Senator Durbin’s Speech Highlights ABA Working Group on Crimes Against Humanity

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) will reintroduce Crimes Against Humanity (CAH) legislation in Congress. Referring to the lack of such legislation as a “legal loophole,” he explained that “[d]espite longstanding U.S. support for the prosecution of crimes against humanity committed in World War II … in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone and elsewhere … there is no U.S. law prohibiting crimes against humanity.” Senator Durbin’s initiative to reintroduce CAH legislation coincides with the recently formed ABA Working Group on CAH, of which Professor Leila Sadat, Director of the Harris Institute, is an inaugural member.

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Recent articles in the Economist and The Hill highlights the gap in U.S. and international law as it relates to crimes against humanity

“Seventy years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, many countries lack the legal authority to prosecute war criminals and perpetrators of atrocities and give redress to victims.” Genocide, and a number of war crimes, including torture and enforced disappearance, have dedicated UN treaties, but there is still none which covers crimes against humanity. Moreover, there is a gap in U.S. legislation that limits the country’s ability to bring perpetrators who are in its custody to justice.

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The Economist:
The Hill:

UN International Law Commission adds the topic of “crimes against humanity” onto its active agenda.

This important development follows the Experts’ Meeting entitled “Fulfilling the Dictates of Public Conscience: Moving Forward with a Convention on Crimes Against Humanity” and the subsequent conference Report published on July 17, 2014. Convened by the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative, the meeting in Geneva brought together leading experts in international criminal law, including members of the International Law Commission, to discuss the complex issues the ILC will face as it begins the study and drafting process of a global convention on crimes against humanity.  More

New Book Released about the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative

Forging a Convention for Crimes Against Humanity
edited by Leila Nadya Sadat

Crimes against humanity were one of the three categories of crimes elaborated in the Nuremberg Charter. However, unlike genocide and war crimes, they were never set out in a comprehensive international convention. This book represents an effort to complete the Nuremberg legacy by filling this gap. It contains a complete text of a proposed convention on crimes against humanity in English and in French, a comprehensive history of the proposed convention, and fifteen original papers written by leading experts on international criminal law. The papers contain reflections on various aspects of crimes against humanity, including gender crimes, universal jurisdiction, the history of codification efforts, the responsibility to protect, ethnic cleansing, peace and justice dilemmas, amnesties and immunities, the jurisprudence of the ad hoc tribunals, the definition of the crime in customary international law, the ICC definition, the architecture of international criminal justice, modes of criminal participation, crimes against humanity and terrorism, and the inter-state enforcement regime.
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Propuesta de Convención Internacional para la Prevención y la Sanción de los Crímenes de Lesa Humanidad


Los Estados Partes en la presente Convención,

Conscientes de que todos los pueblos están unidos por estrechos lazos y comparten ciertos valores comunes,

Afirmando su creencia en la necesidad de proteger de forma efectiva la vida y la dignidad humana,

Reafirmando su compromiso con los propósitos y principios de las Naciones Unidas, enunciados en su Carta, y con las normas universales de derechos humanos reflejadas en la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos y otros instrumentos internacionales pertinentes, …continue reading

Proposed International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity


The States Parties to the present Convention,

Conscious that all people are united by common bonds and share certain common values,

Affirming their belief in the need to effectively protect human life and human dignity,

Reaffirming their commitment to the purposes and principles of the United Nations, outlined in its Charter, and to the universal human rights norms reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international instruments,    continue reading