'Other Inhumane Acts' as Crimes Against Humanity
Helsinki Law Review, January 2011
21 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2011 Last revised: 8 Jul 2011
Crimes against humanity are some of the core crimes in international criminal law and now often also criminalized by national criminal statutes. The content of this group of offenses has differed over time and depending on the context of their application. Crimes against humanity typically include acts such as murder, extermination and enslavement but also the rather enigmatic catch-all clause of, "other inhumane acts." This article attempts to examine how this notion is construed and developed as well as the material extent of it: What are the concrete acts that might constitute such an, "inhumane act."
The concept of, "other inhumane acts," was coined in the Nuremberg Statute, but its extent has changed significantly as has that of international criminal law as a whole. By the Rome Statute and the establishment the International Criminal Court other, "inhumane acts," have come to encompass a wide array of acts. All crimes against humanity used to be only applicable to acts committed in an armed conflict and therefore humanitarian law was the standard against which the, "inhumanity," of an act was judged. As crimes against humanity have come also to be applicable in times of peace the standards of humanitarian law have been replaced by those of human rights law. Case law suggests that at least certain types of sexual violence, forcible transfer of people, desecration of corpses, attempted murder, extensive destruction of property and the practice of, "forced marriage," could have in various courts been deemed, "other inhumane acts."
The vagueness of the category of, "other inhumane acts," is problematic, especially from the point of view of the principle of legality in criminal law. To ensure its fair application it is essential to create explicit restrictions to its use. Those could be found in the close connection to human rights law as well as by making sure that the acts included are of a similar gravity as other crimes against humanity.
Keywords: other inhumane acts, crimes against humanity, international criminal law, human rights law, humanitarian law, sexual violence, forced marriage, forcible transfer, destruction of property, ICTY, ICTR, SCSL, Rome Statute, ejusdem generis
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