Is ‘the policy element’ a legal requirement under international criminal law for crimes against humanity?
The precise legal definition of crimes against humanity has always been elusive since their first codification in the IMT Charter in 1945. Jurisprudence applying the definition has reflected the uncertainty especially with regard to the contextual element that requires that crimes against humanity should be committed pursuant to some form of a policy of a state or organisation: The Policy Element. In the 1990s the ICTY in its early Decisions exhibited an inclination to broaden the scope of the application of crimes against humanity by downgrading the Policy Element to cover states and non-state actors in asymmetric armed conflicts. In 2002, this tendency culminated in the complete abandonment of the Policy Element requirement. Eminent international criminal law scholars are divided whether the ICTY was correct or not. At the same time, Article 7(2) (a) of ICC Statute has expressly provided for a downgraded Policy Element that somehow resonates with the ICTY as it covers states and organisations. In 2010, the Situation in the Republic of Kenya presented the ICC with a question whether the concept of organisation in Article 7(2) (a) of the Statute covers organisations generally or only state-like organisations. The Majority Decision resonated with the more recent jurisprudence of the ICTY and held that it covered all organisations. The Dissenting Opinion, however, restricted the Policy Element to only state-like organisations. This Research agrees with the recent ICTY position that has been reflected by the Majority Decision and postulates that the Policy Element should not be a requirement for crimes against humanity.