The term genocide was coined in the mid-20th century to describe acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. The Holocaust is a significant example of genocide, though the Turkish mass murder of Armenians and Kurds, the slaughter of Mayan civilians by the Guatemalan military government, and the Hutu massacre of the Tutsi in Rwanda are other major occurrences.

Although many genocidal attacks have occurred outside of the United States, both the perpetrators and their victims have commonly immigrated. Victims have sought justice against their former persecutors and, in response, federal law has sought to provide the government with a basis to prosecute the perpetrators of genocide present in the country. The following article provides an overview of the U.S. federal crime of genocide.

Genocide and Genocidal Acts

Although it is rarely used, 18 US Code, Section 1091 establishes the criminal offense of genocide. Its definition includes acts perpetuated with the intent to destroy in whole or substantial part an ethnic, racial, or religious group. Acts include the following:

  • Killing members of that group;
  • Causing serious bodily injury to members of that group;
  • Causing permanent impairment to the mental faculties of members of the group through drugs, torture, or similar techniques;
  • Subjecting the group to conditions of life intended to cause the physical destruction of the group as a whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; or
  • Forcing the transfer of children of the group to another group.

There is no statute of limitations on the crime of genocide. The United States has jurisdiction where the offense occurred within the United States or where the accused offender is:

  • A national of the United States;
  • A lawful permanent resident of the United States;
  • A stateless person whose habitual residence is in the United States; or
  • A person present in the United States.

These acts are criminal whether or not they take place during a time of war. The law also punishes those who incite others to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and attempts to commit genocide.

Penalties for Genocide

The crime of genocide carries significant potential penalties. The punishment of the basic offense is:

  • In the case of an act where a death resulted, execution or life imprisonment and a fine of up to $1 million; and
  • In other cases, imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $1 million.

Incitement is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Both attempt and conspiracy are punishable in the same manner as a person who completed their offense.

Get Legal Help with Your Genocide Case

A genocide charge has enormous repercussions and needs to be taken seriously. Professional legal defense is almost certainly necessary, since cases of this kind are often complicated and include multiple charges and complex evidentiary issues. If you're facing any federal crime, it's important to contact a qualified criminal defense attorney to learn how he or she can help prepare your defense.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified criminal lawyer to make sure your rights are protected.

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution