Crimes Against Humanity News Features Papers

Crimes Against Humanity Treaty Moves Forward in 2022

2022 saw important advances in the work to negotiate a new global treaty on crimes against humanity. The Spring was devoted to developing a series of practical procedural options that States wishing to advance to negotiations could use to bypass what seemed to be an intractable block posed by the consensus tradition in the U.N. Sixth Committee. Along with our partners at the Global Justice Center, we published a White Paper on options for advancing the treaty forward, which Professor Leila Sadat then presented to the UN Group of Friends of the Rule of Law in June 2022. Prior to reconvening of the Sixth Committee in October, the Initiative, joined by partners at the Global Justice Center and Human Rights Watch, urged States to take the draft articles seriously and work for a positive outcome. Approximately one week prior to the October 10, 2022 meeting, a cross-regional group of 8 States—Bangladesh, Columbia, Costa Rica, Gambia, Mexico, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, and the United States—introduced a “zero draft” resolution calling for the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee to examine the draft articles and the ILC’s recommendation that a treaty be negotiated and report back directly to the General Assembly the following year (2023). This “zero draft” essentially reversed the problematic dynamics of prior years by forcing opposing states into a defensive position. After a series of procedural skirmishes, back-and-forth negotiations, and tense conversations facilitated by Mexico and The Gambia, a consensus resolution was adopted on November 18, 2022, creating a two-year process to discuss the draft treaty and report back to the Sixth Committee for a decision to be taken in 2024. By the end of the process, as our Tabulation of State reactions shows, support for the new treaty swelled to 100 States in favor, 15 opposed, and the number of cosponsors had increased to 86. The Sixth Committee’s report was adopted by the General Assembly on December 30, 2022. It will take skillful leadership at the United Nations to make sure that the next two years deliver a positive outcome, as well as continued and sustained pressure from civil society, victims and survivors organizations, and like-minded governments.