The term ‘ethnic cleansing’ surfaced in the context of the 1990’s conflict in former Yugoslavia. It has been acknowledged in judgements and indictments of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and used in resolutions of the UN Security Council and the General Assembly.Ethnic cleansing has been defined by a UN Commission of experts as ‘rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of given groups from an area.’ It is ‘a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.’ (click on the title to learn more).
According to international law, genocide means ‘acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious groups’. The term was coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent who led the campaign to have genocide recognised as an international crime. According to Lemkin, a key component of genocide is ‘criminal intent to destroy or cripple permanently a human group.’ Victims are deliberately targeted not as individuals but because of their membership of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. Acts of genocide Israel is perpetrating 3 of the 5 acts that fall under the legal definition of genocide in Gaza (click on the title to learn more).