Crimes Against Humanity
Crimes Against Humanity
Crimes Against Humanity
Crimes against humanity is a category of international crime usually associated with the related concepts of genocide and war crimes. Although international law contains several different definitions of crimes against humanity, they generally involve acts of physical violence or persecution committed against vulnerable groups of civilians. The Tel-Aviv District Court, in a 1952 judgment, said a crime against humanity "must be one of serious character and likely to embitter the life of a human person, to degrade him and cause him great physical or moral suffering." The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General has described them as "inhumane acts of a very serious nature."
Crimes against humanity are closely related to the crime of genocide, yet broader in scope, in that they encompass attacks on a wide range of civilian populations, whereas the crime of genocide is confined to national, ethnic, racial, or religious groups. Moreover, they do not require the physical destruction of the victims. Unlike war crimes, crimes against humanity may be committed in time of peace. It may be convenient to view crimes against humanity as being broadly analogous to serious violations of human rights. In the case of breaches of international human rights law, it is the state that is held responsible, whereas in the case of crimes against humanity, individuals are the perpetrators and they are the ones who are held criminally responsible. The consequence of a serious violation of human rights may be an order to cease the impugned act or to compensate the victim, whereas the consequence of a crime against humanity will generally be a significant term of imprisonment.
Because crimes against humanity are designated as an international crime, they are viewed as an exception to the general rule that it is the sovereign right of states to prosecute crimes committed within their own borders or by their own citizens. Crimes against humanity may be punished by courts of countries other than where the crime took place, and by international courts, such as the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR) or the International Criminal Court (ICC).
History of the Term Crimes Against Humanity
Perhaps the first use of the expression crimes against humanity was by the French revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre, who described the deposed King Louis XVI as a criminel envers l'humanité (criminal against humanity). He argued that for this reason King Louis XVI should be executed, although Robespierre had earlier fought for the abolition of capital punishment in the French National Assembly. A century later journalist George Washington Williams wrote to the U.S. Secretary of State, informing him that King Leopold's regime in the Congo Free States was responsible for "crimes against humanity."
The preamble to the important Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, in what is known as the Martens clause, spoke of "the usages established between civilized nations, from the laws." But the concept of crimes against humanity in international law made its first formal appearance in the declaration made by the governments of France, Great Britain, and Russia, dated May 24, 1915, directed at the Turkish massacres of the minority Armenian population, that "[i]n the presence of these new crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization, the allied Governments publicly inform the Sublime Porte that they will hold personally responsible for the said crimes all members of the Ottoman Government as well as those of its agents who are found to be involved in such massacres." The United States did not joint in the denunciation, with U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing explaining this by referring to what he called the "more or less justifiable" right of the Turkish government to deport the Armenians to the extent that they lived "within the zone of military operations."
After the war the victorious Allies attempted to prosecute Turkish officials for what were called "deportations and massacres" of the Armenians. The Turkish authorities actually arrested and detained scores of their leaders, later releasing many as a result of public demonstrations and other pressure. But Turkey refused to ratify the Treaty of Sèvres, signed on August 10, 1920, which imposed an obligation to surrender those who were deemed responsible for the persecutions of the Armenians. It also contemplated the establishment of a tribunal by the League of Nations with jurisdiction to punish those charged. The Treaty of Sèvres was eventually replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne of July 24, 1923. Rather than call for prosecution, it included a "declaration of amnesty" for all offenses committed between August 1, 1914, and November 20, 1922.
The essence of the controversy surrounding the Turkish prosecutions was whether or not atrocities, persecution, and deportations committed by a sovereign government against its own civilian population, including ethnic or national minorities established on its territory, should be subject to international law at all. As outrageous as the crimes against the Armenian minority were, the major victorious powers were nervous about a principle that might return to challenge their own treatment of vulnerable minorities within their own territories and especially their colonial empires. The debate resurfaced in the early 1940s, as work began to prepare the post-World War II Nazi prosecutions.
