6 December 2023 – Support for a Crimes Against Humanity Treaty

For more than a decade there have been global efforts to consider and develop a Crimes Against Humanity Treaty, in order to remedy a significant gap in international law, being the absence of a comprehensive treaty for the prevention and punishment of these crimes. Such a treaty would require States to prevent crimes against humanity and complement the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, in providing States with incentives and tools to prevent and punish these crimes at the national level.

In 2019, after a number of years of development and consultation, the United Nations International Law Commission finalised the Draft Articles on Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity. The Draft Articles were referred to the Sixth Committee for consideration. In 2022, UNGA Resolution A/C.6/77/L.4 was adopted and set out a clear timeline for the exchange of substantive views on the Draft Articles. The Draft Articles have been discussed a number of times and States can submit written comments by 1 December 2023, with a view to making a decision on a potential Crimes Against Humanity Treaty in October 2024.

The Australian Centre for International Justice supports the development and adoption of a Crimes Against Humanity Treaty, as an important means to address the current gap in international law.

In September 2023, we wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Attorney-General welcoming the Australian Government’s expressed support for the treaty and further urging the Australian Government to:

  • Assume a leadership role in the Asia-Pacific region, encouraging States in the region to participate in the development of and express their support for a Crimes Against Humanity Treaty.
  • Continue to support the strengthening of particular aspects of the Draft Articles and the inclusion of these Draft Articles within a Crimes Against Humanity Treaty, including those Articles relating to national jurisdiction and cooperation; First Nations perspectives; gender-related issues and victims’ rights.
  • Strengthen its domestic legal and institutional capacities to meaningfully provide pathways for accountability for crimes against humanity and other international crimes, including by establishing a permanent, specialised unit for investigating international crimes.

The Australian Centre for International Justice also supports the efforts of Global Justice Center which has been leading efforts to ensure the advancement of gender justice in a Crimes Against Humanity Treaty.

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