Genocides and political mass murders are recurrent phenomena. Since WWII some 50 such events have happened and have cost the lives of at least 12 million and as many as 25 million noncombatants. Genocides and politicides are the promotion, execution, and/or implied consent of sustained policies by governing elites or their agents--or, in the case of civil war, either of the contending authorities--that are intended to destroy, in whole or part, a communal, political, or politicized ethnic group.
In genocides the victimized groups are defined by their perpetrators primarily in terms of their communal characteristics. In politicides, in contrast, groups are defined primarily in terms of their political opposition to the regime and dominant groups.
In genocides and politicides killings are never accidental, nor are they the acts of individuals. The key is that they are carried out at the explicit or tacit direction of state authorities, or those who claim state authority.
For purposes of comparative research these five guidelines were used to help distinguish cases of genocide and politicide from other kinds of killings that occur during civil conflicts.
(1) Is there complicity by the state (or, in the case of civil war, either of the contending authorities) in actions undertaken that endanger human life?
(2) Is there evidence, even if circumstantial, of intent on the part of authorities to isolate or single out group members for mistreatment?
(3) Are victims members of an identifiable group?
(4) Are there policies and practices that cause prolonged mass suffering?
(5) Do the actions committed pose a threat to the survival of the group?
The following two studies by GPANet members provide a rough outline of genocides and politicides carried out mainly during the second half of the 20th century and into the new millennium: