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1998: A Permanent Court to Prosecute Atrocities Is Established

1998: A Permanent Court to Prosecute Atrocities Is Established

The Um Zeifa village in Darfur, Sudan, burns after a Janjaweed attack in 2005.

The Rome Statute, an international treaty ratified on July 17, 1998, permanently established the International Criminal Court to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. It reconfirmed the definition of genocide found in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; expanded the definition of crimes against humanity, and prohibited these crimes during times of war or peace.

The treaty defined crimes against humanity as any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:

a) Murder;
b) Extermination;
c) Enslavement;
d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;
e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;
f) Torture;
g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;
h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court;
i) Enforced disappearance of persons;
j) The crime of apartheid;
k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.

Photo: US Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Brian Steidle.