top of page

War Crimes

Writer: Anusha Gupta

Editor: Adelyne Koe

Graphic Designer: Nethania Nasya

War Crimes

'Humanity is being lost and misused. It's time to stand together to support and acknowledge the wrongs, punishing the evil.'

What are war crimes?

War crimes are acts committed during an armed conflict by individuals against civilians or military personnel, resulting in a criminal liability under the precept of international law. It is a concept which developed during the end of the 19th century and at the start of the 20th century. War crimes can be of two types:

  1. International – governed by four Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I.

  2. Non – international - codified under Article 3, common to the four Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II.

What constitutes war crimes?

What constitutes a war crime may differ depending on whether an armed conflict is international or non-international. Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court categorises war crimes as follows:

  • Grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, related to international armed conflict;

  • Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict;

  • Serious violations of Article 3 common to the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, related to armed conflict not of an international character;

  • Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in armed conflict not of an international character.

The legal paremeters

War crimes is a distinguished part of the International Humanitarian Law (formerly, Law of Armed Conflict). Various treaties and conventions have been incorporated into the legal framework to provide rules, regulations and specific code of conduct along with trial procedures. The issue of War crimes was discussed and deliberated in:

  • The Hague Convention, 1899

  • The Hague Convention, 1907

  • Geneva Convention, 1864

  • Four Geneva Conventions, 1949 – Ratified by all Member States of the United Nations.

  • Two Additional Protocols, 1977

All the treaties and conventions are binding on each Member State of the United Nations even though some have not ratified or adopted it. A difference in the international and domestic set up makes it a time consuming and diligent act to be tried. A trial procedure can be initiated either in the Domestic Court of a country, in the International Tribunals, or at the International Criminal Court. The nature and jurisdiction of the case is also a factor for the choice of place of trial. For an unbiased and just trial, a preference is always on the international sphere.

The special tribunals or ad hoc criminal tribunals have been set up by the recognition of the Security Council wing of the United Nations. These tribunals are established specifically intended to deliver justice to the victims of international crimes. Some examples include:

  • Special Court for Sierra Leone

  • Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

  • International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

  • International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Case studies

1. The case of Rade Garic

Rade Garic, an ex-Serb soldier was convicted by a Bosnian State Court for his unscrupulous and brutal crimes. He was found guilty for the persecution of Bosniaks from Vlasenica and Srebrenica during the Bosnian war, and sentenced to a 20-year term in prison. He was charged for various charges, including involvement in murders, forcible disappearances, physical and psychological abuse, and other inhumane acts against Bosniaks.

Rade Garic was, however, not charged for the crime of rape and torture committed against women and girls. Members of his unit were reported to have captured and detained women and girls, but he has been acquitted of these charges.

2. Ethiopia and Trigray

The Tigray crisis has been a hot topic ever since news regarding violence by the Ethiopian Government and the TPLF, a dominant political force in Tigray, broke out. The crisis has continued ever since, and the situation only became worse. Many human rights activists and concerned international organizations have pointed out the rise of sexual violence against women and girls as a strategy used during the conflict. They have urged the UN and other concerned authorities to intervene in the matter and alleviate and stamp out the heightened cases of abuse and war crimes tactics in the conflict-stricken area. Currently, the UN Secretary General has demanded an immediate ceasefire in the region.

3. Omar al-Bashir – War crimes in Sudan during the Darfur Conflict

Omar al – Bashir has been a prominent figure in Sudan. The former President of Sudan is a war criminal wanted by the International Criminal Court. The ICC has charged him for crimes against humanity, acts of genocide and the act of war crimes. The cabinet in Sudan has decided to send Omar al-Bashir to be tried by the Court and pay for his cruel crimes. It has been a long journey for the victims and the numerous families affected by his crimes to seek justice and ease their pain.

5 Steps to change

Each one of us can make a significant change by taking small steps together. You can engage by:

  • Signing petitions on and other significant platforms.

  • Holding individuals responsible for prolonging such crimes accountable for their acts.

  • Volunteer with organizations to communicate and build better accessibility and infrastructure to uphold justice.

  • Educate yourself and others on the severity of the issue of war crimes and resultant danger and threat.

  • Spread awareness in your community through awareness drives and campaigns, organizing group meets and organizing competitions.

In conclusion, war crimes have seen a rapid increase in the modern era. For people subjected to it, many are killed, tortured till death, or forced to flee. It takes an eternity for people, and for their families, to achieve justice. A bright future is at stake. Both the citizens of the State and the international community are equally responsible to raise their voices, to provide support and demand justice together. A timely action taken to ensure unbiased and transparent investigation can be a thorough step towards bringing justice for many.

Basic rights denied, living in terror,

The body's a constant captive,

My heart and my mind, in denial,

I'm still living those vivid dreams of ‘Democratic’ fairyland,

For freedom to shine bright like the stars!!

- For Freedom of All Humanity




Submit an article!

Share your story, share your voice
bottom of page