Use of the term “genocide” divides Western leaders

Joe Biden accused Russia of committing “genocide” in Ukraine. Others remain wary about using this word while some reject it outright, preferring to speak of “war crimes”.

This question is not unanimous. Volodymyr Zelensky, on Wednesday, denounced “extremely harmful” statements after Emmanuel Macron refused to use the term “genocide” to describe the situation in Ukraine, particularly in relation to the Bucha massacre or the Mariupol attacks.

The Ukrainian president accuses Russia of committing genocide in his country because, according to him, it intends to eliminate “the whole nation” of Ukraine. He used the word for the first time in early April, a day after several corpses of civilians were discovered in the streets of Buch, after the departure of Russian troops. Since then, Volodymyr Zelensky regularly uses this term.

Those leaders who use the word “genocide”

The first country to adhere to this rhetoric: Poland, which has shown great solidarity with its neighbor since the beginning of the Russian invasion. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said, “The bloody massacres committed by Russian soldiers deserve to be called. This is genocide and must be judged.”

But the situation that caused such a stir came from the other side of the Atlantic. This Tuesday, Joe Biden surprised everyone by talking about “genocide,” while a week ago he got past the hurdle of talking about war crimes instead.

“Your purchasing power and your ability to fill – none of that should depend on a dictator declaring war and committing genocide on the other side of the world,” he said during a trip dedicated to fighting inflation.

“I said genocide because it’s increasingly clear that Putin is trying to erase the idea of ​​you being Ukrainian,” he later told CNN.

A statement that provoked a lot of reactions, especially from Moscow, which considered such statements “unacceptable.” Meanwhile, Volodymyr Zelensky said Joe Biden described as a ‘real leader’ Who “calls a spade a spade”.

Those who remain cautious

Other Western leaders are taking more tweezers, but they are heading in the same direction. International bodies will formally decide this [ce qu’il se passe en Ukraine]but surely we can talk more and more about genocide,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said in early April that the West should do everything in its power to ensure that those responsible for “these alleged cases of crimes against humanity and war crimes – and why not say we also – genocide” do not go unpunished. .

Across the channel, Boris Johnson also believes that Russia’s behavior in Ukraine ‘Not far from being a genocide’. However, the UK does not officially use this term, considering that only a court can enforce this term.

Those who refuse

I’m not sure escalating the rhetoric serves the cause. In response to a question about this, Emmanuel Macron refused to describe the Russian violations in Ukraine as “genocide”, considering that it is necessary to “be careful” about the use of this word. I would be careful with such terms today because these two people [Russes et Ukrainiens] They are brothers, the head of state commented.

“I would like to say that Russia waged a brutal unilateral war, that it is now proven that the Russian army committed war crimes, and that we must now find those responsible,” he said.

A warning shared by Olaf Schulz, the German chancellor. “It’s a horrific war in Eastern Europe. And I think that’s not to be underestimated. It’s a horrific war and war crimes are being committed,” he said, for example, he claimed on German RBB radio.

In the same way, the leaders of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, Josep Borrell or Roberta Mitsula, who nevertheless visited the Ukrainian lands, did not talk about the genocide. “We have seen our humanity torn apart here,” she commented on a visit to Bucha.

What has changed the fact that leaders use the word “genocide”?

Genocide is the intent to destroy all or part of a national, religious, racial or ethnic group. So genocide victims are deliberately targeted — not taken indiscriminately — “because of their membership, real or presumed” in the group, as the United Nations points out.

The Genocide Convention includes an obligation for treaty signatories: if they acknowledge that genocide has occurred, they pledge to ensure at least an investigation and prosecution. Thus, world leaders may seek to avoid using the term “genocide” in order to guard against the stress of action.

“If there is genocide, then there is a duty to help. Do we want a joint fight? Do we want to intervene tomorrow if there is genocide in Ukraine? I have always said very clearly that, for my part, I am connected to the fact that there is no escalation ”, explains Emmanuel in this sense Macron on Thursday.

In this case, acknowledging that genocide has occurred in Ukraine may increase pressure to actually send troops there and engage directly in the conflict. Possible denial by all world leaders at present.

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