The U.N. Sixth Committee to Discuss Draft Articles for a Crimes Against Humanity Convention

Building on the work of the Harris Institute’s Crimes Against Humanity Initiative, a new global treaty on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity is gaining momentum. In summer 2017, the International Law Commission (ILC) completed Draft Articles for a global convention for crimes against humanity and requested comments from governments, international organizations, and others. In fall 2018, the Commission received a large number of comments on the Draft Articles, with 39 States, seven international organizations, and approximately 700 NGOs and individuals submitting observations.  Comments were generally positive, noting the significance of the proposed treaty and satisfaction that it would not conflict with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The ILC began a second reading of the Draft Articles in May 2019 with a review of Special Rapporteur Sean Murphy’s Fourth Report. Following a week of comments from members of the Commission, the ILC voted unanimously to send the Draft Articles to the Drafting Committee.  The Commission adopted a complete set of Draft Articles and Commentary at the end of summer 2019, which will be discussed by the U.N. Sixth Committee on October 28-30, 2019 at the United Nations in New York.  The new treaty could be adopted by the United Nations General Assembly or at a Diplomatic Conference as early as 2020.

It is now incumbent upon States to turn the Commission’s work into a new treaty.  To this end, the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative is organizing a side event on October 29, 2019 in New York City to discuss the ILC’s Draft Articles on crimes against humanity, generate enthusiasm for the project, and answer questions that could be raised by States or members of civil society.   The Federal Republic of Germany will sponsor the meeting, in addition to other like-minded States.

ABILA’s International Law Weekend 2019, held in New York, also featured a panel entitled Forging a Convention for Crimes Against Humanity on Friday, October 11 at 9 a.m.  Moderated by ABILA President Leila Sadat, speakers include John Bellinger, former U.S. Department of State Legal Adviser; Sean Murphy, Special Rapporteur for Crimes Against Humanity, International Law Commission; Michelle Reyes, Regional Coordinator for the Americas, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court; and Patrícia Galvão Teles, Member of the International Law Commission and Senior Consultant for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal.