Draft Crimes Against Humanity Convention: Prosecuting the Crime Against Humanity of Apartheid: Never, Again

Authors Christopher Gevers

ISSN: 2521-2621
Affiliations: Lecturer, School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Source: African Yearbook on International Humanitarian Law, 2018, p. 25 – 49


Despite being declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966, and being the subject of a convention signed by more than half of the world’s states to demand its punishment (the 1973 Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid), there has never been a single prosecution of the crime against humanity of apartheid committed in South Africa. This paper interrogates the commitment of an ‘invisible college of international (criminal) lawyers’ never to prosecute apartheid, both at Rome in 1998 and more recently in the case of the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative and International Law Commission to produce a specialised convention on crimes against humanity. It argues that at best the ‘symbolic’ inclusion of apartheid in the last-mentioned signifies a commitment once again never to prosecute this crime against humanity (this time at the national level), and at worst discloses the racial politics of international criminal law that render the prosecution of crimes committed by the West or in its name not only untimely, but unthinkable.