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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 and 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."

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".

First use

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:

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:

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 Japanmarker 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.

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 Statesmarker, Republic of Chinamarker, Soviet Unionmarker, United Kingdommarker, the Netherlandsmarker, Provisional Government of the French Republic, Australia, New Zealandmarker, Canadamarker, British India, and the Philippinesmarker).

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.

Apartheid

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.

United Nations

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. 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. The UN has not referred any further crimes against humanity cases to the ICC since March 2005.

A report on the 2008-9 Gaza War accused Palestinian and Israeli forces of possibly committing a crime against humanity, after rocket attacks by Palestinian groups on civilian population sparked an Israeli offensive.

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". 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 Haguemarker (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

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 Parliamentmarker,

See also

References



Footnotes

  1. 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
  2. The Parliamentary Debates from the Year 1803 to the Present Time, Published by s.n., 1816 Volume 32. p. 200
  3. 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)
  4. Charter of the United Nations
  5. http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/044/31/IMG/NR004431.pdf?OpenElement
  6. http://www.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ICC/About+the+Court/
  7. Judge Philippe Kirsch (President of the International Criminal Court) Address to the United Nations General Assembly (PDF) website ICC, 9 October 2006. P. 3
  8. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8257301.stm
  9. Resolution 1674 (2006)
  10. Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe: Recommendation (2002) 5 Paragraph 69
  11. Luis Moreno-Ocampo OTP letter to senders re Iraq 9 February 2006. Page 4


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