Crimes Against Humanity Law and Legal Definition

Crimes against humanity are offences that involve a serious attack on humanity or which involves a humiliation or degradation of human beings. The traditional conception regarding crimes against humanity was that a policy must be present and must be that of a State. This conception has been expanded to include non-state entities which, although not a part of the legitimate government, have de facto control over a defined territory. Hence, crimes against humanity are crimes committed through political organization. It was following the Second World War, that the U.S. and other nations recognized "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity," including "genocide," as crimes for which international law permits the exercise of universal jurisdiction. Customary international law rules proscribing crimes against humanity, including genocide, and war crimes, have been enforceable against individuals since World War II. Crimes against humanity must be widespread or demonstrate a systematic character. However, as long as there is a link with the widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population, a single act can qualify as a crime against humanity. A single act by a perpetrator taken within the context of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population entails individual criminal responsibility and an individual perpetrator need not commit numerous offenses to be held liable.