As early as 1943 the Allies proclaimed their intention to hold Nazi leaders accountable for war crimes. The United Nations War Crimes Commission was established to prepare the groundwork for postwar prosecutions. Meeting in London, it initially agreed to use the list of offenses that had been drafted by the Responsibilities Commission of the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 as the basis for its prosecutions. The enumeration consisted of a variety of war crimes, already recognized for the purposes of international prosecution, which had been agreed to by Italy and Japan and, at least, tacitly accepted without objection by Germany. These crimes addressed the means and methods of the conduct of warfare, and various acts of persecution committed against civilians in occupied territories.
Nevertheless, from an early stage in its work, efforts were made to extend the jurisdiction of the Commission to civilian atrocities committed against ethnic groups not only within occupied territories but also those within Germany itself. Serving on the Legal Committee of the Commission, the U.S. representative Herbert C. Pell used the term crimes against humanity to describe offenses "committed against stateless persons or against any persons because of their race or religion." But the idea that international criminal law extended to atrocities perpetrated against civilians by their own governments remained controversial, and there was ongoing resistance from the British and American governments because of the implications this might have for their own treatment of minorities. Jewish groups and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) lobbied members of the Commission to ensure that the postwar trials would not be confined to traditional war crimes, one of the first examples of the influence of NGOs and contributions to law-making in this area.
Within weeks of the end of the war in Europe, the four victorious major powers, the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States, convened the London Conference, whose purpose was the organization of the postwar trials. In addition to war crimes, the draft treaty on which they worked included a category with as yet no generic name, which was labeled "atrocities, persecutions, and deportations on political, racial or religious grounds." As the Conference concluded, the U.S. delegate, Robert Jackson, suggested the category be given the title "crimes against humanity." Article VI of the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal, adopted by the London Conference on August 8, 1945, defined three categories of crimes over which the Tribunal would exercise jurisdiction: war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity. Crimes against humanity were defined as follows:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the court where perpetrated.
Crimes against humanity are comprised of two categories of specific punishable behavior. The first, such as murder, extermination, enslavement, and inhumane acts, correspond generally to crimes under virtually all domestic criminal law systems, and cover such offenses as killing, assault, rape, and kidnapping or forcible confinement. The second, persecutions on discriminatory grounds, run afoul of antidiscrimination laws in many countries but fall short of criminal behavior. What elevates these acts to crimes against humanity, as held by the courts, is their commission as part of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population, although this is not stated explicitly in the Nuremberg Tribunal's definition.
In late 1945, acting in their role as the occupying government of Germany, the Allies enacted criminal legislation that made crimes against humanity a crime within German law. Although similar to the Nuremberg Charter definition, it was somewhat broader:
Atrocities and offenses, including but not limited to murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, rape, or other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds whether or not in violation of the domestic laws of the country where perpetrated.
Known as Control Council Law No. 10, it extended to all atrocities and offenses. Moreover, unlike the Nuremberg Charter, it did not require that crimes against humanity be committed "in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal."
Nexus with Aggressive War
The condition in the Nuremberg Charter that crimes against humanity be committed "in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal" is often referred to as the nexus. The Nuremberg Tribunal interpreted this phrase to mean that atrocities and persecution committed prior to the outbreak of the war, in September 1939, were not punishable as an international crime. It acknowledged that "political opponents were murdered in Germany before the war, and that many of them were kept in concentration camps in circumstances of great horror and cruelty. . . . The persecution of Jews during the same period is established beyond all doubt."
According to the judges at Nuremberg, to constitute a crime against humanity the acts had to be committed in pursuit of an aggressive war. This interpretation would appear to be consistent with what was intended by those who established the Nuremberg Tribunal. At the London Conference, the U.S. delegate, Jackson, spoke of "some regrettable circumstances at times in our own country in which minorities are unfairly treated," and of the concern of his government that such acts might now fall within the scope of crimes against humanity. The way to deal with his concern was to include, as an element of crimes against humanity, this nexus with aggressive war.
