Introduction to Crimes Against Humanity

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Introduction to Crimes Against Humanity

This section deals with crimes against humanity, crimes of war, genocide, terrorism, and hate crimes. Although the scale of such crimes varies from the massacre of whole populations to the murder of an individual because of their race or sexual preference, the concepts are linked by intolerance and a fundamental indifference to the evolved concepts of humanity and civilization. In many ways, the leap from lynch mob to terrorism is short.

The 1945 London Agreement specified the definition of crimes against humanity to include "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 or in conjunction with any crime …" Crimes against humanity are considered, by legal scholars, so serious as to constitute an assault against all people every-where; they are carried out in order to advance political or philosophical objectives. The extermination of Jews during World War II, for example, was deemed a crime against humanity. It was also a war crime. War crimes are defined similarly to crimes against humanity, with the proviso that they are committed during a time of declared war. (See, for example, "Punishment of Nazi War Criminals" and "Adolf Eichmann's Identity Card.")

The trial of those accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes is often criticized as being "too little too late" especially when it is argued that more vigorous international action might have averted catastrophe. Trials and tribunals themselves can be controversial and deemed ineffective as discussed in "Rwanda: Accountability for War Crimes and Genocide".

In 1951, the United Nations (U.N.), developed a treaty concerning genocide. As defined by the U.N., genocide is the eradication of "a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group;" it may occur either in peace or in wartime. The entry "Srebrenica Massacre" discusses genocide as now designated by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The definition of terrorism found in the United States Code is "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience." Although the intricacies and controversies associated with terrorism are treated in detail in volume one of this series, no chapter concerning crimes of hatred and intolerance could exclude some discussion and depiction of terrorists and terrorist acts (see, for example "Terrorists at Summer Olympics").

Although the concept of a "hate crime" is very old, the definition and legal ramifications thereof have been specified only quite recently. Hate crimes are motivated either entirely or in part by the belief that a victim is substantially different from the perpetrator. Although a hate crime would be illegal simply because of its occurrence, it is further described by who it is perpetrated against, and the fact that the motivation for the behavior stems from some identified difference between victim and offender. Accordingly several articles detailing hate crimes and various aspects of hate crimes are also included in this section (see, for example: "A Hate Crime and a Courageous Love").

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Introduction to Crimes Against Humanity

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Introduction to Crimes Against Humanity