Crimes Against Humanity Initiative
The Crimes Against Humanity Initiative is a rule of law research and advocacy project of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute. Started in 2008 by Professor Leila Nadya Sadat, the Initiative has as its goals the study of the need for a comprehensive international convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity, the analysis of the necessary elements of such a convention, and the drafting of a proposed treaty. They have held several experts' meetings and conferences, and produced a draft treaty, currently being debated by the UN International Law Commission and governments around the world.
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- The Crimes Against Humanity Initiative was launched in 2008 by the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University School of Law
- To study the need for a treaty on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity,
- Analyze the elements of such a convention,
- Prepare a draft treaty, and
- Support the adoption of a new global treaty on crimes against humanity by the international community
- Fact sheet, pdf, (24 April 2019)
- Is it time for a new global treaty on crimes against humanity? Ever since the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative published a Proposed Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity in 2010, there has been a robust global conversation about the possibility of negotiating and adopting such a treaty, along the lines of the Genocide and Geneva Conventions adopted after World War II following the Nuremberg Trials. Attention increased particularly after the International Law Commission (ILC) added “crimes against humanity” to its long-term program of work in 2013. Support for the idea grew among States over time, as well as with NGOs, and the ILC received a record number of comments (approximately 750), including from 39 States, on its initial set of draft articles authored in 2017.
- Since Nuremberg, crimes against humanity have been offenses at customary international law, but there has never been a standalone treaty for the crime, although the conventions on genocide, apartheid, torture, and enforced disappearance all recognize certain offenses as crimes against humanity. In recent years, work by groups such as the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative have created momentum for the adoption of a dedicated treaty, with the International Law Commission currently undertaking significant work to propose draft articles for such a treaty, incorporating the Rome Statute definition of the crime verbatim.
The absence of a specialized crimes against humanity treaty is an unjustifiable gap in the framework of international criminal justice, and its future creation, should it come to pass, will be a belated step in the right direction.