A political label, used quite commonly in the United States and the United Nations, to denote an inhumanitarian act.

Chinese brutality such as the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen Square is often denounced using this label by both the US and the UN. China, however, is merely the most obvious initiator of crimes against humanity; many countries are barred from entry into the Olympics for humanitarian reasons. (And even the US is sometimes accused of commiting crimes against humanity; for its strong-arm, police officer to the world policies such as the interference between the Serbs and Bosnians in Czechoslovakia and especially Kosovo during the 1990s.)

On the US domestic front, rape and infant mutilation are typical examples of crimes against humanity.

More lightheartedly, the expression crime against humanity is often used as hyperbole in American Generation X and Generation Y culture. It is used to indicate bad taste. Many people would say Mmmbop or Hanson in general is a crime against humanity. And most people over the age of five agree that Barney is a crime against humanity.

Not merely a political label, but a term well established in international law by the Geneva Convention.

Its use is most often subject to political considerations: The United States, though one of the founders of the regime of international law--for which all of us should indeed be grateful--now feels that as it comes to fruition, it is to be excepted from the provisions of this regime.

As we will see the trials in the former Yugoslavia for crimes against humanity, and many were committed, we will see no trials with Americans accused, though there are many documented cases of noncombatants being killed and maimed by Americans.

And this is not to mention the civilian infrastructure that was levelled.

The international definition of Crime against humanity is set forth in the Charter of the International Military Tribunal, which was agreed to following World War II in preparation for the Nurnberg Trials . This definition was confirmed by resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1946.

It is defined as murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population; or persecution on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime, whether or not in violation of domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

It should also be noted that leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such plan.


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