Crimes against humanity must be prosecuted for International Criminal Court to succeed

Successful prosecutions of crimes against humanity must occur at the International Criminal Court (ICC) if it is to succeed in its mandate to punish the perpetrators of atrocities and deter others from committing such crimes, argues Leila Sadat, JD, international law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.

Sadat’s research, arguments and analysis were laid out in detail in “Crimes Against Humanity in the Modern Age,” published in the most recent issue of the American Journal of International Law. The research also is part of a blog debate on the subject convened by the American Society of International Law (


Sadat recently was appointed a special adviser on crimes against humanity (CAH) for the International Criminal Court. She is the leading force behind the elaboration and adoption of a new international treaty for the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity.

Sadat is also director of WUSTL’s Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute and the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law.

Sadat’s research establishes that crimes against humanity prosecutions are critically important tools for atrocity prevention, at both the ad hoc international criminal tribunals and the ICC. It establishes that they have evolved from the paradigm of state totalitarianism typified by the Nazi regime, many of whose leading members were tried at Nuremberg, to internecine struggles for power between political factions that attack civilians with impunity. Sadat argues the ICC statute should be interpreted with this new paradigm in mind.

Sadat’s article said the early case law of the court may weaken the effectiveness of CAH charges at the ICC.

“Vexing concerns about prosecutorial overreaching, interstate politics and judicial efficiency may well need to be addressed at the ICC, but the Court’s CAH jurisprudence is not the place to do this,” she wrote.

To review the full article, visit here.

Watch a video of Sadat discussing the International Criminal Court:

Leila Sadat, international law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, discusses current issues before the International Criminal Court and her work as ICC special adviser.