War Crimes vs Crimes against Humanity
War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity are both crimes against people in hostile situations, may it be intra-states or interstates. However, much war is abhorred, it remains a brutal reality. As with wars, there will always be casualties which can never be avoided. There is also the possibility of abuse during times of war, and in the past, these abuses have been sometimes left unnoticed. These acts of violence are more commonly referred to as war crimes. Other transgressions in conflicts that cause large-scale casualties, genocide, for example, are still considered as war crimes, but they are aptly called crimes against humanity.
What are War Crimes?
War crimes are defined as grave violations of the customary and treaty law with regards to international humanitarian law that are now considered as criminal offences for which there is individual responsibility. It can also be defined as the breach of established protocols and agreements and the non-adherence to the norms of procedure and rules of battle. Mistreatment of POWs and civilians are examples of what are considered as war crimes. The first formal statements concerning war crimes were established during the Hague and Geneva Conventions, but the earliest “international” tribunal concerning war crimes was held in the Holy Roman Empire in 1474. The definition of war crimes was further enhanced with the London Charter at the end of the Second World War, and this charter was used in the Nuremberg Trials. The London Charter also went on to establish the meaning of crimes against humanity, which were common occurrences during times of war.
What are Crimes against Humanity?
Crimes against humanity are defined as any particular act that forms part of a grave attack on human dignity or severe humiliation or degradation of one or more human beings. What is worthwhile to know is that these offences are not isolated or sporadic, but are part of a government policy or that the government condones or ignores its occurrences. The persecution of humans based on their culture, race, religion or political beliefs also constitutes a crime against humanity. A good example of this is the Holocaust. Isolated inhumane offences of this nature may be categorized as violations against human rights or can be considered, depending on the situation, as war crimes, but may not exactly be considered as crimes against humanity.
What is the difference between War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity?
Although these terms refer to acts that are committed during times of conflict, the term war crimes is a much broader term. Crimes against humanity refer to acts, before or during the war, that target a specific group of people, be it for their race, religion or political orientation that is condoned or even promoted by the government. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the regimes in Sudan and Congo are some examples of governments that condone or promote these actions. War crimes, on the other hand, is any act that violates treaties of war or any act that does not follow normal procedures or protocols. The shooting of a surrendering enemy or the killing of civilians are examples of war crimes. There was no clear accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity before the Nuremberg trials and as such, there was a need to clearly define the terms and setup the necessary rules to follow in times of war. Thus, the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal was created.
War Crimes vs Crimes against Humanity
• War crimes and crimes against humanity are terms referring to inhumane acts committed during times of conflict.
• The international community condemns war crimes and crimes against humanity, and grave consequences are sanctioned by the United Nations to any country or organization that participate in these acts.
• War crimes, however, is a broader term compared to crimes against humanity. Crimes against humanity refer to acts of violence targeting a particular group for their race, religion or political orientation. War crimes can be any act of violence that may or may not fall in that particular definition.
• Crimes against humanity must also be either a part of government policy or is being condoned or promoted by the government. War crimes, on the other hand, do not need to be condoned by the perpetrator’s government.
• Crimes against humanity are usually attributed to the government or country as a whole while war crimes can be attributed to a specific person.
• The definition of crimes against humanity includes the period before the war. Germany in World War II, for example, committed crimes against humanity before the global outbreak of World War II in their acts of violence against the Jewish people. War crimes, by definition, only include acts committed within the period of the war.