Crime against humanity

Crime against humanity

In public international law, a crime against humanity is an act of persecution or any large scale atrocities against a body of people, and is the highest level of criminal offense.cite web|url=|title=Crimes Against Humanity|accessdate=2006-07-23|author=Cherif Bassiouni]

The Rome Statute Explanatory Memorandum states that crimes against humanity "are particularly odious offences in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings. They are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy) or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority. However, murder, extermination, torture, rape, political, racial, or religious persecution and other inhumane acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity only if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice. Isolated inhumane acts of this nature may constitute grave infringements of human rights, or depending on the circumstances, war crimes, but may fall short of falling into the category of crimes under discussion." As quoted by Guy Horton in " [ Dying Alive - A Legal Assessment of Human Rights Violations in Burma] " April 2005, co-Funded by The Netherlands Ministry for Development Co-Operation. See section "12.52 Crimes against humanity", Page 201. He references RSICC/C, Vol. 1 p. 360 ]

Abolition of the slave trade

Although the phrase "crime against humanity" was not used in the "Declaration of the Powers, on the Abolition of the Slave Trade, of 8th of February 1815" (Which also formed ACT, No. XV. of the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna of the same year) the text of the declaration included in its first sentence the concept of the "principles of humanity and universal morality" as justification for ending a trade that was "odious in its continuance". [The Parliamentary Debates from the Year 1803 to the Present Time, Published by s.n., 1816 Volume 32. [,M1 p. 200] ]

First uses

On May 24, 1915, the Allied Powers, Britain, France, and Russia, jointly issued a statement explicitly charging for the first time ever another government of committing "a crime against humanity". An excerpt from this joint statement reads:

quotation|In view of these new crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization, the Allied Governments announce publicly to the Sublime Porte that they will hold personally responsible for these crimes all members of the Ottoman Government, as well as those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres. [1915 declaration
* [ Affirmation of the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide Resolution] 106th Congress,,2nd Session, House of Representatives
* [ Affirmation of the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide Resolution (Introduced in House of Representatives)] 109th Congress, 1st Session, [ H.RES.316] , June 14, 2005. 15 September 2005 House Committee/Subcommittee:International Relations actions. Status: Ordered to be Reported by the Yeas and Nays: 40–7.
* "Crimes Against Humanity", 23 British Yearbook of International Law (1946) p. 181
* Schabas References pp. 16-17
* [ Original source of the telegram sent by the Department of State, Washington containing the French, British and Russian joint declaration]

Nuremberg trials

The London Charter of the International Military Tribunal was the decree that set down the laws and procedures by which the post-World War II Nuremberg trials were to be conducted. The charter defined that only crimes of the European Axis Powers could be tried. Article 6 stated that the Tribunal was established for the trial and punishment of the major war criminals of the European Axis countries; paragraph 6.a defined crimes against peace, 6.b war crimes and paragraph 6.c, Crimes Against Humanity defined as

In the Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Trial of German Major War Criminals it was also stated:


The systematic persecution of one racial group by another, such as occurred during the South African apartheid government, was recognized as a crime against humanity by the United Nations General Assembly in 1976. [ [ International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid] dopted and opened for signature, ratification by General Assembly resolution 3068 (XXVIII) of 30 November 1973. Entry into force 18 July 1976, in accordance with article X (10)] The Charter of the United Nations (Article 13, 14, 15) makes actions of the General Assembly advisory to the Security Council. [ [ Charter of the United Nations ] ] In regard to apartheid, the UN General Assembly has not made any findings, nor have apartheid-related trials for crimes against humanity been conducted.

United Nations

The United Nations has been primarily responsible for the prosecution of crimes against humanity since it was chartered in 1948.Fact|date=November 2007 The UN has been where all modern prosecutions for crimes against humanity have occurred.Fact|date=November 2007 The International Criminal Court (ICC) was recently organized by the Rome Statute and the UN has delegated several crimes against humanity cases to the ICC.Fact|date=November 2007 Because these cases were referred to the ICC by the UN, the ICC has broad authority and jurisdiction for these cases.Fact|date=November 2007 The ICC acting without a UN referral lacks the broad jurisdiction to prosecute crimes against humanity, and cannot prosecute many cases, particularly if they occur outside of ICC-member nations. The most recent 2005 UN referral to the ICC of Darfur resulted in an indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in 2008.International Criminal Court, 14 July 2008. [ "ICC Prosecutor presents case against Sudanese President, Hassan Ahmad AL BASHIR, for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur"] . Accessed 14 July 2008.] The first person to be handed over to the ICC was Thomas Lubanga.Staff. [ Q&A: International Criminal Court] BBC, 20 March 2006] His trial has still has not been completed. The ICC still is seeking Joseph Kony. When the ICC President reported to the UN regarding its progress handling this crimes against humanity case, Judge Phillipe Kirsch said "The Court does not have the power to arrest these persons. That is the responsibility of States and other actors. Without arrests, there can be no trials. [Judge Philippe Kirsch (President of the International Criminal Court) [ Address to the United Nations General Assembly] (PDF) website [ ICC] , 9 October 2006. P. 3 ] The UN has not referred any further crimes against humanity cases to the ICC since March 2005.Fact|date=November 2007

UN Security Council responsibility

UN Security Council Resolution 1674, adopted by the United Nations Security Council on 28 April 2006, "reaffirms the provisions of paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document regarding the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity". [ [!OpenDocument Resolution 1674 (2006)] ] The resolution commits the Council to action to protect civilians in armed conflict.

