Crimes Against Humanity: International Criminal Law Guidelines

Crimes Against Humanity (3)

Publication of leading case law and publicist commentaries on the contextual requirements of crimes against humanity

Brussels, February 2017
106 pages
ISBN: 978-82-8348-195-2

The International Criminal Law Guidelines: Crimes Against Humanity is a compilation of international case law and publicist commentaries on the contextual elements of crimes against humanity. The Guidelines are organised according to the ICC’s definition of crimes against humanity and demonstrate the interpretive developments, trends and divergences of the application of crimes against humanity before international(ised) criminal tribunals. It has been prepared for national practitioners, NGOs, researchers and academics as an introduction to the structure and application of crimes against humanity under international criminal law.

Recognise the legal requirements of crimes against humanity under international criminal law

The Guidelines introduce the structure of crimes against humanity, under the ICC Statute as well as other international criminal tribunals. Using infographics and tables, readers can understand the structure of crimes against humanity as an international crime, which consists of two parts – the underlying acts and a contextual part.


By focusing on the contextual part, practitioners can recognize the legal requirements that must be proven to establish the conditions for crimes against humanity:

“International criminal law requires proof that one or more underlying acts took place within the context of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population: the underlying acts become a crime against humanity by being embedded in this contextual requirement” (pp. 5-6).

Identify interpretive issues and trends including the ‘policy’ component 

International criminal tribunals have often adopted conflicting views on the definition of crimes against humanity. The Guidelines map these divergences as well as trends and developments, through excerpts from 48 emblematic international cases and 54 leading publicist commentaries.

The ‘policy’ component has been particularly controversial: the Guidelines track this. It shows cases where it was considered part of the test for a ‘systematic attack’ (pp. 62-63) as well as debates within the ICTY and ICTR regarding the status of ‘policy’ under international law (pp. 33-35) its adoption as a formal component of crimes against humanity by the ICC (pp. 35-37) as well as the qualities of both the policy (pp. 37-40) and the State or organisational entities which are responsible for the policy (pp. 40-43).

ICL Guidelines: Crimes Against Humanity launched in Mexico City


On 21 February 2017, more than 40 participants from Mexican civil society organisations, academia and international organisations participated in the launch of the Spanish version of the Guidelines. The launch was co-hosted by the Mexican Commission for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH), which used the opportunity to present the preliminary results of its Investigation Documentation System (I-DOC) project on the documentation of gross human rights violations that could amount to crimes against humanity.

  • Dr. Francisco Javier Dondé Matute (INACIPE): Disseminating international criminal jurisprudence and doctrine on crimes against humanity in Spanish
  • Dr. Emilie Hunter (CMN): Crimes against humanity as an international crime: the International Criminal Law Guidelines
  • Ximena Medellin (CIDE): Utilising the Guidelines to understand differences and similarities between crimes against humanity as an international crime and a human rights violation
  • Ina Zoon (OSJI): The Guidelines as a point of reference in structuring NGO documentation, investigation and advocacy work
  • Dr. Jose A. Guevara and Marion Rouille (CMDPDH): Preliminary findings of the I-DOC pilot project

On 22 February, a second launch was held at INACIPE, for over 70 participants including academic research staff and trainee prosecutors.

For more information, please contact:

Emilie Hunter, CMN Deputy Director: [email protected]

Ilia Utmelidze, CMN Director: [email protected]

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