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The crime of Apartheid is defined by the 2002 "Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as inhumane acts of a character similar to other "crimes against humanity "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic "oppression and "domination by one "racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime".

On November 30, 1973, the "United Nations "General Assembly opened for signature and ratification the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.[1] It defined the crime of apartheid as "inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them".[2]



The term apartheid, from "Afrikaans for "apartness," was the official name of the "South African system of racial segregation which existed after 1948. Complaints about the system were brought to the United Nations as early as 12 July 1948 when Dr. Padmanabha Pillai, the representative of "India to the United Nations, circulated a letter to the Secretary-General expressing his concerns over treatment of ethnic Indians within the "Union of South Africa.[3] As it became more widely known, South African apartheid was condemned internationally as unjust and "racist and many decided that a formal legal framework was needed in order to apply international pressure on the South African government.

In 1971, the "USSR and "Guinea together submitted early drafts of a convention to deal with the suppression and punishment of apartheid.[4] In 1973, the "General Assembly of the United Nations agreed on the text of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (ICSPCA).[1] The Convention has 31 signatories and 107 parties. The convention came into force in 1976 after 20 countries had ratified it. They were: Benin, Bulgaria, Belarus, Chad, Czechoslovakia, Ecuador, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Guinea, Hungary, Iraq, Mongolia, Poland, Qatar, Somalia, Syria, Ukraine, the USSR, the United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Yugoslavia.["citation needed]

"As such, apartheid was declared to be a "crime against humanity, with a scope that went far beyond South Africa. While the crime of apartheid is most often associated with the racist policies of South Africa after 1948, the term more generally refers to racially based policies in any state."[5]

Seventy-six other countries subsequently signed on, but a number of nations, including western democracies, have neither signed nor ratified the ICSPCA, including Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.[6] In explanation of the US vote against the convention, Ambassador "Clarence Clyde Ferguson Jr. said: "[W]e cannot...accept that apartheid can in this manner be made a crime against humanity. Crimes against humanity are so grave in nature that they must be meticulously elaborated and strictly construed under existing international law..."[7]

In 1977, Addition Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions designated apartheid as a grave breach of the Protocol and a war crime. There are 169 parties to the Protocol.[8]

The "International Criminal Court provides for individual criminal responsibility for crimes against humanity,[9] including the crime of apartheid.[10]

The International Criminal Court (ICC) came into being on 1 July 2002, and can only prosecute crimes committed on or after that date. The Court can generally only exercise jurisdiction in cases where the accused is a national of a state party, the alleged crime took place on the territory of a state party, or a situation is referred to the Court by the "United Nations Security Council. The ICC exercises complimentary jurisdiction. Many of the member states have provided their own national courts with universal jurisdiction over the same offenses and do not recognize any statute of limitations for crimes against humanity.[11] As of July 2008, 106 countries are "states parties (with "Suriname and "Cook Islands set to join in October 2008), and a further 40 countries have signed but not yet ratified the treaty.[12] However, many of the world's most populous nations, including "China, "India, the "United States, "Indonesia, and "Pakistan are not parties to the Court and therefore are not subject to its jurisdiction, except by Security Council referral.

ICSPCA definition of the crime of apartheid[edit]

Signatories to the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid: parties in dark green, signed but not ratified in light green, non-members in grey

Article II of the ICSPCA defines the crime of apartheid as below:

International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid,
Article II[1][2]

For the purpose of the present Convention, the term 'the crime of apartheid', which shall include similar policies and practices of "racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in "southern Africa, shall apply to the following "inhumane acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one "racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them:

  1. Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the "right to life and "liberty of person
    1. By murder of members of a racial group or groups;
    2. By the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious "bodily or "mental harm, by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to "torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
    3. By arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment of the members of a racial group or groups;
  2. Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their "physical destruction in whole or in part;
  3. Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the "right to work, the right to form recognised "trade unions, the right to education, the "right to leave and "to return to their country, the "right to a nationality, the right to "freedom of movement and residence, the right to "freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to "freedom of peaceful assembly and "association;
  4. Any measures including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and "ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of "mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the "expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof;
  5. Exploitation of the labour of the members of a racial group or groups, in particular by submitting them to "forced labour;
  6. "Persecution of organizations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose "apartheid.

Definition of racial discrimination[edit]

According to the "United Nations "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,

the term "racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on "race, colour, "descent, or national or "ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of "human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.[13]

This definition does not make any difference between discrimination based on "ethnicity and "race, in part because the distinction between the two remains debatable among "anthropologists.[14] Similarly, in British law the phrase racial group means "any group of people who are defined by reference to their race, colour, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origin".[15]

ICC definition of the crime of apartheid[edit]

Article 7 of the "Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines crimes against humanity as:

Article 7
Crimes against humanity
  1. For the purpose of this Statute, 'crime against humanity' means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:
    1. Murder;
    2. Extermination;
    3. Enslavement;
    4. Deportation or forcible transfer of population;
    5. Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;
    6. "Torture;
    7. Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;
    8. Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court;
    9. Enforced disappearance of persons;
    10. The crime of apartheid;
    11. Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.[16]

Later in Article 7, the crime of apartheid is defined as:

The 'crime of apartheid' means inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1, committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.[16]

Accusations of apartheid by country[edit]


Critics have accused Israel of committing the crime of apartheid; In a 2007 report, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Palestine John Dugard stated that "elements of the [state of Israel's] occupation constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid, which are contrary to international law." and suggested that the "legal consequences of a prolonged occupation with features of colonialism and apartheid" be put to the "International Court of Justice.[17]

In 2010, Richard Falk, the next UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine concludes that this "general structure of apartheid that exists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories ... makes the allegation increasingly credible despite the differences between the specific characteristics of South African apartheid and that of the Occupied Palestinian Territories regime".[18]

