AN APPRAISAL OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF LEGAL FRAMEWORK OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY IN INTERNATIONAL LAW
1.1 Background of the Study
The first forty years after the Nuremberg Trial was a period of slow progress in developing international criminal law. There is no doubt that international criminal law has developed as a distinct field of study in recent years. Indeed if international criminal law is defined as the prosecution of individuals for ‗international crimes‘ such as war crimes or Crimes Against Humanity then there was no such law for most of the twentieth century. On the eve of the twentieth century attempts to regulate warfare in The Hague Conference of 1899, and again in 1907, were constrained by notions of State sovereignty. As the Nuremberg judges pointed out the following in 1946, ‗The Hague Convention nowhere designates such practices (methods of waging war) as criminal, nor is any sentence prescribed, nor any mention made of a court to try and punish offenders.‘
The Nuremberg trials established that all of humanity would be guarded by an international legal shield and that even a Head of State would be held criminally responsible and punished for aggression and Crimes Against Humanity. The right of humanitarian intervention to put a stop to Crimes Against Humanity – even by a sovereign against his own citizens-gradually emerged from the Nuremberg principles affirmed by the United Nations.
The awareness of the inadequacy of the law and the willingness to do something to enforce such new principles was slow in coming. The failure of the international community to develop binding norms of international criminal law was glaringly illustrated by the slow pace of various UN committees charged in 1946 with drafting both a code of crimes against the peace and security of mankind and the statutes for an international criminal court.
While the law limped lamely along, international crimes flourished. The horrors of the twentieth century are many. Acts of mass violence have taken place in so many countries and on so many occasions it is hard to comprehend. According to some estimates, nearly 170 million civilians have been subjected to genocide, war crimes and Crimes Against Humanity during the past century. The World Wars led the world community to pledge that ―never again‖ would anything similar occur. But the shocking acts of the Nazis were not isolated incidents, which we have since consigned to history. Hundreds of thousands and in some cases millions of people have been murdered in, among others, Russia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sierra Leone, Chile, the
Philippines, the Congo, Bangladesh, Uganda, Iraq, Indonesia, East Timor, El Salvador, Burundi, Argentina, Somalia, Chad, Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the second half of the past century. But what is possibly even sadder is that the International Community have witnessed these massacres passively without been proactive. The result is that in almost every case in history, the person responsible for carrying out these atrocities is not punished despite the existence of the constitutive international instruments and the judicial institutions (such as International Criminal
Court) and ad hoc tribunals such as the International Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia and International Tribunal for Rwanda.
Not until the world was shocked by the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia and the genocide in Rwanda could the UN, no longer paralyzed by the Cold War, take action. Nations that had been unwilling to intervene to block the carnage now recognized that some action was essential. For the first time since Nuremberg, a new international criminal tribunal was quickly put in place on an ad hoc basis by the UN Security Council. Under the impetus of shocked public demand, it became possible for the UN Secretariat to draft the statutes for the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia in about 8 weeks – the same time it had taken to agree upon the Charter to the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. The ICTY began functioning in
- It led to the speedy creation of a similar ad hoc tribunal to deal with genocide and Crimes Against Humanity in Rwanda.
Up until the present the international community has been very reluctant to enforce international criminal law. It has only been done a couple of times in history, without doubt due to the specific circumstances and the political climate at the time. The idea of establishing a permanent international criminal court is not new though. Attempts in that direction were taken as nearly as the end of World War I, but the international community never reached agreement on the matter.
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