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Posted on April 13th, 2014, by

Today, individuals may be accountable for war crimes within the frame of international criminal court and international humanitarian law. War crimes are ”˜grave breaches’ as specified in the Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol I of 1949, along with other serious violations of international humanitarian norms applicable in international and non-international armed conflicts (Bassiouni, 2003). In fact, war crimes were the crimes that actually gave rise to the international humanitarian law and international criminal court because initially, the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals were prototypes of the contemporary international criminal court and they were created specifically to try leaders of Germany and Japan for war crimes mainly. War crimes are crimes related to military actions and effects of those crimes may be direct as well as indirect. At the same time, national courts may face substantial difficulties while prosecuting individuals for war crimes because often individuals making orders and committing war crimes hold the high social standing and, more important, they have a strong military power at hand. As a result, they may not always be prosecuted in terms of the national criminal court system. As a rule war crimes involve participants of military operations and the military comprise at least of the parties involved in war crimes. However, the military should not be necessarily the regular army to commit war crimes. At this point, it is possible to refer to the case of the former Yugoslavia, where militarized units consistent of soldiers, who did not serve in the regular army, and who committed war crimes which were ordered by top commandment of those units. This is actually why the former Yugoslavia tribunal prosecutes individuals for war crimes as well as other crimes which are accountable for the international criminal court and international humanitarian law.

Crimes against humanity encompass serious attacks on human dignity or a grave humiliation or a degradation of human beings (Schabas, 2006). At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that the Rome Statute requires crimes against humanity to be committed as part of widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack. To put it more precisely, a single act of the degradation of human beings cannot be prosecuted as the crime against humanity. The systematic and regular nature of crimes involving attacks on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of human beings are essential characteristics of crimes against humanity. Individuals are accountable for these crimes in face of the international criminal court and international humanitarian law. In the past, when the international criminal court and international humanitarian law provisions have not been implemented yet, attacks on human dignity could be regular and individuals committing such attacks could escape prosecution and just punishment because there was no judicial power and authority to prosecute them, while, at the local level, such individuals could be just untouchable and hold the full control over the judicial system and courts. Crimes against humanity are extremely dangerous because they normally involve the civilian population and people cannot resist to these crimes.

Genocide covers acts such as murder or serious bodily or mental harm, committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such (Cryer, et al., 2007). In fact, genocide is an extremely dangerous and one of the gravest crimes that may be committed and which individuals are accountable for. At the same time, genocide is committed by large groups of people headed by the leader, who actually orders and conducts the policy of genocide. Genocide aims at the elimination of ethnic, racial, national, or religious groups that involves other groups to commit the policy of genocide. In such a situation, the large group of people may be involved in genocide. Naturally, they may not consider their policy as a crime or they will never try themselves for the crime all of them have committed. As a rule, such policy is often viewed by the group that commits genocide as a good act because leaders conducting the policy of genocide often accused the target ethnic, racial, national or religious group as the primary cause of all troubles and evils the society is facing at the moment. As a result, they gain a large support of the population because people trust that after the elimination of the target group, their life will change for better. In such a situation, the interference of the international community is essential because individuals are accountable for genocide they commit and often it is only through the interference of the international community the international forces can put the end to genocide as was the case of Rwanda, for instance. The enormous pressure of the international community forced the ruling regime of Rwanda to stop genocide, while the Rwanda tribunal tries individuals responsible for genocides in this country. In fact, this example is typical in terms of the development of the policy of genocide and individual accountability for this crime. As a rule, the interference of the international community is needed to stop genocide. Often such interference involves the military intervention after which the international criminal court and international humanitarian law can prosecute and try individuals responsible for genocide.

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