"South African Judge "Richard Goldstone, head of the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, also known as the "Goldstone Report, writing in "The New York Times in October 2011, said that "in Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute." Goldstone noted that "Arab citizens of Israel are allowed to vote, have political parties, and hold seats in the "Knesset and other positions, including one on the "Israeli Supreme Court. Goldstone wrote that the situation in the West Bank was more complex, but that there is no attempt to maintain "an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group", and claimed that the seemingly oppressive measures taken by Israel were taken to protect its own citizens from attacks by Palestinian militants.[19] However the Goldstone Report does not contain any reference to charges of apartheid, whether supported or not.[20] With regard to associated issue of positive findings of Israeli war crimes in the report, Goldstone has argued for a redaction. However the other three authors of the Goldstone Report have publicly rejected this arguing Goldstone has "misrepresented facts in an attempt to delegitimise the [Goldstone Report's] findings and to cast doubts on its credibility".[21]

In 2017, UN diplomat Rima Khalaf published a report, Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid, which argued that the Israeli system may constitute the Crime of Apartheid and also called for governments to support BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) policies.[22] Al-Jazeera News later reported: "Rima Khalaf says she resigns after UN leaders forced her to withdraw a report accusing Israel of apartheid." [23][24] "Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for the United Nations, told reporters in New York that the analysis was published without any prior consultation with the U.N. secretariat."[25]

The Israeli NGO, Adalah, has compiled and maintains a database of Israeli laws[26] (66 active as of January 2018) which discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel. These laws impact areas ranging from Land Laws, to Economic Empowerment, to Political Participation, to Criminal Law and Citizenship.

South Africa[edit]

The name of the crime comes from a system of racial segregation in South Africa enforced through legislation by the National Party (NP), the governing party from 1948 to 1994. Under apartheid, the rights, associations, and movements of the majority black inhabitants and other ethnic groups were curtailed, and white minority rule was maintained.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, retrieved on 10 October 2011.
  2. ^ a b Text of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid
  3. ^ Pillai, Padmanabha (12 July 1948). "Letter from the representative of India to the Secretary-General concerning the treatment of Indians in South Africa". Retrieved 10 October 2011. 
  4. ^ Olav Stokke and Carl Widstrand, ed. (1973). Southern Africa Vol. 1: United Nations-Organization of African Unity Conference Oslo 9–14 April 1973. Scandinavian Institute of African Studies. 
  5. ^ Morton, Jeffrey S. (2000). The International Law Commission of the United Nations. University of South Carolina Press. p. 27. "ISBN "1-57003-170-3. 
  6. ^ List of signatories to the ICSPCA Archived July 18, 2012, at the "Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Statement by Ambassador Clarence Clyde Ferguson Jr. before General Assembly in explanation of vote on Apartheid Convention, 30 November 1973. Review of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights: Hearings before the Subcommittee on International Organizations and Movements of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (1974) p.58
  8. ^ See Article 85(4) and 85(5) of Additional Protocol 1, dated 8 June 1977 [1]
  9. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, "Nonstate actors in international law". Retrieved on 12 June 2006.
  10. ^ Article 7 Archived January 13, 2008, at the "Wayback Machine. of the "Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court specifically lists the "crime of apartheid" as one of eleven recognized crimes against humanity.
  11. ^ Database of National Implementing Legislation
  12. ^ United Nations. Multilateral treaties deposited with the Secretary-General: Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Accessed 16 July 2007.
  13. ^ UN International Convention on the Elimination of All of Racial Discrimination, New York 7 March 1966
  14. ^ Metraux, A. (1950). "United nations Economic and Security Council Statement by Experts on Problems of Race". "American Anthropologist. 53 (1): 142–145. "doi:10.1525/aa.1951.53.1.02a00370. 
  15. ^ "Racist and Religious Crime – CPS Prosecution Policy". The CPS. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  16. ^ a b United Nations (2002). "Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Part 2, Article 7". Archived from the original on 12 July 2007. Retrieved 21 July 2007. 
  17. ^ Dugard, John. "Implementation of General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 entitled "Human Rights Council": Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, John Dugard" (PDF). p. 3. The international community has identified three regimes as inimical to human rights – colonialism, apartheid and foreign occupation. Israel is clearly in military occupation of the OPT. At the same time elements of the occupation constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid, which are contrary to international law. What are the legal consequences of a regime of prolonged occupation with features of colonialism and apartheid for the occupied people, the occupying Power and third States? It is suggested that this question might appropriately be put to the International Court of Justice for a further advisory opinion. 
  18. ^ Richard Falk Report to the UN General Assembly, 30 August 2010, paragraph. 5 accessdate= 19.12.2010, paragraph 5
  19. ^ Goldstone, Richard J. (October 31, 2011). "Israel and the Apartheid Slander". "New York Times. 
  20. ^ http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/12session/A-HRC-12-48.pdf
  21. ^ Jilani, Hina; Chinkin, Christine; Travers, Desmond (14 April 2011). "Goldstone report: Statement issued by members of UN mission on Gaza war". The Guardian. London. 
  22. ^ "UN report: Israel has established an 'apartheid regime'". Al Jazeera. 15 March 2017. 
  23. ^ "UN official resigns over Israel apartheid report". 17 March 2017. 
  24. ^ "U.N. Diplomat Behind Report Accusing Israel of Apartheid Quits". www.nytimes.com. March 17, 2017. 
  25. ^ "UN report accuses Israel of imposing 'apartheid regime' on Palestinians". Mar 16, 2017. 
  26. ^ "Discriminatory Laws in Israel - Adalah". Retrieved 2018-01-26. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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