Crimes Against Humanity News

Harris Institute Spearheads Progress on a Global Crimes Against Humanity Convention

In fall 2016, the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute held a series of events to support its flagship project, the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative.  The Crimes Against Humanity Initiative was launched in 2008 by Professor Leila Sadat, the James Carr Professor of International Criminal Law and Director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University School of Law.

In October 2016, the Initiative’s documentary film Never Again: Forging a Convention for Crimes Against Humanity was previewed atInternational Law Weekend-New York.  Combining the testimony of survivors and the commentary of internationally renowned experts, Never Again chronicles the slow but steady effort to remedy a gap in international law and practice to prevent and punish crimes against humanity.  The film makes a compelling case for the adoption of a new global treaty and will become publically available in summer 2017.

In November 2016, the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute hosted a side event on the International Law Commission’s work on the topic of crimes against humanity at the Fifteenth Session of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.  The meeting was co-sponsored by the governments of Germany and South Korea and provided a briefing on the work of the Commission by the Special Rapporteur on Crimes Against Humanity, Professor Sean Murphy.  The panel discussion also offered opportunities to receive questions and comments from key experts in the field as well as from other participants at the Assembly of States Parties.

On December 12-13, 2016, in collaboration with the Centre for International Law at the National University of Singapore, the Harris Institute convened an Asia-Pacific Consultation Meeting to discuss an advanced draft of the International Law Commission’s Third Report on the topic of crimes against humanity.  International experts, principally from the Asia-Pacific Region, as well as Members of the Commission and the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative Steering Committee gathered in Singapore to elaborate on specific draft articles of the Third Report prior to its submission in January.

To date, the Commission has provisionally adopted ten draft articles on this topic. In summer 2017, members of the International Law Commission will meet in Geneva to deliberate on the draft articles proposed in the Third Report, including addressing State Parties’ obligations with respect to extradition, mutual legal assistance, non-refoulement, federal States, monitoring mechanisms and dispute settlement, as well as other topics such as the draft articles’ relationship to international criminal tribunals and issues with victims, witnesses, and other affected persons.  The Commission will adopt additional articles during its summer session, and States will have an opportunity to comment on the Commission’s work at the next General Assembly meeting in the fall.

The Harris Institute recently published a Compilation Report summarizing government reactions to the International Law Commission’s work on crimes against humanity during the last four sessions of the United Nations General Assembly Sixth Committee (68th, 69th, 70th and 71st Sessions).