Jacques Semelin


The term “genocide” has generated passion and misunderstanding since its coining in 1944 by Ra- phael Lemkin. Applying this term to very heterogeneous historical and current situations brings up many objections and debates. The first problem arising from the word genocide concerns its uses, in- cluding its memorial, humanitarian, legal, and political purposes. Scholars are divided about its meaning. However, this article stresses that the global digital academic enterprise, Online Encyclo- pedia of Mass Violence, represents today a unique effort to gather the most important historical cases of mass human destruction, with respect to their own singularity, while offering a way to com- pare them according to the same framework of analysis. It builds a strong body of knowledge and follows a rigorous methodology, including a peer-review process. This article also brings some clarifi- cations to three questions: the relationship of genocide studies with international law, the strong tendency in this field to qualify any massacre as genocide, and the legal relevance of the notion of crime against humanity.