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Crime against humanity

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Crime against humanity

Crimes against humanity, as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Explanatory Memorandum, "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. 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."

Historical Development

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The most significant early use of the phrase "crimes against humanity" came during the first world war when, on May 24, 1915, the Allies of World War I, Britain, France, and Russia, jointly issued a statement explicitly denouncing, for the first time, the commission of a "crime against humanity" in response to the Armenian Genocide and warned of personal responsibility for members of the Ottoman Government and their agents. At the conclusion of the war, an international war crimes commission recommended the creation of a tribunal to try "violations of the laws of humanity". However, the US representative objected to references to "law of humanity" as being imprecise and insufficiently developed at that time and the concept was not pursued.

Nuremberg trials

In the aftermath of the Second World War, 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 drafters of this document were faced with the problem of how to respond to the Holocaust and grave crimes committed by the Nazi regime. A traditional understanding of war crimes gave no provision for crimes committed by a power on its own citizens. Therefore, Article 6 of the Charter was drafted to include not only traditional war crimes and crimes against peace, but in 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:

Tokyo trials

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), also known as the Tokyo Trial, was convened to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for three types of crimes: "Class A" (crimes against peace), "Class B" (war crimes), and "Class C" (crimes against humanity), committed during World War II. The first refers to their joint conspiracy to start and wage the war, and the latter two refer to atrocities including the Nanking Massacre(aka: "The Rape of Nanking").

The legal basis for the trial was established by the Charter of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (CIMTFE) that was proclaimed on 19 January 1946. The tribunal convened on May 3, 1946, and was adjourned on November 12, 1948.

A panel of eleven judges presided over the IMTFE, one each from victorious Allied powers (United States, Republic of China, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Provisional Government of the French Republic, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, British India, and the Philippines).

War crimes charges against more junior personnel were dealt with separately, in other cities throughout Far East Asia, such as the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal and the Khabarovsk War Crimes Trials.


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. The Charter of the United Nations (Article 13, 14, 15) makes actions of the General Assembly advisory to the Security Council. In regard to apartheid in particular, the UN General Assembly has not made any findings, nor have apartheid-related trials for crimes against humanity been conducted.

Ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals

United Nations

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The United Nations has been primarily responsible for the prosecution of crimes against humanity since it was chartered in 1948. The International Criminal Court (ICC) was organized by the Rome Statute and the UN has delegated several crimes against humanity cases to the ICC. Because these cases were referred to the ICC by the UN, the ICC has broad authority and jurisdiction for these cases.[citation needed] 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. The first person to be handed over to the ICC was Thomas Lubanga. 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. The UN has not referred any further crimes against humanity cases to the ICC since March 2005.[citation needed]

A report on the 2008-9 Gaza War accused Palestinian and Israeli forces of possibly committing a crime against humanity.

UN Security Council responsibility

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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". The resolution commits the Council to action to protect civilians in armed conflict.

International Criminal Court

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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, and Article 7 of the treaty stated that:

The Rome Statute Explanatory Memorandum states that crimes against humanity

Council of Europe

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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: "penalize rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization 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;"

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 indicator of the required elements for a crime against humanity," i.e. 'a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population'".

The Holodomor has been recognized as a crime against humanity by the European Parliament.

See also

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  • Category:People convicted of crimes against humanity
  • Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts Project (RULAC)
  • Charter of the United Nations
  • Command responsibility
  • Council of Europe
  • Customary international law
  • Democide
  • Ethnic cleansing
  • Geneva Conventions
  • George Washington Williams
  • Historical revisionism (negationism)
  • Human rights
  • Interpol
  • Mass murder
  • Terrorism
  • Torture
  • Victor's justice
  • War crimes

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