International Criminal Court

In 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in The Hague (Netherlands) and the Rome Statute provides for the ICC to have jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The definition of what is a "crime against humanity" for ICC proceedings has significantly broadened from its original legal definition or that used by the UN,cite web|url=|title=Crimes Against Humanity|accessdate=2006-07-23|author=Cherif Bassiouni] and Article 7 of the treaty stated that:quotation|For the purpose of this Statute, "crime against humanity" means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack [ [ Rome statute of the International Criminal Court] Article 7: Crimes against humanity.] : :(a) Murder; :(b) Extermination; :(c) Enslavement;:(d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;:(e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; :(f) Torture; :(g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; :(h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court;:(i) Enforced disappearance of persons;:(j) The crime of apartheid;:(k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.

The Rome Statute Explanatory Memorandum states that crimes against humanity

Council of Europe

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 30 April 2002 issued a recommendation to the member states, on the protection of women against violence. In the section "Additional measures concerning violence in conflict and post-conflict situations", states in paragraph 69 that member states should: "penalise rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity as an intolerable violation of human rights, as crimes against humanity and, when committed in the context of an armed conflict, as war crimes;" [Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe: [ Recommendation (2002) 5] Paragraph 69]

In the Explanatory Memorandum on this recommendation when considering paragraph 69:

To fall under the Rome Statute, a crime against humanity which is defined in Article 7.1 must be "part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population". Article 7.2.a states "For the purpose of paragraph 1: "Attack directed against any civilian population means a course of conduct involving the multiple commission of acts referred to in paragraph 1 against any civilian population, pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy to commit such attack." This means that an individual crime on its own, or even a number of such crimes, would not fall under the Rome Statute unless they were the result of a State policy or an organizational policy. This was confirmed by Luis Moreno-Ocampo in an open letter publishing his conclusions about allegations of crimes committed during the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 which might fall under the ICC. In a section entitled "Allegations concerning Genocide and Crimes against Humanity" he states that "the available information provided no reasonable indicia of the required elements for a crime against humanity, i.e. 'a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population'". [ Luis Moreno-Ocampo [ OTP letter to senders re Iraq] 9 February 2006. Page 4]

ee also

*Charter of the United Nations
*Crime of apartheid
*Crime against chastity
*Command responsibility
*Council of Europe
*Customary international law
*Ethnic cleansing
*George Washington Williams
*Historical revisionism (negationism)
*International crime
*Mass murder
*Nuremberg Principles
*War crimes


*William A. Schabas, "Genocide in International Law: The Crimes of Crimes", Cambridge University Press, 2000,


External links

* [ Crimes of War project]
* [ "What is a Crime Against Humanity?"] - an online video.
* [ Genocide & Crimes Against Humanity] - a learning resource, highlighting the cases of Myanmar, Bosnia, the DRC, and Darfur

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • crime against humanity — crime against hu·man·i·ty: an inhumane act (as enslavement) committed against civilians before or during a war for which criminal liability is imposed by a domestic or international tribunal see also war crime Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law …   Law dictionary

  • crime against humanity — n. a mass killing or other atrocity committed in furtherance of a program of genocide …   English World dictionary

  • crime against humanity — atrocity (as extermination, enslavement, or deportation under inhuman conditions) that is directed especially against an entire population or segment of a population on specious grounds and without regard to individual guilt or responsibility… …   Useful english dictionary

  • crime against humanity — crime′ against human′ity n. law a crime, as genocide, directed against a people or group solely because of their race, religion, national origin, political beliefs, sexual orientation, etc • Etymology: 1940–45 …   From formal English to slang

  • crime against humanity — a crime or series of crimes, such as genocide, directed against a large group because of race, religion, country of origin, or other reason unconnected with any individual s responsibility for having committed a criminal act. [1940 45] * * * …   Universalium

  • crime against humanity — noun a crime, such as genocide, which is committed against a group of people because of their ethnic origin, religion, etc …   Australian-English dictionary

  • crime against humanity — Date: 1945 atrocity (as extermination or enslavement) that is directed especially against an entire population or part of a population on specious grounds and without regard to individual guilt or responsibility even on such grounds …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • crime against humanity — noun A large scale persecution of or atrocity against a body of people …   Wiktionary

  • (a) crime against humanity — a crime against humanity phrase a very serious crime that makes a lot of people suffer, often committed during a war Thesaurus: types of crimehypernym general words for crimessynonym Main entry: crime …   Useful english dictionary

  • a crime against humanity — a very serious crime that makes a lot of people suffer, often committed during a war …   English dictionary

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