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ABA Urges U.S. Government to Act on Crimes Against Humanity

ABA passed a policy resolution urging the U.S. government to pass domestic legislation prohibiting Crimes Against Humanity.

Washington D.C., Aug. 12, 2014 - At the 2014 American Bar Association (ABA) Annual Meeting, the ABA House of Delegates unanimously passed a policy resolution urging the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive domestic legislation prohibiting Crimes Against Humanity (CAH).

Additionally, this resolution urged the U.S. Government to lead an international effort to negotiate and adopt a CAH treaty.

CAH are criminal acts - such as murder, rape, torture, illegal imprisonment - when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population and with knowledge of the attack. CAH can occur during peacetime or wartime.

Currently, U.S. laws only outlaw the international atrocity crimes of genocide and war crimes. While  there are U.S. laws which cover some CAH acts, such as child soldiers and torture, a vast majority of CAH acts are not covered, such as persecution, extermination, and enslavement.

Without comprehensive domestic legislation prohibiting CAH, the U.S. can become a safe haven for perpetrators who commit CAH acts in States outside of U.S. borders and flee to the U.S. to avoid prosecution by States that have comprehensive CAH legislation. Moreover, the U.S. government cannot prosecute foreign or American nationals who commit CAH acts within the jurisdiction of the United States.

Unlike war crimes and genocide, CAH have not been codified in an international treaty. Accordingly, there are large gaps within and between States to investigate and prosecute CAH and cooperate with each other in doing so. A comprehensive CAH treaty, with extradition and mutual legally assistance provisions for example, would significantly curtail these gaps.

Michael S. Greco, former ABA President and Chair of the ABA’s International Criminal Court Project, introduced and advocated for the CAH resolution before the entire ABA House of Delegates. Please find here the video of his remarks.

The American Bar Association’s (ABA) International Criminal Court Project is an independent initiative of the ABA Center for Human Rights that advances international criminal justice and US-ICC relations through advocacy, education and practical legal assistance. More information about the ABA-ICC Project can be found at its website.