- Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Bartram S. Brown
Chapter 4: Crimes against humanity
Margaret M. deGuzman INTRODUCTION The modern concept of crimes against humanity is a product of the scale and horror of the crimes committed in the two world wars as well as a growing consensus in the international community that certain crimes committed within national borders are legitimate subjects of international law and adjudication. At its inception, the notion of crimes against humanity was essentially an extension of the laws of war. Those laws have deep historic roots and aim to limit the devastation wrought by armed conflict by, among other things, criminalizing certain conduct by nationals of one state against nationals of another. In contrast, crimes committed within national borders were, until quite recently, considered outside the purview of international law. The Holocaust proved a tipping point in international law, spurring the rapid development of international human rights law and the concomitant evolution of international criminal law. The Nuremberg Charter thus provided for jurisdiction not only over war crimes, but also over ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘crimes against peace’.1 Unlike war crimes and genocide, crimes against humanity are not codified in an international convention. Instead, the law of crimes against humanity has primarily developed through the evolution of customary international law. Although the statutes of most international and internationalized2 tribunals contain definitions of these crimes, there are significant differences among those definitions. For example, the Nuremberg Charter and the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) require that crimes against humanity be committed in the context of...
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