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 Ottoman Turk 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 historical examples of genocide.
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.
Definition of Genocide Under U.S. Law
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:
There's no statute of limitations on the crime of genocide.
U.S. Jurisdiction Over Genocidal Acts
The United States has jurisdiction if the offense occurred within the United States or if the accused offender is:
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
This serious crime carries significant potential penalties. The punishment of the basic offense is:
Whenever You're Facing Criminal Charges, You'll Need Expert Legal Help
A genocide charge has enormous repercussions and needs to be taken seriously by both the government and the accused. A professional legal defense is almost certainly necessary, since cases of this kind are often complicated and can include complex evidentiary issues and allegations that can be difficult to establish. If you're facing this or any other federal charges, it's important to contact a qualified criminal defense attorney to understand your rights under the law.