Codifying the Obligations of States Relating to the Prevention of Atrocities

33 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2020

See all articles by Sean D. Murphy

Sean D. Murphy

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: September 15, 2020


Exactly what types of obligations of States fall within the realm of “prevention” of atrocities,
such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity? It could generally be thought that
some types of obligations are directly connected to prevention (obligations of prevention), while
others are of a different nature, though bearing upon the issue of prevention (obligations relating
to prevention). Based on a review of major multilateral treaties, this essay identifies six key
obligations of States that relate, directly or indirectly, to the prevention of atrocities. Such
obligations were deemed essential for inclusion in the International Law Commission’s 2019
articles on prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity.

Keywords: Atrocities, prevention, genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, International Law Commission, State responsibility, non-refoulement

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Murphy, Sean D., Codifying the Obligations of States Relating to the Prevention of Atrocities (September 15, 2020). Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Vol. 52, No. 27, 2020, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2020-67, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2020-67, Available at SSRN:

Sean D. Murphy (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

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