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What Are Considered Crimes Against Humanity?

What You Need to Know About Crimes Against Humanity

Crime against humanity refers to a category of crimes against international law which includes the most egregious violations of human dignity, especially those directed toward civilian populations, according to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. These crimes include certain acts committed as “part of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population,” states the Center for Justice & Accountability (CJA).

A 1915 declaration by the government of Great Britain, France, and Russia coined the term “crimes against humanity” on an international scale to condemn the Turkish government for the reported massacres of Armenians. Although crimes against humanity are not codified in any international convention nor federal statutes at the moment, however, efforts to establish such a treaty are in full effect.

As of now, interpretations of crimes against humanity currently hold that an attack is widespread if it occurs on a large scale and is intentionally directed at many victims, while an attack is considered systematic if it is organized rather than random.

In the past, human violations included the following crimes:

  • Murder
  • Extermination
  • Deportation or forcible transfer
  • False imprisonment
  • Torture
  • Rape, sexual slavery, or enforced sterilization
  • Racial, ethnic, or political persecution
  • Disappearance
  • Apartheid
  • "Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health" (according to Article 7 of the International Criminal Court Statute)

If you’re wondering how crimes against humanity and war crimes are different from one another, you must know an important difference is that crimes against humanity do not have to occur during war, as stated by the CJA. While both acts include crimes against humanity, war crimes are exclusive to war.

It’s important to remember that although crimes against humanity are not formally defined in an international treaty right now, that does not mean they will go unpunished. California is one of the only states in the US that codified and enforces crimes against humanity in accordance with Article 7 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court. Thus, California defined “crimes against humanity” as any of the following acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civil population, with knowledge of the attack:

  • Murder
  • Extermination
  • Enslavement
  • Forcible transfer of population
  • Arbitrary detention
  • Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity
  • Persecution on political, race, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, or gender grounds
  • Enforced disappearance of persons
  • Other inhuman acts of a similar character that intentionally cause great suffering, serious bodily injury, or serious mental injury

With this information in mind, our Santa Barbara criminal defense lawyers encourage you to reach out to us if you have any questions concerning crimes against humanity, or if you’re being investigated or charged for committing a crime against humanity. For serious accusations, you need serious defense from former prosecutors. Thus, you should call us at (805) 467-6060 to get started.