chapter
4 Pages

Introduction J O - ANNE M . WEMMERS

Crimes against humanity are among the worst crimes known to mankind. Whereas domestic crimes are an offence against the state, crimes against humanity are considered to be so horrible that they constitute an affront against humanity. The notion can be traced back to the 1907 Hague Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, which in its preamble refers to the “laws of humanity”. However, it was not until after World War II and the atrocities committed by the Nazis that the concept came into regular usage. In 1945 the Nuremburg Tribunal, which was created by the Allied forces in order to try Nazi war criminals, included crimes against humanity (United Nations 1945: Art. 6). Today, crimes against humanity are included in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which defines them as: “murder; extermination; enslavement; deportation or forcible transfer; imprisonment; torture; rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization or any other form of sexual violence; persecution against any identifiable group; enforced disappearance of persons; apartheid; and other inhumane acts of a similar character” (Art. 7). Many of these acts are also considered war crimes when they occur in the context of war. Crimes against humanity, however, constitute crimes regardless of the context in which they take place. While the Nuremburg Tribunal may have introduced the notion of crimes against humanity, it did not include reparation for victims. Reparation aims to restore the victim and make them whole again. In the case of crimes against humanity, this task is particularly daunting. If reparation is to be healing or therapeutic, then it is not only important to consider what constitutes fair reparation; one must also consider how reparation is obtained and how it affects victims individually and collectively. Proper care must be given to procedures: they should not constitute a secondary victimization by inflicting further harm or suffering on victims. At the same time, however, reparation must respect legal rules and requirements. In this book we consider how reparation can be healing. In order to develop responses that meet both victims’ needs and strict legal criteria, we need to go beyond boundaries and reach across disciplines. A purely psychological framework views victims in isolation from the criminal justice process, and this does not deal adequately with the legal context with which victims are often faced.