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February 6, 2020 / Congau

Crime Against Humanness

What is a crime against humanity? When the crime gets bad enough, when enough people are killed, at a certain point it changes from being a plain ordinary crime to become one directed at the whole of humanity. But apart from sheer numbers, what makes it fundamentally different?

Well, it is a judicial term meant to cover cases that are not or can not be taken care of by a national government because it is itself somehow connected to the crime. As such it is just a technical term, and for practical purposes it could be called just anything; “crime of type xyz” or whatever. But when given such a name, something more is obviously intended. The sound of it is so terrible that its propaganda value can’t be missed. The magnitude of the crime is certainly highlighted, and therefore it would be worth considering if the term is really objectively appropriate.

Wouldn’t any crime be a crime against humanity? A murder is more than taking the life of one person. If done deliberately it betrays a general disrespect for human life and that’s probably why most people wouldn’t want to kill anyone even if they secretly wished to see someone dead.

Mankind as such, all human beings collectively, are not hurt even if thousands of people are killed, but the meaning of “humanity” in this case is probably historically intended to be “the value of humanness” (Wikipedia). But this “value” cannot in principle be any more violated if the number of violations increase. Murdering one person is bad and killing two may be twice as bad, but the essential nature of the crime doesn’t change with statistics.

Since the term refers to cases that are taken to the International Court, “humanity” is probably also meant to signalize that it concerns everyone regardless of geographical location. If so, the word could have been substituted with the word “international” or something equivalent. But by keeping it ambiguous it undoubtedly sounds more shocking as it directs the associations to the worst things imaginable.

Add to this the fact that the court in The Hague is controlled by the most powerful countries of the world and there is all the more reason to be skeptical.

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