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Review of 'Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity: Misconceptions and Confusion in French Law and Practice' by Caroline Fournet

O'Donnell, Therese (2014) Review of 'Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity: Misconceptions and Confusion in French Law and Practice' by Caroline Fournet. [Review]

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The tension between the categorisation of criminal behaviour as genocidal or involving crimes against humanity bedevils so-called ‘atrocity-law’. In 2004 the then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell felt free to describe atrocities in Darfur as ‘genocide’ before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. However, the Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the United Nations Secretary-General concluded otherwise because the crucial element of genocidal intent was absent (at least as far as the central Government authorities were concerned). The same report did, however, consider crimes against humanity and war crimes were in evidence. Similarly, in the academic literature, a vast amount has been published on the shortcomings of the 1948 Genocide Convention and the difficulties of its application in contemporary settings. Indeed, the definition within the 1998 statute of the International Criminal Court (which simply replicated the 1948 text) was criticised as a missed opportunity to revise and reinvigorate the definition and concept of this ‘crime of crimes’. However, rather than pursue the well-trodden path of criticising the 1948 Convention on these grounds, Caroline Fournet attempts to show that in certain instances mistakes lie less in the definitions of crimes than in their judicial interpretation and application.