[Efrat Bouganim-Shaag, LL.B, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2012); Yael Naggan, LL.B and B.A. in International Relations graduate from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2013)]
Last February, a report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea concluded that there are “nine patterns of violation” of rights, which “may amount to crimes against humanity, committed as part of systematic and/or widespread attacks against civilian population”. The violations mentioned were, inter alia, in respect of the right to food, torture, arbitrary detentions, discrimination, the right to life and enforced disappearances. Following this report, a UN special panel has recently begun to investigate human rights violations in the DPRK. Persecutions, arbitrary detentions and torture reportedly committed in Eritrea are another example of state-sponsored human rights violations, possibly amounting to crimes against humanity (see, e.g., here and here). These all-too-common situations, in which the civilian population in a given country is continuously subjected to human rights violations which could amount to crimes against humanity, presumably warrant the International Criminal Court’s attention.
Indeed, the framework of the Rome Statute allows for the investigation and prosecution of peace-time crimes against humanity; i.e. those taking place without any connection to an armed conflict. Nonetheless, a review of the current situations handled by the ICC suggests that crimes of this nature have been somewhat outside of the Court’s focus. In this post we will highlight what we identify as a gap between the Court’s subject matter jurisdiction and its practice.
Under article 7 of the Rome Statute, the definition of crimes against humanity does not require that the acts in question occur in connection with an armed conflict. In all the “situations” presently before the Court the charges brought forward have included crimes against humanity (except for the situation in Mali, in which no charges have been brought as of yet) (see Prof. Sadat’s recent study). Nevertheless, seven out of the eight current situations have to do with armed conflicts; the post-election violence in Kenya being the exception. Furthermore, an overview of the current preliminary examinations being held by the Office of the Prosecutor (as of August 2013) may suggest a similar focus on situations in which armed conflicts have occurred. Even events presently being discussed by the international community as meriting the Court’s attention involve armed conflicts, namely Syria (see, e.g., here and here).
While this trend is not necessarily a negative one, it certainly calls for further consideration…