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The International Crimes Against Humanity Treaty

A Call to Action for Advocates

A new convention on crimes against humanity (CAH) is in its final draft stages, but most civil society groups — including women, LGBTIQ, disability, Indigenous, aboriginal, youth, caste, and racial and ethnic minority rights groups — have not weighed in. While the current treaty draft embraces strong language from the Rome Statute (which created the International Criminal Court (ICC)), including gender as a protected class from persecution, it also adopts an opaque definition of gender.

Civil society organizations have changed the course of history by organizing together to ensure that all human rights violations are taken seriously in key international documents. The CAH drafting process is moving quickly in the UN process, and now is a critical time to get involved.


We have submitted an open letter to the International Law Commission Members, signed by 583 organizations from over 103 countries. [ English | Chinese | French | Spanish | Arabic ]

The full legal submission is available here.

Where is the Progress on Gender?

The last two decades of international law have clarified that women's rights and LGBTIQ rights are human rights, making the gender definition contained in the Rome Statute opaque.

Strong convention language that complies with existing human rights law would be an invaluable tool for confronting impunity and enhancing state efforts to prevent and punish gender-based crimes. However, a text that does not understand gender could sideline women and other marginalized victims and result in even greater impunity for gender-based crimes amounting to crimes against humanity. 

Where We Stand: Progress on Safeguards for Gender Justice

This is a pivotal moment in history to broaden the discourse on gender and affirm our understanding of discrimination, including when based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics. More importantly, we have real-world conflict situations, including ones involving militias like ISIS, where women, men and youth, including LGBTIQ persons, are being persecuted because of their gender.

Over the last two decades, international human rights law and jurisprudence have adopted language that accounts for the social construction of gender. Since its formation nearly twenty years ago, its understanding of gender-based persecution has never been tested, largely due to its opaque definition in the Rome Statute. What we do now will affect minority rights for generations to come. 

Download Our Toolkit for Advocates

Available in English, Spanish, French and Arabic

In November 2017, advocates filed a petition—the first of its kind—to the International Criminal Court. Filed jointly by CUNY Law School, MADRE and the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), with help from the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton and OutRight Action International, the petition argues that the international community should prosecute ISIS fighters for crimes committed on the basis of gender, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

This is the first time the world has seen this kind of robust documentation of crimes against women and LGBTIQ persons for transgressing gender norms during an armed conflict. The draft CAH treaty offers a new opportunity to hold perpetrators of gender-based crimes accountable. To learn more about the ICC petition, watch the event held at CUNY Law School just before the petition was submitted: Prosecuting ISIS Crimes against Women and LGBTIQ Persons.

Where is the Treaty Now?

The draft crimes against humanity (CAH) treaty was completed by the International Law Commission and has been preliminarily reviewed by the UN General Assembly’s 6th Committee.

It has now been transmitted to governments, international organizations and others for comments and observations, with the request that such comments and observations be submitted to the UN Secretary-General by December 1, 2018. To view the current CAH draft treaty, click here.

What Can You Do to Support a Gender-Inclusive Crimes Against Humanity Treaty?

Sign Our Petition

Sign our petition calling on the International Law Commission to update the definition of gender and ensure everyone's rights are protected, including women and LGBTIQ persons. The petition will be coming out soon. To stay involved and receive a copy of the petition, click here.

Write Your Own Submission

You can also write your own submission for the International Law Commission. All submissions should be addressed to the UN Legal Counsel and sent by email to the Director of the UN Codification Division, Mr. Huw Llewellyn by December 1, 2018 at

Stay Informed

For more information about the CAH treaty, click here.

For updates from the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative, click here.

If you would like additional information or have any questions, please email:

Spread the Word

It is critical that civil society weighs in on the development of the new CAH treaty. You can help by sharing this toolkit and encouraging others to make their voices heard.

For more detailed information on how gender includes women and LGBTIQ rights under the Rome Statute, click here.