There was controversy about the nexus virtually from the day the Nuremberg judgment was issued. Frustrated by this limitation, other countries seized the occasion of the first session of the UN General Assembly to propose that the UN recognize and codify yet another international crime, to be named "genocide," that would not be confined to a link with aggressive war. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the General Assembly on December 9, 1948, affirmed that genocide could be committed "in time of peace or in time of war" precisely in order to distinguish it from crimes against humanity. The price of this important concession was a definition of genocide that was confined to the destruction of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, in other words, to a much narrower class of atrocities than what was covered by the existing definition of crimes against humanity.
Over the years much debate and lingering uncertainty surrounded the link or nexus between crimes against humanity and aggressive war. In 1968 the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity referred to crimes against humanity "whether committed in time of war or in time of peace." Five years later the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid defined apartheid, which was clearly a practice not limited to wartime, as a crime against humanity. But confusion persisted when the Security Council, in establishing the ICTY in May 1993, reaffirmed that crimes against humanity should be punishable only when committed "in armed conflict." In the first major judgment of the ICTY, issued in October 1995, the Appeals Chamber dismissed the significance of these words, saying they were incompatible with customary international law. The issue was rather definitively resolved in 1998, in the Rome Statute of the ICC, which imposes no requirement of a nexus between crimes against humanity and aggressive war, although it does not explicitly state that crimes against humanity may be committed in time of peace as well as in time of war. Thus, for the future, little doubt can exist about this matter, although to the extent that there are prosecutions for crimes against humanity committed between 1945 and 1998, lawyers will continue to argue both sides of the question.
Contextual Elements of Crimes Against Humanity
Because the punishable acts falling within the rubric of crimes against humanity are either punishable as ordinary crimes under national laws or, in the case of persecution-type acts, often not punishable at all, it is fundamental that crimes against humanity be committed within a context of widespread or systematic attacks on a civilian population. If there were no such limitation on the scope of crimes against humanity, states would never accept the right of the courts of other states, or of international tribunals, to prosecute such acts when committed on their own territory. In other words, it is only when murder, extermination, and persecution reach a threshold of great seriousness and broad scale that states are prepared to let down the curtain of sovereignty that traditionally gives them the sole right to criminalize behavior committed within their borders. These additional constraints on the definition of crimes against humanity lie at the core of the entire concept, and are often referred to as the "contextual elements."
Crimes against humanity originally derived from a need to prosecute Nazis for acts committed against German nationals within Germany itself. Until 1945 international law clearly protected Jewish civilians within the occupied lands of Europe, such as Poland, Russia, Hungary, France, and the Netherlands, but the same could not be said of the German Jews. To some extent, the acts of persecution committed against the Germany Jews were legal under national legislation and even mandated by German laws. This explains the section of the Nuremberg Charter that states crimes against humanity were punishable "whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the court where perpetrated."
As a result, it may be said that crimes against humanity involve organized persecution that is either directed by a state and carried out in pursuance of its laws, or tolerated by the state and tacitly condoned or encouraged. Although this is probably an accurate statement of the law in a historical sense, a marked evolution has occurred over the years to weaken the requirement of state policy or plan in the commission of crimes against humanity. One authoritative body, the International Law Commission, stated in 1996 that crimes against humanity are inhumane acts "instigated or directed by a Government or by any organization or group." This matter was the subject of considerable debate when the Rome Statute of the ICC was being adopted in the 1990s. The Rome Statute's definition of crimes against humanity requires that they be committed as part of a "widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population," and that this attack be "pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy to commit such attack." This definition is large enough to encompass what are sometimes called "non-State actors," and it certainly applies to statelike entities that exercise de facto control over a given territory and fulfill the functions of government.
