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The Dictator's Guide to Genocide by Infectious Diseases

30 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2008  

Renee Dopplick

Date Written: August 22, 2008


This article revisits one of the threats that Raphael Lemkin envisioned when he coined the term "genocide" - infectious diseases. Specifically, the article examines whether the spread of infectious diseases can constitute the requisite actus reus and mens rea of genocide under Article 6 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, as adopted from the Genocide Convention. The article examines and distinguishes relevant case law of the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, decisions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and decisions of domestic courts. The article concludes that the deliberate spread of infectious diseases can fall within the prohibited acts of genocide but that proving the special intent will be difficult due to evidentiary requirements and the ability of defendants to assert plausible intervening causes.

Keywords: Genocide, International Criminal Law, International Criminal Court, Rome Statute, Public Health, International Human Rights

Suggested Citation

Dopplick, Renee, The Dictator's Guide to Genocide by Infectious Diseases (August 22, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Renee Dopplick (Contact Author) ( email )

United States

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