What Is Democide?

G. Wiesen

Democide is a general, catch-all term used to refer to the murder of people by a government; this can be used to refer to many different types of actions. This type of murder can be inflicted by a government upon its own people, or can be the deaths of those that are part of another governing body. It does not, however, refer to murder or death as a result of military action or state sanctioned executions, such as those of a prisoner found guilty by trial. Democide often refers to three distinct forms of murder: genocide, mass murder, and politicide.

The Holocaust is an example of democide.
The Holocaust is an example of democide.

The term “democide” is typically used to refer to any act of murder that is committed or sponsored by a government. More exact definitions of the term can be difficult to establish, since there are many potential gray areas with regard to what constitutes “murder” and how responsible a government is for such acts. Military actions, for example, are typically not considered democide since they are far too numerous in number to provide meaningful information. Similarly, the execution of a prisoner found guilty of a capital offense through a trial is also not typically considered such an action, although this can also be an area of contention.

Democide is murder committed on behalf of government orders.
Democide is murder committed on behalf of government orders.

One form of democide is genocide, which is the government-sponsored and orchestrated murder of a group of people for religious or cultural reasons. The murder of Jewish people during the Nazi Holocaust is an example of genocide, since they were targeted specifically due to their religion. There are many other examples of these types of acts that are often conducted in regions of social and cultural conflict between nearby groups.

Mass murder in general, that is sponsored or otherwise conducted by a government, can also be seen as democide. If the government of a country experiences a food shortage, for example, it might restrict food transport into one region in favor of another. This can create a famine within the targeted area that then results in thousands or millions of deaths. Such action would be considered mass murder, but not genocide, since it is not based on cultural or religious targeting.

Politicide is also a form of democide, which is murder by a government of people for political reasons. Dissenters of a tyrannical regime, for example, may be rounded up and executed in order to ensure that there is no further opposition to the government. This political motivation for the murder, rather than cultural targeting or general malice, establishes such acts as politicide.

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