It is somewhat less clear whether crimes against humanity may also be committed pursuant to a plan or policy of a terrorist organization, which operates without any formal link to a state and often with no obvious ambition to take power. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were described by many observers, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as crimes against humanity. But in extending the scope of crimes against humanity to terrorist organizations, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish them from ordinary crimes punishable under domestic law. While it may seem only logical and proportionate to describe acts such as those committed on September 11 as crimes against humanity, because of their sheer scale and horror, the choice of terminology is far less evident when the crimes are committed on a smaller scale. Indeed, if terrorist groups responsible for atrocities can be held accountable for crimes against humanity, why not organized crime families, motorcycle gangs, and individual serial killers? The distinctions become increasingly difficult to make once the context of a plan or policy of a state or statelike organization is removed from the definition of crimes against humanity. Yet this is precisely what the ICTY has done in its judgments subsequent to adoption of the Rome Statute, suggesting that it considers the Rome Statute requirements to be narrower than what should apply as a matter of customary international law.
The other factor serving to distinguish crimes against humanity as an international crime from ordinary crimes that fall within the scope of national laws is the element of discrimination. The definition in the Nuremberg Charter refers to "persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds," although it does not seem to make the same requirement with respect to other acts, such as murder and extermination. This aspect of crimes against humanity is even more explicit in the definition found in the ICTR Statute, adopted by the Security Council in November 1994:
The International Tribunal for Rwanda shall have the power to prosecute persons responsible for the following crimes when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population on national, political, ethnic, racial or religious grounds.
This requirement suggests that a racist or otherwise discriminatory motive must exist for the crime. Therefore, when a defendant charged with crimes against humanity can suggest that a widespread or systematic attack was conducted on grounds that did not involve racial discrimination and that the motive was, for example, to achieve a military victory, the act might not qualify as a crime against humanity. This argument might be submitted, for instance, to counter claims that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 was a crime against humanity.
Recent case law from the ICTY and ICTR has established that a discriminatory motive is not generally an element of crimes against humanity. This is a relief to prosecutors, for whom proof of motive is a daunting challenge. Exceptionally, discriminatory motive remains an element of the crime against humanity of persecution. This is because persecution-type crimes against humanity may involve acts that are actually authorized by national laws, such as measures preventing intermarriage with persons from specific ethnic groups, as was the case in Nazi Germany.
The lists of punishable acts of crimes against humanity are not the same in the various definitions of crimes against humanity. They have at their core the enumeration found in the Nuremberg Charter: murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, other inhumane acts and persecution. The definition in Control Council Law No. 10, adopted in December 1945, added imprisonment, torture, and rape to the list. The definition was updated to take account of recent developments in international law when the Rome Statute of the ICC added apartheid and the forced disappearance of persons. But the Rome Conference rejected attempts to recognize other new acts of crimes against humanity, such as economic embargo, terrorism, and mass starvation.
The crime of murder is well defined in national legal systems and poses little difficulty within the context of crimes against humanity. Although there has been some disagreement about this in cases, it is now well established that the murder need not be premeditated.
Extermination as a crime against humanity refers to acts intended to bring about the death of a large number of victims. Evidence must exist that a particular population was targeted and that its members were killed or otherwise subjected to conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of a numerically significant part of the population.
Enslavement was widely practiced by the Nazis, who took hundreds of thousands of Jews, other minorities, and foreign nationals conscripted in various parts of their conquered territories, and forced them to work in factories making munitions and rockets and meeting other needs of their military machine. As the Nuremberg judgment pointed out, one of the perverse features of the Nazi slave labor policy was that "useless eaters"—the elderly and infirm, and the disabled—were systematically murdered precisely because they could not be enslaved. In the early twenty-first century international law recognizes various contemporary forms of slavery. The related practice of trafficking in persons, particularly women and children, is associated with modern crimes against humanity of slavery.
The act of deportation involves the forcible expulsion of populations across international borders. The Rome Statute of the ICC added the words "forcible transfer of population" to deportation, thereby recognizing in its condemnation what in recent years has been known as "ethnic cleansing," particularly when this has occurred within a country's own borders. It should be borne in mind that the Allies themselves, following their victory in 1945, indulged in the forced transfer of ethnic Germans from parts of Eastern Europe. To this day some policy makers still entertain the suggestion that population transfer is an effective technique for dealing with ethnic conflict.
