Definitions: Genocide and Politicide

I used the term ‘politicide’ in the post ‘Is Syria in a state of Civil War? Part 2’. I have not explained what these terms mean. For clarification, I thought I should post these definitions. Definitions are taken from Harff and Gurr, and both definitions refer to actions (violence) perpetrated by the state. The difference lies between how the state identifies its victims.

  • Genocides: victims are identified based on their ethnic, racial, national or religious identities. Victims may not necessarily think of themselves in these terms. However, as a matter of identifying targets for murder, the state does.
  • Politicides: victims are identified primarily in terms of their political opposition to the regime and dominant groups or in terms of their position within the society (for example, peasants, intellectuals, etc).

It is most likely that in both genocide and politicide, the state goes out of its way to target victims, hence usually the consequences of such violent state behaviour is on a massive scale and widespread.

Remember, as I mentioned in my posts on Syria, different forms of violence can change and morph. So if a state is responsible for genocide, it may in the future change its focus and transpire into politicide. Many forms of violence can also be practised/utilized during one period of time and continuously change. This is one of the difficulties in studying conflicts and political violence. The U.N. Genocide Convention does not state in its definition of genocide that the perpetrator must be a state. This is a valid point, as other powerful groups may also be the perpetrators of genocide. The U.N. genocide Convention does not name politicide, and does not mention the targeted killings based on political identification. It does mention that genocide is also constituted through serious bodily or mental harm to member of a group.

Hopefully these definitions help and will be useful later on! 🙂 Don’t forget to like me on Facebook (I post lots of quirky and funny bits and pieces, as well as more useful international information of course) https://www.facebook.com/missworldsec. Also, please let me know what you think of the blog and blog posts so far!

Until next time,

Miss S.

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