Initiative on the UN Genocide

Acts of Genocide Since 1951



The original purpose of the 1948 “UN Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide” was to prevent recurrences of some of the most grievous acts committed by mankind against his fellow man.

Since the ratification of the Convention in 1951, there have been instances of genocide where the world has just stood by and witnessed the continuation of slaughter, without possessing the tools to stop the mass killings.

The case studies below give a brief insight into the history of genocide. It is also notable that there are some instances of well-publicised mass killings, which have not been legally classified as genocides.

The following list of case studies gives background information on every instance of genocide since the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide formally became part of international law in 1951.

First Sudanese Civil War, 1955 - 1972

From 1924 to 1956, the British had treated the North and the South as two separate entities. A civil war began after Southern nationals had been promised and denied regional autonomy. The subsequent fighting resulted in the deaths of over 500,000 people, most of those civilians. Hundreds had to flee from their homes.

The predominantly Muslim government used indiscriminate violence to suppress non-Muslims who supported a secessionist movement in the south. In 1972, a peace agreement was signed in Addis Ababa which incorporated, inter alia, a proposal of a power-sharing executive, security guarantees and political and economic autonomy for the South. Sudan became two separate states on the 9th July 2011, North Sudan and South Sudan. It was admitted by the General Assembly of the UN as its 193rd member- and still the violence and killing continues.

Brazilian Indian Genocide, 1957 - 1968

In the late 1950s, Brazilian Indians were confronted with violent attempts to integrate, pacify and acculturate their communities. In 1967 the true scale of the action against the native population of Brazil was revealed with the completion of the Figueiredo report into the treatment of Brazilian Indians. The 5,000-page document catalogued a vast array of crimes against humanity, including mass murder, torture and bacteriological warfare, reported slavery, and sexual abuse - most of which had occurred since 1960. The report has never been made available to the general public, but knowledge of the document has led to protests around the world.

Tibet, 1959 - 1966

Mao Zedong?s so called ?Great Leap Forward? (1959 - 1962) led to famine in Tibet. The Panchen Lama at the timewas convinced that these deaths were as a result of official policies, rather than natural disasters as was suggested. The famine was followed by the desecration of more than 6,000 of Tibetan monasteries and the killing of thousands of Tibetans. In 1960 a non-governmental International Commission of Jurists conducted a report on behalf of the United Nations which accused China of genocide. According to the ICJ, the Chinese acted with the specific intent of eradicating Tibetan culture. Even today, Tibetans are all too frequently not allowed to participate in the cultural and general life of their specific community.

Rwanda, 1962 - 1963

After Rwanda gained its independence from Belgium in 1962, many Tutsis were forced to leave the country.  Tutsi refugees called the Inyenzi launched attacks into Rwanda from bases in western Uganda. In response to military attacks by exiled Tutsis in Burundi, massacres of Tutsis who remained in Rwanda became increasingly widespread, leading to more and more refugees leaving the country. Those who stayed were forced to carry an identity card to define their origin according to Hutu government quotas. Marriage criteria also changed; Tutsi women were generally not allowed to marry Hutu men. It is estimated that by the mid-1960s half of the Tutsi population was living outside Rwanda.

Zanzibar Revolution, 1964

The year 1960 marked the death of Sultan Khalifia and the beginning of political instability. Following the 1963 election, there was a revolution which marked the culmination of years of growing ethnic tension between Arabs, Asians and Africans. It was a sign of the violent rejection of cosmopolitanism in the region. Sultan Jamshid took control of the country in December 1963, in a conflict in which one third of all Arabs on Unguja Island were killed or forced into immediate exile. Those who stayed in Zanzibar had to face the confiscation of their property and land, in addition to being excluded from participating in government. The new nationalist regime transformed privileged minorities into second-class citizens. The revolution ended 150 years of Arab economic and cultural hegemony in the country. The Sultan was declared to have been “guilty of political crimes”. The term “genocide” was not used; "crimes against humanity" is the preferred phrase.

Indonesia, 1965 -1967

The genocide of half a million people in Indonesia was part of an anti-Communist attempt to establish a ?New Order? following a failed coup in Indonesia. The massacred victims were members of the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia - PKI) and other leftist groups. The purge was a crucial event in the transition to President Suharto?s "New Order". As a result of the conflict, the PKI was effectively destroyed as a political force and the social changes led to the downfall of President Sukarno and the start of Suharto's thirty-year presidency. The majority of the Indonesian historical books omit this part of their history but it has been recorded by the majority of the world?s silent as genocide.

Nigerian-Biafran War, Nigeria, 1967 - 1970

Nigeria gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1960 without declaring ethnic border boundaries, leaving an independent republic of Biafran people in a separate secessionist state from the rest of the country. A range of economic and political tensions ensued, including the long shadow cast by the exit of the colonial powers, the scramble for Nigerian oil, and the mix of people of different ethnic, religious and social backgrounds, and these tensions flared up and led to civil war. In the month of September 1966 alone, 30,000 people were killed. The genocide was largely inflicted on the Igbo people. Over one million people died from famine and murder in two and a half years of conflict. 

