This chapter examines whether cultural genocide should be incorporated into the wider definition of genocide by putting forth arguments for and against and examining the reasons why it has not been incorporated yet.
Khushboo Chauhan, Assistant Professor, Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.
The German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine wrote, “Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings,” thereby famously laying bare the link between the mass slaughter of human beings and attacks on cultural heritage around the world. Raphael Lemkin had envisioned the crime of genocide as consisting of not only the physical or biological intentional destruction of a particular group of people but also the destruction of its cultural heritage. In the initial drafts of the Genocide Convention, one can easily see that Lemkin wanted the definition of genocide to include cultural genocide.
In fact, the ad hoc criminal tribunals considered the systematic and intentional destruction of cultural heritage as evidence of the specific intent to destroy a group. Cultural heritage is as much a reflection of the identity of a group as its physical or biological features, if not more. There are numerous examples where perpetrators have not only physically tried to annihilate a group but have tried to further obliterate any signs of its existence on this planet by intentionally destroying its cultural heritage.
This chapter aims, firstly, to understand the term “cultural genocide” by considering it a crime against persons and not solely against property. Secondly, it will examine whether it should be incorporated into the wider definition of genocide by putting forth arguments for and against and examining the reasons why it has not been incorporated yet.
Published in: Genocidal Violence: Concepts, Forms, Impact
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