How far can an individual be held responsible for crimes against humanity?

YES: In judging crimes against humanity, individuals may be held responsible on many moral, circumstantial and legal grounds.   

  1. The leaders who authorize crimes against humanity, such as ordering soldiers to massacre innocents, should face the full censure and judgment of the international community as they made the moral choice to forgo their humanity in favor of their personal or ideological views and brutalize victims.

  2. Where perpetrators of crimes against humanity refuse to cooperate or willfully hide evidence about their crimes, such as the location of mass graves, full responsibility of the crime and punishment should be held against them, since they compound the original crime with the additional one of preventing closure for victims.

  3. Individual perpetrators may wish to deny their role in crimes against humanity by claiming that they were acting under orders but this is often indefensible if they were reasonably informed about their actions or could have acted against illegitimate orders on the basis of their own judgment.

  4. This is especially so for individuals with the right training or expert knowledge, such as professional soldiers, who willfully deny international law and carry out crimes against humanity when they should have known better. 

NO: In judging crimes against humanity, there are many moral, circumstantial and legal grounds to mitigate the role and responsibility of individuals.

  1. Leaders who authorize crimes against humanity may have done so on the basis of poor advice or ignorance and the international community should take this into account in the trial and sentencing process.

  2. The duration between the actual crime and apprehending of culprits may be very long and some of them maygenuinely be incapable of cooperating fully with international prosecutors due to told age and failing memory or the death of other culprits with relevant information or greater degrees of guilt. In such cases, culpability should be assigned with these mitigating factors taken into account.

  3. Individuals may have been acting under the orders of their superiors when carrying out crimes against humanity, making them less culpable if it can be proven that they had little or no control over the situation and could not have reasonably refused their superiors’ orders to harm innocents.