The Genocide¹ and apartheid² conventions both have withdrawal clauses



same for the statute of the international criminal court


meanwhile the responsibility to protect declarations that enable military interventions are subject to vetos by the permanent members from time to time


taking all this in account are crimes against humanity ever preventable or punishable by international law effectively ?

  • are you asking about prevented? or punished? Apr 6, 2023 at 22:49
  • 3
    Law can't stop anything. Only enforcement can stop things. Apr 6, 2023 at 22:53
  • the "immediate" power of a law depends on the enforcer, the "long term" power of the law depends on whether the enforcer can punish himself or his friends.
    – Faito Dayo
    Apr 13, 2023 at 17:37

3 Answers 3


are crimes against humanity ever preventable or punishable by international law effectively?

Punishable, possibly. In addition to international law, several countries recognize "universal jurisdiction" to punish such crimes under their domestic laws.


Law alone can never prevent crimes. Murder has been illegal since the Copper Age, at least, and we still have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of murders every year.

Crimes against humanity are no different in this respect.

  • how did the concept of universal jurisdiction develop ? Is it just a matter of states deciding what is triable and what isn't ? Likewise can a state just argue that Universal jurisdiction and the likes violate soveriegnty ?
    – user45449
    Apr 7, 2023 at 4:19
  • Secondly since use of force is prohibited in international relations , how does UniJuris function
    – user45449
    Apr 7, 2023 at 4:31
  • 2
    @OldAccount2005 use of force is not prohibited, for example the UN charter recognises an explicit right of self-defence, its war of aggression without prior consensus which gets looked down on. In practice, universal jurisdiction means “once we have you, we can punish you”. That might mean you were spirited out of your bedroom, that might mean you were taken off your flight while changing planes, that might mean you were arrested when you went home.
    – origimbo
    Apr 7, 2023 at 15:02
  • @OldAccount2005 See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_jurisdiction It dates to the Roman era.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 7, 2023 at 15:12


  • The UNSC was designed with plenty of gridlock, but there are times when it does act. Just because the UN can't prevent every genocide, it still can step in where realpolitik allows stopping some genocides.
  • Countries and governments do worry about their international reputation. They like being on stage at the G20 with other heads of states, or at the UNGA. That's both an emotional thing and a recognition of the power of those pictures to various audiences.

But all this gets harder when a great power shields the perpetrators.

  • you did say that (The UN was (mostly) designed to respect the concept of Westphalian sovereignty, with very little regulation on how nations conduct their internal affairs. How could it be any different, if the Soviet Union and nationalist China sat at the table? ) in another comment , is there any exceptions to this ?
    – user45449
    Apr 7, 2023 at 5:25
  • @OldAccount2005, when a veto-proof majority of the UNSC decides to take action. This may happen, but not against any veto power.
    – o.m.
    Apr 7, 2023 at 6:41
  • are there any other peacebuilding orgs that focus on regional peacebuilding ? that seems like the more viable option
    – user45449
    Apr 7, 2023 at 7:12
  • @OldAccount2005, other groups don't have the legitimacy of the UN. But the NATO-led interventions in Kosovo or Libya are what you seem to be describing.
    – o.m.
    Apr 7, 2023 at 15:13

Any crime isn't totally preventable, but the world would certainly be a much more dangerous place to live in, without universally accepted rules against war-crimes.

So, those rules certainly prevent some war-crimes.

  • It's as with all crimes: Knowing that one will (eventually) be sentenced and punished is what should prevent crimes.
    – PMF
    Apr 7, 2023 at 10:49

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