NEW YORK — A United Nations committee today passed a resolution that advanced the International Law Commission’s draft treaty on crimes against humanity. If eventually adopted by states, it would be the first stand-alone treaty that specifically addresses a broad range of obligations, including duties to prevent and punish crimes against humanity.
Introduced by the Gambia, the final resolution passed by the UNGA Sixth Committee was co-sponsored by a cross-regional group of over 85 countries and creates an “interactive format” for debate on the substance of the draft treaty over the next two years. The resolution represents significant progress after the topic has stalled in recent years following resistance from Russia, China, and its allies.
In 2021, prominent international law experts and practitioners from around the world — including former International Criminal court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda — signed a statement arguing the treaty would “close a crucial gap in the current international framework on mass atrocities.”
Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:
“Today’s resolution represents the most significant progress on the treaty since work on it began in 2013. For too long, victims of atrocious crimes around the world have languished without a comprehensive international framework that specifically targets these crimes and requires the international community to prevent and punish them. As an organization dedicated to combating gender-based crimes around the world, we’re heartened to finally see action on this critical treaty after so many years.
“Year after year, progress on the treaty was stymied by a small cadre of authoritarian countries determined to halt human rights measures at every turn. In these cases, procedural objections were used as a cover for opposition to the treaty itself.
“We can’t allow this gap in the international legal system to exist any longer. Perpetrators of sexual and reproductive violence, enslavement, deportation, and other crimes against humanity are growing more emboldened thanks to an increasingly-weakening international order. We need this treaty now more than ever.”