Persecution

Persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another individual or group. The most common forms are religious persecution, racism and political persecution, though there is naturally some overlap between these terms. The inflicting of suffering, harassment, imprisonment, internment, fear, or pain are all factors that may establish persecution, but not all suffering will necessarily establish persecution. The suffering experienced by the victim must be sufficiently severe. The threshold level of severity has been a source of much debate.[1]

International law

As part of the Nuremberg Principles, crimes against humanity are part of international law. Principle VI of the Nuremberg Principles states that

The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:...

(c) Crimes against humanity:

Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.

Telford Taylor, who was Counsel for the Prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials wrote "[at] the Nuremberg war crimes trials, the tribunals rebuffed several efforts by the prosecution to bring such 'domestic' atrocities within the scope of international law as 'crimes against humanity'".[2] Several subsequent international treaties incorporate this principle, but some have dropped the restriction "in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime" that is in Nuremberg Principles.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which is binding on 111 states, defines crimes against humanity in Article 7.1. The article criminalises certain acts "committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack". These include:

(h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender[3]...or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph [e.g. murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence, apartheid, and other inhumane acts] or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court