Excerpt of Just Security op-ed co-authored by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.
The resolution adopted recently at the United Nations General Assembly’s legal committee on draft articles for a treaty on crimes against humanity creates a two-year process for debate and discussion of the proposal within the committee. This opens the door for the possible adoption of a new, critically needed, global treaty on crimes against humanity within the next three or four years. Such a treaty would close several gaps in the legal architecture of atrocity crimes — particularly the legal obligation to prevent crimes against humanity, a duty not imposed by complementary regimes, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the proposed Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.
As Just Security readers will recall from previous articles, the project had been stuck for the past three years. Each year, an overwhelming majority of States voiced their enthusiastic support in the Sixth Committee. This was then followed by weeks of debate and the adoption of a disappointing resolution “taking note” of the International Law Commission’s work to produce the draft articles and placing it on the agenda for the following year. The primary culprit was not the draft articles themselves or States’ unwillingness to debate this important potential treaty. Instead, it was a product of the working methods of the Sixth Committee, which insist upon “consensus” (meaning de facto unanimity) for any concrete action to occur with respect to ILC products. As we have already noted here and here, this not only prevented any action with respect to the draft articles, but imperiled the legitimacy of the International Law Commission and the Sixth Committee itself.