Crimes against humanity – defined as a systematic attack on a civilian population – tend to be planned or at least condoned by state authorities: heads of government, senior officials or military leaders. In some cases, companies also play a direct or indirect role in their perpetration.
The term "crimes against humanity" was first defined during the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials. Under this definition the Nazis' mass extermination of the Jewish population in Europe and other groups was a genocide but it also constituted a crime against humanity as a whole.
When crimes against humanity – which can include ethnic cleansing, enslavement or deportation of a population – are perpetrated today, those responsible for them can be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or in certain national jurisdictions under the principle of universal jurisdiction. All too often, however, those responsible enjoy absolute impunity.
ECCHR works to end impunity for crimes against humanity. Together with affected persons, civil society organizations and an international network of partner organizations and lawyers, ECCHR undertakes legal interventions to bring those responsible to justice.
In the Mercedes Benz case ECCHR is assisting relatives of trade unionists who disappeared from a Mercedes Benz plant in Buenos Aires. A senior manager at the company stands accused of involvement in the disappearances and murders of trade union activists carried out by Argentine security forces.
ECCHR sent an advisory opinion to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. The statement seeks to draw the commission's attention to the cases of two persons who suffered severe injuries when they were shot at by Bahraini security forces before being forcibly removed from hospital, imprisoned, and abused.
The Higher Regional Court in Stuttgart handed down convictions in the trial of two Rwandan leaders of the Hutu militia group FDLR, Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni. The FDLR are alleged to have utilized sexualized violence against the Congolese civilian population and to have in numerous cases plundered, killed and inflicted grievous bodily injuries.
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The symposium 'Memory and Justice' at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin created a platform for interdisciplinary debates – spanning various epochs and regions – on legal proceedings, inquiries and other state responses to grave crimes and the extent of civil society participation in these processes.
ECCHR submitted a communication to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requesting action on violence against trade unionists and human rights defenders in Colombia.
General Padilla was General Commander of the Colombian Military Forces when the practice of 'falsos positivos' escalated. He is presumably responsible for international crimes committed by his subordinates, he neither prevented nor punished the wrongdoers.
The Colombian state is denying women the protection against sexualized crimes and access to justice that it is obliged to guarantee under national and international law. In response, ECCHR has submitted a criminal complaint against Colombia to the International Criminal Court.
Death threats, telephone surveillance, kidnapping of family members – the Colombian government uses a range of means in its efforts to intimidate human rights defenders.Since 2012, ECCHR has researched and documented the brutal repression of trade unionists, environmental activists or community leaders in Colombia.
Ever since the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009, issues of the criminal accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and the ongoing sexualized violence against women have been part of ECCHR's work.
Sri Lanka must comply with its international obligations in the fight against gender-based discrimination. The country should bring its law in line with the UN Convention on Women.
"As the head of Syrian Air Force Intelligence, Jamil Hassan is responsible for the torture me and my friends suffered. The international arrest warrant shows, that our criminal complaint is the right path to achieve justice”, says Yazan Awad, a Syrian torture survivors who cooperates with ECCHR.
In Syria, the word Saydnaya has become a synonym for unimaginable torture, systematic degradation and mass executions. Together with four individuals who survived the torture in Saydnaya ECCHR has filed in Germany a criminal complaint against seven high-ranking Syrian military officials.
The group around the former Syrian military police employee 'Caesar' took for the first legal action by filing together with ECCHR a criminal complaint against senior officials from the Syrian intelligence services and the military police concerning crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Eleven former Syrian employees of French company Lafarge submitted a criminal complaint against Lafarge. By having business relations with the terrorist group ISIS in Syria, the company may have taken part in the financing of the group, being therefore complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Syrian government led by president Bashar al-Assad is responsible for systematic and widespread torture. ECCHR together with seven Syrian torture survivors as well as the Syrian lawyers al-Bunni and Darwish submitted the first criminal complaint against six high-level officials of the Syrian military intelligence service to the German Federal Prosecutor.
They survived torture and detention in Syria and fled to Europe, where they now hope to obtain justice. Austrian authorities should follow the example set in Germany, Sweden and France and initiate investigations into systematic torture under Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
(Also) Sweden can play an important role in the fight against impunity for turture in Syria. This is why, in February 2019, nine torture survivors submitted a criminal complaint in Stockholm against senior officials in the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – including for crimes against humanity.
A criminal complaint against former Uzbek minister of interior Zakir Almatov, the Uzbek head of secret service Rustan Inojatov, and others was filed to the Federal Public Prosecutor on behalf of eight Uzbek citizens because of torture and crimes against humanity.