New Mechanisms for Punishing Atrocities Committed in Non-International Armed Conflicts

13 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2015

See all articles by Sean D. Murphy

Sean D. Murphy

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: 2015


Three core crimes have emerged as a part of the jurisdiction of international criminal tribunals: war crimes; genocide; and crimes against humanity. Only two of these crimes (war crimes and genocide) have been addressed through a global treaty that requires States to prevent and punish such conduct and to cooperate among themselves toward those ends. Yet crimes against humanity may be more prevalent than either genocide or war crimes, and are a recurrent feature in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs).

As such, a global convention on prevention, punishment, and inter-State cooperation with respect to crimes against humanity appears to be a key missing piece in the current framework of international humanitarian law, international criminal law, and international human rights law. Such a convention could help to stigmatize such egregious conduct, could draw further attention to the need for its prevention and punishment, and could help to harmonize national laws relating to such conduct, thereby opening the door to more meaningful inter-State cooperation on the investigation, prosecution, and extradition for such crimes. In July 2014, the International Law Commission embarked on the drafting of such a convention, in the hope of presentation to the U.N. General Assembly within the next five years.

These remarks were the opening address at a conference on ‘Non-International Armed Conflicts (NIAC): Developments and Challenges’ held at Melbourne Law School, Australia, on 17 March 2015.

Keywords: International Law Commission, crimes against humanity, International Criminal Court, extradition, mutual legal assistance, human rights, international criminal law

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Murphy, Sean D., New Mechanisms for Punishing Atrocities Committed in Non-International Armed Conflicts (2015). Melbourne Journal of International Law 298 (2015), GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2015-53, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-53, Available at SSRN: or

Sean D. Murphy (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

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