28. The Use of the Term 'Genocide' by Politicians

In this advisory report the CAVV and the External Adviser on Public International Law (EVA) discuss the scope for and the significance and desirability of the use of the term ‘genocide’ by politicians. In the CAVV's view, the government bears primary responsibility for determining that genocide or crimes against humanity have been or are being committed in another state. It is possible for a parliament to adopt an autonomous position but such a position has no special significance in international law.

When it comes to speaking out about genocide and crimes against humanity, restraint is in order, as a thorough investigation of the facts (among other things) is essential. A determination that genocide or crimes against humanity are being or have been committed is a necessary first step in activating obligations, such as the obligation to prevent.

The CAVV and the EVA recommend that there should be no differentiation between genocide and crimes against humanity during the prevention phase. They also advise using the two terms together as standard practice so that attention is focused not on terminological debates but on the more relevant question of what preventive acts and measures should be taken or continued.