Aché Indians, 1968 - 1978

During this time, the four ethnically and linguistically diverse, peaceful, nomadic Indian tribes of hunter-gatherers in Paraguay were systematically pacified. These forest dwellers were killed, raided, abused, raped, forcibly removed, relocated and sold from the early 60s to 1976.  The cause for this genocide was essentially an economic one, and involved to the desire to expand territorially. The Aché Indians were forcibly removed from their ancestral homeland so that Western international investors could move in and develop the lands that once belonged to the Aché.

The attempted extermination of the Aché Indians was additionally caused by the contraction of Western diseases, such as respiratory illnesses, which their immune systems could not fight. The initially large Aché Indian population has dwindled down to six communities comprising of approximately 170 families.

Guatemala 1968 - 1996

The Guatemalan Civil War was mostly fought between the government of Guatemala and various rebel groups supported by Maya indigenous people and poor peasants. The armed forces of Guatemala have been condemned for committing genocide against the Maya people during the civil war. Children were thrown alive into ‘death pits’, rape, mutilation, womb extraction without anesthetic, corps, livestock and the water supply was defiled, cut down and polluted.  The collective shame of this period due to the extensive acts of sexual genocide still permeates the memory. An estimated 200,000 people were killed or went missing during the war. Under the de León peace process, brokered by the United Nations and the Guatemalan government, human rights agreements were signed and the resettlement of displaced persons was given legal clarification. Under president Arzú, peace negotiations were concluded, and the guerrilla umbrella organization Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) both became a legal party and signed peace accords ending the 36-year internal conflict in December 1996. The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1094 on 20 January 1997 which deployed military observers to Guatemala to monitor the implementation of the peace agreements

Bangladesh, 1971

The systematic mass killings in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1971 can be classified as genocide. The conflict started with Operation Searchlight, a planned military pacification carried out by the West Pakistani Army on 25 March 1971 to curb the Bengali nationalist movement by taking control of the major cities and then eliminating all opposition, political or military. Major human right abuses and killings were a sad reality of the crisis; those killed included students and pregnant women.

The international media and English reference books have published casualty figures which estimate the number of Bangladeshi deaths at between 200,000-5,000,000, in addition to those who fled the country totaling some 8,000,000 - 10,000,000. This act of genocide is officially termed “human rights abuses” by the Bangladesh authorities.

Uganda, 1971 - 1979

Idi Amin, the self-styled ?Scottish? former President of Uganda, committed genocide against the Acholi and Lango tribes, having taken control of the country in a military coup on 25 January 1971. Some 5,000 people disappeared from the Jinja and Mbarara barracks in 1971, and by 1972 nearly 10,000 civilians had also been killed. In this climate of terror, the victims soon came to include groups of people who were seen as protesting against the regime, including former prime ministers, judges, members of the clergy, cabinet ministers, journalists, students, intellectuals and artists.

Amin?s ?economic war? continued throughout his eight-year reign. The exact number of people killed is unknown; international organizations estimate that between 300,000 and 500,000 were killed.

Burundi, 1972

The Kingdom of Burundi has historically been marked by ethnic conflict between the Tutsi and the Hutu peoples. Under the rule of Tutsi King Mwambutsa IV, the Hutus were second class citizens and deemed unworthy of holding political office, despite being the ethnic majority. The execution of Ntare V in April 1972 led to the deaths of 150,000 Hutus. Prior to this, ethnic tensions and growing economic crisis contributed to the country’s general instability.

Genocide ensued and the remaining Hutus fled to Rwanda. In the initial phases of the killings there were clear signs of a structured campaign on behalf of one group against another. First the educated elite of the Hutu population was murdered. Once this had been completed, the Tutsi-controlled army moved onto the larger civilian populations. To date it is estimated that over 80,000 - 200,000 people were killed.

Cambodia, 1975 - 1979

Under Pol Pot's Red Khmer regime, 2.2 million people were killed in the state of Democratic Kampuchea. Deportation and evacuation from the cities to the countryside was a notable feature of this act of genocide. Notorious places such as the Killing Fields have been turned into memorials to commemorate the suffering of the Cambodian people.

Second Sudanese Civil War, 1983-2005

The second Sudanese Civil War, contested by the central Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army, is reported to be a spillover of tensions from the First Sudanese Civil War (1955-72). It is purported that the conflict began in Southern Sudan, subsequently spreading to the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile. Approximately 2,000,000 million people have died as a consequence of war, famine and disease caused by the conflict. 4,000,000 million people were displaced at least once. What is particularly notable is that the civilian death toll is one of the highest since World War II.

