Crimes against humanity

Crimes against humanity are certain acts that are purposefully committed as part of a widespread or systematic policy, directed against civilians, in times of war or peace. They differ from war crimes because they are not isolated acts committed by individual soldiers but are acts committed in furtherance of a state or organizational policy.[1] The first prosecution for crimes against humanity took place at the Nuremberg trials. Initially being considered for legal use, widely in International Law, following the Holocaust a global standard of human rights was articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. Political groups or states that violate or incite violation of human rights norms, as found in the Declaration, are an expression of the political pathologies associated with crimes against humanity.

The Armenian genocide (pictured) was the first event officially condemned as a "crime against humanity".

Crimes against humanity have since been prosecuted by other international courts (for example, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court) as well as in domestic prosecutions. The law of crimes against humanity has primarily developed through the evolution of customary international law. Crimes against humanity are not codified in an international convention, although there is currently an international effort to establish such a treaty, led by the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative.

Unlike war crimes, crimes against humanity can be committed during peace or war.[2] They are not isolated or sporadic events but are part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy) or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority. War crimes, murder, massacres, dehumanization, genocide, ethnic cleansing, deportations, unethical human experimentation, extrajudicial punishments including summary executions, use of weapons of mass destruction, state terrorism or state sponsoring of terrorism, death squads, kidnappings and forced disappearances, use of child soldiers, unjust imprisonment, enslavement, torture, rape, political repression, racial discrimination, religious persecution and other human rights abuses may reach the threshold of crimes against humanity if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice.[citation needed]