Imprisonment is, of course, a normal act of states carried out in the enforcement of criminal justice. For it to rise to the level of a crime against humanity, imprisonment must amount to the deprivation of physical liberty that is in violation of the fundamental rules of international law. Holding captured prisoners indefinitely, while denying them access to ordinary legal remedies, could fit within the parameters of this crime against humanity.
Torture was not explicitly listed in the Nuremberg Charter as a crime against humanity, although it clearly falls within the catch-all term other inhumane acts. A substantial body of international law now exists that addresses the issue of torture, including the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. According to the Rome Statute, torture means "the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, upon a person in the custody or under the control of the accused; except that torture shall not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to, lawful sanctions." Human rights law requires that state officials perpetrate torture, but this is because human rights law governs the relationship between the individual and the state. In the case of crimes against humanity, there is no such requirement.
The most dramatic enlargement of the scope of crimes against humanity in recent years has taken place in the now very significant list of gender crimes that complement the more traditional reference to rape. In fact, the Nuremberg Charter did not even recognize rape as a form of crime against humanity, although it would have fallen under "other inhumane acts." In any event, the oversight was corrected some months later in Control Council Law No. 10. Building on the word rape, the 1998 Rome Statute enumerates several other related acts, namely "sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity." Forced pregnancy means the unlawful confinement of a woman forcibly made pregnant, with the intent of affecting the ethnic composition of any population or carrying out other grave violations of international law.
The crime of apartheid was first defined to describe the racist regime in South Africa during much of the second half of the twentieth century. According to the Rome Statute, it refers to inhumane acts "of a character similar to" other crimes against humanity, when "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime." Here, then, the involvement of a state in the commission of crimes against humanity is quite explicit.
Enforced disappearance of persons is a phenomenon that became widespread under repressive regimes in Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s. It was first recognized as a crime against humanity by the General Assembly in a 1992 resolution. In the ICC's Rome Statute, the term refers to the
Arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.
Most of the lists of crimes against humanity conclude with the term other inhumane acts. Its scope is quite obviously vague, and for this reason some national attempts to introduce crimes against humanity have eliminated the reference. Even judges of international criminal tribunals have indicated their discomfort with applying criminal law whose meaning is not sufficiently certain. Reflecting these concerns, the Rome Statute declares that such "other inhumane acts" must not only be similar to those in the list of acts qualifying as crimes against humanity, but must also intentionally cause great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.
Finally, the crime against humanity of persecution comprises acts that are motivated by discrimination against an identifiable group. In the Nuremberg Charter, discrimination was limited to political, racial, or religious grounds, but more recent definitions, such as that of the Rome Statute, enlarge the concept to include nationality, ethnicity, culture, and gender as prohibited forms of discrimination. Moreover, they also extend the definition to "other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law," thereby allowing for the further evolution of this concept. Perhaps sometime in the near future, it will be unquestioned that the crime against humanity of persecution may also be committed against the disabled, or against persons identified by their sexual orientation.
The case law of international criminal tribunals provides several examples of the crime against humanity of persecution: in general, destruction of property or means of subsistence, destruction and damage of religious or educational institutions, unlawful detention of civilians, harassment, humiliation and psychological abuse, violations of political, social, and economic rights violations. At the same time, these tribunals have rejected the argument that acts such as encouraging and promoting hatred on political grounds, or dismissing and removing members of a specific ethnic group from government, amount to persecution.
Many legal systems provide that after a certain period of time has expired, offenses may no longer be prosecuted. This is known as statutory limitation or, sometimes, "prescription." It reflects a number of concerns, including the fact that with the passage of time prosecution becomes much more difficult because of the unavailability of witnesses and other evidence, as well as the interest of the state in prompt repression of crime, in order to deter the individual offender as well as others. Although these concerns may be relevant for many crimes, they are highly questionable in the context of the seriousness and horror of international crimes.
