1/20/2024 - Politics and Society

The concepts of crimes against humanity and genocide: the legacy of Herrsch Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin

By Lucia Lago Krümmer

The concepts of crimes against humanity and genocide: the legacy of Herrsch Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin

After World War II, it became imperative to formulate a concept that could describe the horrors that took place during the war. The renowned jurists Hersch Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin are considered the "authors" of the concepts of crime against humanity and genocide, respectively. Their important legacy continues to this day, 78 years after the emergence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Lviv, one of the most important cities in Ukraine, witnessed perhaps the most important conflicts in the history of mankind. At the time ofWorld War I, the city was called Lemberg and belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire .After the war and the dissolution of the Empire, it became part of the newly created Republic of Poland and its name changed from Lemberg to Lwów. In 1945, the city became part of theUnion of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and was renamed Lviv. After the dissolution of the USSR and up to the present time the city belongs to theRepublic of Ukraine, being today a symbol of the Ukrainian Nation. Scientific and technological pole, one of the main attractions of the city is the University of Lviv. Two of the most important jurists of the 20th centurystudied here : Hersch Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin. Herrscht Lauterpacht was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in the region of Galicia, which today comprises the western region of the Republic of Ukraine . Theson of Orthodox Jews and a polyglot, he enrolled inlaw at the University of Lemberg, although it is unclear whether or not he ever graduated. Years later, Lauterpacht would claim that he was unable to take his final exams, as the Universitywould not admit Jews from Galicia .He later moved to Vienna and then to London, where he would become a lawyer specializing in international law. Raphael Lemkin was born in the territory of present-day Poland in 1900 to a Jewish family and studied in Lviv from 1921 to 1926, when he obtained a doctorate in criminal law. Lemkin and Lauterpacht later became important jurists who collaborated in the Nuremberg trials. Both shared concerns regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflict: Lauterpacht believed that the essential thing was to protect individuals whose rights might be violated. In this respect, his main legacy was the coining of the concept of "crimes against humanity". A "crime against humanity" occurs when there is a systematic killingof individuals, but Lemkin believed that the important thing was to protect groups, especially minorities. To this end, he coined the concept of genocide. This concept comes from the word genos, which refers to race or tribe, and the word cide, which means to kill. In other words, the term genocide literally means the murder of a people or tribe and is considered the "crime of crimes. Herrscht Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin lost almost their entire family in the Holocaust. Their purpose in developing these concepts was to establish a way to ensure that crimes in the context of armed conflict would not go unpunished. With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions, protecting groups and individuals became an obligation of the international community. Today, the city of Lviv, where both jurists began their careers in law, is the victim of the same crimes they denounced and of which their families were victims. Almost 79 years after the end of the Second World War, the legacy of both jurists is needed especially to judge the crimes occurring in today's conflicts.

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lucia lago krummer

Lucia Lago Krümmer

I am a student of International Relations and Political Science at the University of Belgrano. I am passionate about issues related to international policy, diplomacy and human rights.

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