In the field of international law, three core crimes generally make up the jurisdiction of international criminal tribunals: war crimes; genocide; and crimes against humanity. Only two of these crimes (war crimes and genocide) are the subject of a global treaty that requires States to prevent and punish such conduct and to cooperate among themselves toward those ends. By contrast, there is no such treaty dedicated to preventing and punishing crimes against humanity.
Yet crimes against humanity may be more prevalent than either genocide or war crimes. Such crimes may occur in situations not involving armed conflict and do not require the special intent that is necessary for establishing genocide. Moreover, treaties focused on prevention, punishment, and inter-State cooperation exist for many far less egregious offences, such as corruption, bribery, or organized crime. While some treaties address offenses that under certain conditions might also constitute crimes against humanity, such as State-sponsored torture or enforced disappearance of persons, those treaties do not address crimes against humanity as such.
At its sixty-sixth session in 2014, the U.N. International Law Commission decided to place the topic “crimes against humanity” on its program of work and to appoint a Special Rapporteur. The purpose of this First Report of the Special Rapporteur is to address the potential benefits of developing draft articles that might serve as the basis of an international convention on crimes against humanity. Further, this report provides general background with respect to the emergence of the concept of crimes against humanity as an aspect of international law, its application by international courts and tribunals, and its incorporation in the national laws of some States. Ultimately, this report proposes two initial draft articles for such a convention: one on prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity and the other on the definition of such crimes.
GW Paper Series
GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-12; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2015-12
Murphy, Sean D., First Report of the Special Rapporteur on Crimes Against Humanity (February 17, 2015). United Nations International Law Commission, A/CN.4/680; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-12; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2015-12. Available at SSRN:http://ssrn.com/abstract=2598533