Other International Crimes

AuthorJoseph Rikhof/Robert J Currie
As outlined in Chapter 1, the methodology being employed in th is book
distinguishes international crimes from transnational crimes and div-
ides the former into two subcategories. The f‌irst, inter national crimes in
the strict sense (stricto sensu), contains those crimes for which there is
individual liabil ity under international law itself, and which are deemed
by the international community to “shock the conscience of humanity”
to a suff‌icient extent that intern ational courts are given juri sdiction
to prosecute them. The second subcategory, called here simply “other
international cr imes,” contains a distinct subset of crim inal acts which
are deemed by states to be suff‌iciently odious that all states may (and
sometimes must) prosecute them under their domestic criminal law sys-
tems even extending to the use of the principle of universal jurisdic-
tion. Some of them bear some of the trappings of inter national crimes
stricto sensu some of the time; t he prohibitions of torture, apartheid, and
slavery, for example, are jus cogen s norms for which there is a broad con-
sensus that universal jurisdiction is available.1 Moreover, these th ree
crimes appear a s the base offences for war crimes or cr imes against
1 Report of the Inte rnational Law Commission , Seventy-f‌irst session (29 April–7 June
and 8 July–9 August 2019), General Assembl y Off‌icial Records, Seventy-four th
Session, Supp No 10, UN Doc A /74/10, Chapter V, Peremptory Norm s of Gen-
eral Intern ational Law (Jus Cogen s), Annex at 146– 47 (which al so mentions the
core crimes of ag gression, genocide, cri mes against humanity, and war c rimes
humanity (and sometimes both) under both treat y and customary inter-
national law instruments.
As noted earlier in Chapter 1, Section C(2), the f‌irst four cri mes dealt
with in thi s chapter torture, piracy, apartheid, and slavery have
not attracted the status of the core cri mes, but are deemed to be suf-
f‌iciently egregious to justify prosecution of the perpetrators wherever
they may go, so as to ensure they ca n f‌ind no safe haven. The f‌ifth, ter-
rorism, bears consideration within this f ramework because of both its
currency as a matter of inter national concern and the complexity of its
current status under inter national law. It is also dealt with as a t rans-
national crime of inter national concern in Chapter 7.
1) History and Def‌inition
The international law concerni ng the practice of torture can be said
to have three distinct but interrelated streams: torture a s a violation
of human rights; torture as an underlying offence to an international
crime stricto sensu, that is, war crime s and crimes against hum anity;
and torture as a discrete or stand-alone crime. The second of these cat-
egories is dealt with in Chapter 3, and it is the latter body of law that
is surveyed here.2
The prohibition of torture emerged as a jus coge ns norm in the twen-
tieth century, and as such the prohibition is absolute and may not be
derogated from even in times of emergency or crisi s, national or inter-
national.3 Torture has a long history as a pract ice used by both state off‌i-
cials and private par ties, usually in order to fulf‌ill certain goals, such as
punishment or the obtaini ng of inform ation or evidence for use in court
proceedings.4 However, the revulsion of the international community
grew rapidly in the post–World War II years, and in 1975, the United
as well as the r ight of self-determinat ion), online: http://legal.un.org/docs /
?symbol=A/74/10 [UN Doc A/74/10].
2 For torture under inte rnational human ri ghts law, see Mark Freeman & Gibran
van Ert, Internat ional Human Rights Law (Toronto: Irwin L aw, 2004) at 90 –92
and 27 7–83.
3 Though in the current a nti-terrorism clim ate, the possibility of an e xception for
torture in order to pr event terrorism is occa sionally mooted; see Paola Gaeta ,
“May Necessit y Be Available as a Defence Against Torture i n the Interrogation of
Suspected Terrori sts?” (200 4) 2 JICJ 762.
4 See John Langbe in, Torture an d the Law of Proof (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1977).
Other International Crimes 329
Nations General Assembly (UNGA) unanimously adopted a resolution
condemning torture as “an offence to human dignity and . . . a denial
of the purposes of the Ch arter of the United Nations and as a viola-
tion of the human rights and f undamental freedoms proclai med in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”5 This status was given its most
important boost by the 1984 United Nations Convention against Torture
and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT),6
which is one of the most widely-adhered-to transn ational crime con-
ventions.7 In assessing the status of the norm in t he Suresh8 ca se, the
Supreme Court of Canada was able to point to the fact th at torture is
prohibited under numerous international treaties or instruments, and
to the fact that “no state has ever legal ized torture or admitted to its
deliberate practice and that government s accused of practising torture
regularly deny their involvement, placing respon sibility on individual
state agents or groups outside the government’s control.”9 As the Court
noted in Filartiga, “the torturer has become, like the pirate or slave
trader before him, hostis humani generis, an enemy of all mankind.”10
There is a powerful case for clas sifying torture as an international
crime. While it is not an international crime stricto sensu, it is the sub-
ject of several international t reaty regimes, the CAT be ing only the most
global in scope.11 These regimes differ from most other suppression
5 Declaration on the Protectio n of All Person s from Being Subjected to Torture and
Other Cruel, Inhuma n or Degrading Treatme nt or Punishment, GA Res 3452 (XXX),
UNGAOR, 30th Ses s, Supp No 34, UN Doc A/10034 (1975) at 91, art 2 [Decla ra-
tion on Torture].
6 (1984), 1465 UNTS 85, Can TS 1987 No 36 [CAT].
7 As of Septemb er 2019, the CAT has 153 state part ies; online: www.ohch r.org/
8 Suresh v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [2002] 1 SCR 3 [Suresh].
9 Ibid at para 63. One need only look to t he controversy swirling a round the treat-
ment of detainee s in the US Guantanamo Bay int ernment camp to take note of
the fact that t he debate has all been around whet her this treatment qu alif‌ied
as torture — the US adm inistration has not se riously argued that tort ure is not
unlawfu l. See Karen Greenberg & Joshua Dret el, The Torture Papers: The R oad
to Abu Ghraib (New York: Cambridge Univer sity Press, 2005); Philippe Sand s,
Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of Amer ican Values (New York:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
10 Filart iga v Pena-Irala, 630 F2d 876 at 980 (2d Cir 1980). See also A(FC) and others
(FC) v Secretary of State for the Home Depar tment, [2004] UKHL 56 at para 9, Lord
11 See als o, for exa mple, OAS, Inter-American Convention to Preven t and Punish
Tor tu re, 9 Dece mber 1985, OAS Treaty S eries, No 67, online: www.refworld.org/
docid/3 ae6b3620.html [Inter-American Torture Convention]; the European Conven-
tion for the Preventi on of Torture an d Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punish-
ment (26 November 1987), reprinted (1988) 27 ILM 1152.

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