By Norman Geras
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Extra resources for Crimes against Humanity: Birth of a Concept
What I mean is that both ideas can reasonably be seen as forming part of a rounded concept of crimes against humanity, but neither is primary to explaining why some acts are justifiably to be treated as being crimes against humanity. I explain in what follows. (A3) Breaching the sovereign authority of humankind The first of these two half-right ideas is that it is humankind that is the relevant sovereignty where such acts are concerned, humankind the authority ruling them to be illegal and, consequently, flouted by them.
241. 37 02 Crimes Against Humanity 032-074 3/12/10 10:11 Page 38 CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY I There is a widely noted distinction I shall make use of in separating into two broad groups the ideas to be considered here regarding why crimes against humanity are properly thought to be such. ‘Humanity’ might refer to (A) ‘the human race or mankind as a whole’. 9 In line with this distinction I shall designate the several ideas I go on to examine either A or B as seems appropriate, and number them sequentially within each group.
Shocking the conscience of humankind 5. Threatening the existence of humankind 6. All humankind are the victims words, against humaneness. This fails by not setting a high enough threshold. Crimes against humanity will be inhumane, to be sure, but inhumane acts are far from all being serious enough that they could, as an entire category, be sensibly accounted criminal offences under international law. For there is a common usage in which not only acts of extreme cruelty or which cause devastating harm, but also acts simply of a notable degree of unkindness or mean-spiritedness, are spoken of as inhumane.