Legal representation for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity
Please watch our YouTube video: "Legal representation for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine and Russia."
A war crime is a violation of the laws of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility for actions by combatants in action, such as
- intentionally killing civilians,
- intentionally killing prisoners of war,
- taking hostages,
- unnecessarily destroying civilian property,
- deception by perfidy,
- wartime sexual violence,
- pillaging, and
for any individual that is part of the command structure who orders any attempt to
- committing mass killings including genocide or ethnic cleansing,
- the granting of no quarter despite surrender,
- the conscription of children in the military and
- flouting the legal distinctions of proportionality and military necessity.
In 1949, the Geneva Conventions legally defined new war crimes and established that states could exercise universal jurisdiction over war criminals.
In the late 20th century and early 21st century, international courts extrapolated and defined additional categories of war crimes applicable to a civil war.
International Criminal Court 2002
War crimes are defined in the statute that established the International Criminal Court, which includes:
Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, such as:
Willful killing, or causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health
Torture or inhumane treatment
Unlawful wanton destruction or appropriation of property
Forcing a prisoner of war to serve in the forces of a hostile power
Depriving a prisoner of war of a fair trial
Unlawful deportation, confinement or transfer
Directing attacks against civilians
Directing attacks against humanitarian workers or UN peacekeepers
Killing a surrendered combatant
Misusing a flag of truce
Settlement of occupied territory
Deportation of inhabitants of occupied territory
Using poison weapons
Using civilians as shields
Using child soldiers
Firing upon a Combat Medic with clear insignia.
The following acts as part of a non-international conflict:
Murder, cruel or degrading treatment and torture
Directing attacks against civilians, humanitarian workers or UN peacekeepers
The following acts as part of an international conflict:
Rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution or forced pregnancy
However the court only has jurisdiction over these crimes where they are "part of a plan or policy or as part of a large-scale commission of such crimes".
Crimes Against Humanity
Crimes against humanity are widespread or systemic criminal acts which are committed by or on behalf of a de facto authority, usually by or on behalf of a state, that grossly violate human rights.
Unlike war crimes, crimes against humanity do not have to take place within the context of wars, and they apply to widespread practices rather than acts which are committed by individuals.
Although crimes against humanity apply to acts committed by or on behalf of authorities, they do not need to be official policy, and they only require tolerance rather than explicit approval.
Unlike war crimes, crimes against humanity can be committed during peace and war.
They are not isolated or sporadic events but are part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators do not need to identify themselves with this policy) or a wide practice of atrocities which is tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority.
War of aggression,
unethical human experimentation,
extrajudicial punishments including summary executions,
the use of weapons of mass destruction,
state terrorism or state sponsorship of terrorism,
kidnappings and forced disappearances,
the use of child soldiers,
religious persecution and
other human rights abuses
may reach the threshold of crimes against humanity if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice.