocide if it’s to establish a global ethics and legal order. It’s the statement of the author that only the Nuremberg tribunal was able to convict any organization responsible for genocide, in that it completely illegalized and disbanded the notorious Nazi organization. However since then no individual organization has been convicted. For instance in the late 90’s Rwandans slaughtered each other based on ethnic affiliations. Despite thousands of people having been killed, the organizations have not been tried, living some militias affiliated to the groups to continue the atrocities.

Thus the author finally defines the elements of genocide as including, the criminal act, which is the massive killing of individuals, criminal intent which is based on organizational policies of a group, motive which is the hatred that an institution harbors, the victims which are the individuals or the groups targeted and finally the criminal agent which is the principle organization intending to perpetrate the criminal act.

Based on this, the author argues that the international laws concerning genocide should be modeled on those aspects rather than on just intent and act. By so doing the international community will thus, be able to confront genocide with laws which ensure, that the perpetrators are brought into book be it national government, organizations or religious groups.

The author again tries to show disparities in the international criminal court popularly known as for prosecuting acts of genocide. According to the author, the ICC headquarter enjoys tremendous financial backing whereas its subsidiary in Tanzania is marred by lack of proper mechanisms. This according to the author sends a message of lack of international commitment to eradicate the vices of hatred against minorities and underprivileged groups. However the establishment of such courts and tribunals according to the author is a right step towards the progress of humanity and development of justice and order.

By writing this book the author intended to inform the readers about historical cases of genocide. The writers states “it is sad but true that human kind understands itself partly by crimes it knows itself to be capable of”(Simon,2007,3).Thus by describing the Armenian massacre ,the soviet famine, the Bosnia and Kosovo massacres and the Rwandan genocide the writer sought to make us understand the evils of hatred and the repercussions of such hatred to the whole civilization in this case, humanity should denounce such evils and rather learn to live together as human beings but not as enemies.

The author states that though the aspect of thinking about the global injustices is depressing to the readers and the society, studying these barbaric acts gives both human and individual intuitive knowledge and understanding of such atrocities. (Simon, 2007)

This books has defined genocide in its elements and has given the international community a legal frame work of legislating and implementing policies that aim at compacting the manslaughter of innocent civilians I strongly believe this book has given organizations intending to condemn to death individual during peace time to death just on basis of their affiliation a thought of mind. Though not precisely intended for such organization, the views expressed by the author are worthy implementing.

Book’s success

Whether some of the legal and legislative recommendations will be implemented remains to be seen, however there is strong evidence to indicate future consideration of this issues by the international criminal court which is based in Hague. In this book, the author brings out a detailed and informative scholarly and legal advice that I believe is bond to change individual and governments views of genocide as the greatest crime against humanity. Thus I do agree with the author’s insistence that organizations be charged for atrocities against humanity. For instance the democratic republic of Congo has often been marred by acts of crime against humanities amounting to genocide.

Despite all this atrocities, no action has been taken against such groups. Instead only warrants for arrest of the leaders have been issued and not disbandment of the militia groups. Also in Sudan the Darfur region has been at centre of intense international attention, over the killing of innocent civilian’s .For this I strongly believe the principles of the author are worthy adopting into our legal institutions including the international organisations such as the ICC and any other tribunal dealing with such atrocities.

Another aspect is the recognition of educators and scholars in tackling the problems associated with genocide. By recommending that the stories of genocide be given a wider audience, through telling stories of survivors we are able to cultivate in the society, a strong disgust for any hate related violence and hence be able to avoid repetition of such atrocities. For instance the holocaust incidences, made the world understand the repercussions of harboring such ideologies; that are based on hatred.

I believe we as humans have responsibility to respect the right of other individuals. In that we should value each other as humans, and thus any form of hatred should vehemently be denounced. We hold it to our generation to denounce and subsequently reject any hate ideologies that aim at brewing violence. Thus I do agree with the author that our laws should be implemented by every sovereign state and international community. However the issue of fighting hate with hate is unacceptable in the sense that by sowing hate as politicians we have a lot to loose.


This book offers an informed understanding on how laws together with Reason can be used to fight genocide. it prescribes what ought to be done by the legal system to stem out injustices, thus it’s a highly recommendable book which gives reason for denouncing and fighting  hate related injustices.


Simon, W, T (2007). The Laws of Genocide: Prescription for a Just World. New York, Praeger p,3,4