Individual Criminal Responsibility Under International Law
This chapter will examine the extent to which international law has come to impose legal obligations or duties directly upon private individuals. As we shall see in the next chapter, numerous international human rights instruments adopted at the international and regional levels since World War II have expressly recognised that individual human beings possess various human rights which should be respected by their governments. It would appear that today international law by corollary imposes certain duties upon individuals not to commit serious breaches of human rights against others. Thus, a separate branch of international law known as international criminal law has emerged to hold individuals criminally responsible for such breaches. Some human rights breaches are regarded as so serious that they are considered crimes against the international community as such (and punishable as international crimes either at the international or national level). These include piracy, slavery, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Both conventional and customary international law will be examined with a view to illustrating the emerging trend towards the imposition of a greater number and range of duties upon private individuals to refrain from committing gross human rights violations against other human beings.