In the 1960s, when it appeared that some Nazi war criminals who had not yet been caught and prosecuted might escape justice, international law was extended to prohibit statutory limitations for crimes against humanity as well as war crimes. Countries whose laws contained statutory limitations were required to make amendments. Before an international criminal tribunal, no defendant can invoke the passage of time as a defense to a charge. This is stated explicitly in the Rome Statute of the ICC.
There are many examples of prosecutions of persons alleged to be responsible for crimes against humanity many decades after the acts transpired. In the late 1990s French courts convicted Maurice Papon for atrocities committed in occupied France during World War II. Papon was almost ninety years old at the time, but he was found guilty and sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
Prosecution of Crimes Against Humanity
The first prosecutions for crimes against humanity were held at the Nuremberg Tribunal. Most of the leading Nazi defendants were convicted of crimes against humanity, as well as other crimes punishable by the Tribunal. One of the defendants, Julius Streicher, was convicted only of crimes against humanity. He was executed for his role as propagandist in the Nazi persecution of Jews within Germany.
Crimes against humanity were also very much part of the prosecution at the other international tribunal, in Tokyo, and in a range of other postwar trials held by national military tribunals. After the late 1940s no international prosecutions for crimes against humanity occurred until the establishment of the ICTY and ICTR in 1993 and 1994, respectively.
Many national legal systems have introduced the concept of crimes against humanity into their own criminal legislation. Although neither required nor authorized by any international treaties, these jurisdictions have established that prosecution for crimes against humanity may be conducted even if the crime was committed outside the territory of the state and by a noncitizen. Although this principle of "universal jurisdiction" is increasingly recognized in national laws, it is in practice used rather rarely. Two such important trials were held in Israel: those of former Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann and John Demjanjuk, purported to have been a sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp. In the late 1980s Canada prosecuted a Hungarian Nazi official, Imre Finta, for crimes against humanity committed forty-five years earlier. Of these three prosecutions, two led to acquittals. The difficulties in prosecuting crimes committed elsewhere, and usually many years earlier, pose great challenges to national justice systems and largely explain the reluctance to use the principle of universal jurisdiction on a large scale.
Distinguishing Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
Two categories of international crime, genocide and crimes against humanity, both emerged in the 1940s as a response to the Nazi atrocities committed before and during World War II. Nervous about the implications that a broad concept of crimes against humanity might have for their own administrations, the great powers confined crimes against humanity to acts committed in the context of aggressive war. Unhappy with such a restriction, other states pushed for recognition of a cognate, genocide, which would require no such connection with armed conflict. As a result, for many decades, in their efforts to condemn and prosecute atrocities, international human rights lawyers attempted to rely on genocide rather than the considerably broader notion of crimes against humanity out of concerns that the acts were perpetrated in peacetime.
The nexus between crimes against humanity and aggressive war no longer exists. As a result, aside from some minor and insignificant technical distinctions, all acts of genocide are subsumed within the definition of crimes against humanity. Genocide can be usefully viewed as the most extreme form of crimes against humanity. The ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda have christened it "the crime of crimes." But if the distinction is no longer particularly consequential with respect to criminal prosecution, it remains important because there is no real equivalent to the Genocide Convention for crimes against humanity. The Genocide Convention imposes obligations on states to prevent the commission of genocide. It might be argued that this duty also exists with respect to crimes against humanity. However, the Convention, in addition, recognizes the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to adjudicate disputes between states with respect to their treaty obligations concerning genocide, and several such lawsuits have in fact been filed. No similar right to litigate crimes against humanity before the ICJ exists.
SEE ALSO Aggression; Genocide; International Court of Justice; International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia; International Law; Khmer Rouge Prisons and Mass Graves; Massacres; Nuremberg Trials; Rape; Universal Jurisdiction; War Crimes
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William A. Schabas