The United Nations International Law Commission voted today to include an item on crimes against humanity as part of its long-term work programme. This is the latest stage in a project to prepare a Convention on Crimes Against Humanity which has been piloted by Prof. Leila Sadat of Washington University in St. Louis.
The idea of a crimes against humanity treaty has been around for many years. Of course there is the well-known Genocide Convention, which dates to 1948. But there has never been a corresponding instrument for crimes against humanity. Cherif Bassiouni wrote an article proposing this many years ago, a pioneering proposal like so much of what he has done throughout his distinguished career.
Then Prof. Sadat picked up the baton, organising a series of expert meetings that culminated in a detailed proposal published by Cambridge University Press.
The next stage in advancing the agenda has been to get the International Law Commission to take it on board, and that is what happened today. The Commission is subordinate to the General Assembly, so its approval of the initiative is required. Assuming all goes well later this year when the General Assembly meets, the Commission will take up the matter as part of its agenda in early 2014 and appoint a special rapporteur who will be in charge of the matter.
Congratulations to Leila Sadat and her team for their energetic efforts and their persistence.