War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

Guénaél Mettraux

in International Crimes and the Ad Hoc Tribunals

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780199207541
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191709203 | DOI:
War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

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Four elements distinguish war crimes from crimes against humanity. War crimes may only be committed during an armed conflict, whereas crimes against humanity can be committed both in times of war and of peace. Furthermore, a crime against humanity may be committed against nationals of any state, including that state’s own nationals, if the state takes part in the attack. Whereas crimes against humanity may only be committed against civilians, most war crimes may be committed against both civilians and enemy combatants. A crime against humanity must be committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack upon a civilian population; there is no such requirement for a war crime. An isolated act could qualify as a war crime, but not as a crime against humanity. Nearly all of the underlying offences which could qualify as crimes against humanity would also amount, all other conditions being met, to war crimes, but the converse is not necessarily true.

Keywords: war crimes; crimes against humanity; armed conflict; civilian population; attack; underlying offences

Chapter.  2438 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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