Fourth Report of the Special Rapporteur on Crimes against Humanity

140 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2019

See all articles by Sean D. Murphy

Sean D. Murphy

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: September 15, 2019


In August 2017, the United Nations International Law Commission completed the first draft of a set of articles that could be used as the basis for a Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Humanity. Thereafter, governments and others were invited to provide oral observations before the Sixth (Legal) Committee of the United Nations General Assembly and to submit written comments to the Commission with respect to the draft articles. All told, 52 governments made oral observations, while nearly 40 governments submitted written comments. In addition, written comments were submitted by seven international organizations (or offices thereof), including the European Union, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Moreover, comments were received from various United Nations special procedures mandate holders and from approximately 700 non-governmental organizations or individuals.

The observations and comments received were analyzed by the Commission’s Special Rapporteur on this topic, Sean D. Murphy, in his Fourth Report on Crimes against Humanity (2019). This final report by the Special Rapporteur proposes modifications to the 2017 articles based on the comments received or explains why modifications are not desirable. Important topics addressed within the report include: the definition of crimes against humanity; obligations of prevention; obligations of national criminalization; obligations to establish and exercise national jurisdiction over alleged offenders, including to extradite or prosecute an alleged offender who is present in the State’s territory; rights of the alleged offender; rights of victims, witnesses and others; procedures for extradition and mutual legal assistance; and inter-State dispute resolution.

At its 2019 session, the Commission debated the Fourth Report and then adopted modifications to the 2017 draft articles, as well as modifications to the associated commentary. The final version of the Articles on Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Humanity, with commentary, may be found at Chapter IV of U.N. Doc. A/74/10 (2019). In addition, the Commission recommended the elaboration of a convention by the United Nations General Assembly or by an international conference of plenipotentiaries on the basis of the articles.

Keywords: crimes against humanity, atrocity, human rights, international criminal law, prevention

JEL Classification: K14, K33

Suggested Citation

Murphy, Sean D., Fourth Report of the Special Rapporteur on Crimes against Humanity (September 15, 2019). United Nations International Law Commission, A/CN.4/725, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2019-59, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2019-59, Available at SSRN:

Sean D. Murphy (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

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