Sri Lanka, 1983 - 2009

Beginning on 23 July 1983, there was an intermittent insurgency against the Sri Lankan government by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a separatist militant organisation which fought to create an independent Tamil state in the North and the East of the island. After a 26-year military campaign, the Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tigers in May 2009, bringing the Civil War to an end. The Sri Lankan Civil War was very bloody, costing the lives of an estimated 80,000-100,000 people. The deaths include at least 27,600 LTTE fighters, 23,790 Sri Lankan soldiers and policemen, 1,155 Indian soldiers, and tens of thousands of civilians.

The Khojaly Massacre, 1992

The Khojaly Massacre was the murder of hundreds of ethnic Azerbaijani civilians from the town of Khojaly in Azerbaijan on 25-26 February 1992 by Armenian and Russian armed forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. 613 people were killed, including 424 men, 106 women and 83 children. The massacre was the largest of its kind of the Nagorno-Karabakh War.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1992 - 1995

The Bosnian conflict has been criticised by many analysts and human rights organisations. One of the greatest atrocities was made in the town of Srebrenica, where over 7,000 Muslim men and boys along with 25,000-30,000 refugees were ruthlessly killed, despite the fact the area was officially listed as a “safe haven” by the United Nations. Although it was occupied by 400 Dutch peacekeepers, the town was seized and the peacekeepers watched helplessly as thousands of innocents lost their lives. The international community was critical of the United Nations for failing to deal with the incident efficiently, and in a report created in 1999, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the world as a whole should accept responsibility rather than any one party being singled out individually. The Srebrenica massacre is, to this day, seen as one of the greatest failures of the United Nations, and has been ruled to be genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Rwanda, 1994

On April 6 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic community began slaughtering Tutsis, a rival ethnic group. As the brutal killings continued, the world stood idly by and watched the massacre. Lasting more than three months, the Rwandan genocide left approximately 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu sympathisers dead. Out of a population of 7.3 million people, the number of genocide victims is estimated at 1,174,000 in 100 days (7 every minute). Thousands of widows, many of whom were subjected to rape, are now HIV-positive. There were about 400,000 orphans. The Rwanda genocide ended when the Rwandan Patriotic Front took over the country. The massacre is widely recognised as one of the greatest recent failures of international peace-making efforts.
The travesty is that this act should never have occurred in the 20th Century - this is the reason the Convention was created in the first place.

North Korea, mid 1990s - present

In North Korea, several million people have died of starvation since the mid-1990s. Aid groups and human rights-related NGOs have often stated that North Korea has systematically and deliberately prevented food aid from reaching the areas most devastated by food shortages. Perhaps as many as one million people have died in North Korea's political prison camps alone, where dissidents and their families, including children, are detained for perceived political offences. Additionally, there have been testimonials from survivors and former guards of alleged concentration camps.

Darfur, 2003- present

In February 2003, the non-Arab ethnic groups of Darfur launched an uprising against the government in Khartoum. The government responded by implementing a genocidal campaign, enlisting the help of Arab militia in Darfur called the Janjaweed as well as the Sudanese Army. Up to 400,000 people have died, either as a result of direct attacks, conflict-induced malnutrition, or disease; the vast majority of these deaths have been civilians. More than 3 million people have been displaced and are living in camps, and more than 350,000 people are deprived of humanitarian support due to the threat of attack faced by aid workers. The ongoing racial conflict in Darfur was declared genocide by United States Secretary of State Colin Powell on September 9, 2004. The fact that no other permanent member of the UN Security Council has officially followed suit should in no way be seen to detract from the gravity of the crimes perpetrated in the region.

Mass Atrocities in Libya, 2011

After a week of protests calling for the overthrow of Libyan Head of State Muammar al-Gaddafi, events in Libya escalated dramatically. The town of Tawergha was emptied of its entire population as the inhabitants were either killed or forced to flee. Tens of thousands are now living in different parts of Libya and are unable to return as relations between the Tawergha people and people of Misratah remain tense. In addition to the deaths, there have been abductions and the rape of women and children.

Yemen, 2011

Inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, peaceful demonstrations against the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh began in late January 2011. The government response was one of violence, including bombing, mass killing and arson. Tribal leaders backed the uprising and a string of Yemeni officials immediately resigned from the regime. The country has been reported to be in constant tension and the UN Genocide Watch has classified the security situation as Stage 6 (potential massacres). Former President Saleh is in control of the security sector and his loyalists are still present in the armed forces despite the election of a new President, Adb Rubbuh Mansur Al-Hadi.

Syria, 2011 - present

Ethnic war erupted in Syria in March 2011 as part of the Arab Spring movement. Thousands of people have been killed and many others have fled as a result of government brutality.

It has been stated that the al-Assad regime has committed deliberate crimes against humanity as opposed to genocide per se. Notwithstanding this official classification, the modus operandi of the government’s soldiers and the evidence of killing displayed by the world’s media would suggest that the Syrian population is under a sustained attack of genocide.
Written by:
Sarah Demuynck, Lucie Hladikova, Daniel Migdal, Aneta Tylawska, Geoffrey Walters, Norma Wright