"Genocide": A word without consequences? The Rohingya crisis in Myanmar

ICL lunch seminar with Ellen Stensrud, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities.

This presentation will discuss how the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar illuminates many of the problems linked to the genocide-term. The crisis illustrates that for a large part, the genocide-term has been de-linked from the Genocide Convention’s main goals: prevention and punishment. The genocide-term is normatively one of the most powerful terms that can be evoked in political debates, but its consequences are unclear at best. 

The uses of “genocide” by advocacy groups during the Rohingya crisis highlight the limitations of the legal definition of genocide for the purpose of warning and prevention, especially due to the requirement of a special genocidal intent. Further, the warnings of genocide have not triggered steps towards prevention among actors who could have influenced policies in Myanmar. Finally, although the genocide-term is now increasingly being used at the international political stage, the consequences of this latest development are very unclear. It is surely too late for prevention, and the term is now rather linked to calls for accountability for the atrocities committed. Such accountability, however, is unlikely in the foreseeable future. The most likely effect of this latest development is “naming and shaming”, and the uses of the term are not likely to affect neither prevention nor punishment – the two goals of the Genocide Convention. 


Pluricourts holds a monthly international criminal law (ICL) lunch, where an invited ICL expert gives a presentation on a topic of their choice, followed by questions from the audience. The aim is to provide a wide-ranging lecture series, giving varied insights into what is happening within the field of ICL today. We invite speakers from different backgrounds, and have had presentations from Norwegian- based and international academics, as well as speakers from local agencies who work with ICL-related issues, such as Kripos and the Norwegian Red Cross. The lunches also function as a meeting point for those who are interested in ICL, allowing for ideas to be exchanged and developed. They are open to the public, and are attended by staff, students and those working in ICL in the Oslo area.

Tags: Criminal law
Published Sep. 18, 2018 2:29 PM - Last modified Sep. 18, 2018 2:36 PM