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  • 9 December 2018

    Today marks 70 years since the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This had been largely made possible by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent.

    In his 1944 book "Axis Rule in Occupied Europe", Lemkin gave the first definition of the term 'genocide', which found its way to the 1948 Convention. The treaty became a foundation of international criminal law and played a significant role in its development.


    The prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide in international law is a cornerstone of Polish foreign policy, which is reflected in our country's activity as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2018–19.


    Examples of this activity include an informal Security Council meeting convened by Poland this December to look at effective ways of preventing international crimes, and a debate on the prevention and punishment of atrocity crimes which Poland organized in New York last October as part of the meeting of legal advisers of UN member states' foreign ministries.


    To promote Raphael Lemkin's legacy, an international award was established and named after him. Presented regularly by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, this year the distinction went to the Aegis Trust, a non-governmental organization that promotes Rwandan genocide remembrance and education.


    The 70th anniversary of the Convention is an opportunity to reflect on the tragic toll of the crime of genocide, which has left its mark on the history of humankind. It also serves as a reminder of the achievements of nations of the world in developing international law towards the effective prevention and punishment of international crimes. As one of the creators of the Convention, Raphael Lemkin made an invaluable contribution to this domain.


    MFA Press Office

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