A 2-year project to study the international law regarding crimes against humanity and to draft a multilateral treaty condemning and prohibiting such crimes has been launched by the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. The project's the brainchild of our colleague Leila Nadya Sadat (right), Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law and Director of the Harris Institute, which is named after one of the American prosecutors before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, which tried Nazi war criminals after World War II. As international criminal law aficionados well know, the crime against humanity was one of the 3 crimes set out in the tribunal's London Charter.
Prompting this new move toward a comprehensive international response to crimes against humanity are a number of developments:
► Broad international support for the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which includes crimes against humanity among the offenses within the ICC's jurisdiction;
► Discussions among members of the U.S. Congress of criminal sanctions for crimes against humanity; and
► The considerable body of jurisprudence that various international criminal tribunals have produced in the last decade.
Sadat chairs the project's steering committee. Another member, DePaul University Law Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, has agreed to chair the treaty drafting committee. Also on the steering committee are Hans Corell, former U.N. Under-Secretary for Legal Affairs; Richard Goldstone, former Justice of the South African Constitutional Court and former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and for the Former Yugoslavia; Juan Méndez, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice and former President of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights; William Schabas, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, Galway; and Judge Christine Van Den Wyngaert (below left) of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
The steering committee plans to invite leading scholars and jurists to participate in an April 2009 Experts Roundtable, at which research on specific substantive and procedural aspects of the draft convention will be presented. The project will culminate with a global conference on crimes against humanity, at which the draft convention will be discussed.