6 January 2014

Letting people die from hunger should be recognised as a crime against humanity

For most people, crime against humanity means genocide and violences of different kinds.

They think of the Armenian, Cambodian or Rwandan genocides in the XXth century or of the genocide of North American Indians during the XIXth century, or that of the Australian Aborigines or of Central and South American Indians. They also think of the Holocaust during the World War II, the soviet gulag, ‘‘reeducation’’ camps in China, and of atrocities by various dictators, the latest in Syria. All these atrocities are generally considered as crimes against humanity and have each made hundreds of thousands, millions or even tens of millions of victims.

From a legal point of view, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998) makes a distinction between genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. This text consider that « "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. (a)Murder;

      2. (b)Extermination;

      3. (c) Enslavement;
        (d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;

      4. (e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;

      5. (f) Torture;

      6. (g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;

      7. (h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender [...], 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;

      8. (i) Enforced disappearance of persons;

      9. (j) The crime of apartheid;

      10. (k) Other inhumane acts ofa similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.»

There is no mention in the document of the crime that consists to leave part of the population of a country in a situation of undernourishment that can lead to death of a large number of persons. However, every year, it is estimated that more than 5 million people - two thirds children - die prematurely as a result of access to insufficient food. In ten days in the world, there are as many people dying from hunger than the total number of victims of the Syrian crisis since its beginning.

This may be due to the widely shared false idea that there is nothing we can do about hunger, and therefore that victims of hunger cannot be considered as intended victims, and hunger cannot qualify as a crime against humanity.

But there is now increasing evidence that hunger is the result of deliberate decisions taken by governments and that these very governments, by their decisions, could, if they wanted, eliminate hunger immediately. The analyses of the recent food crisis demonstrate clearly the deliberate nature of the choices that cause hunger. [read here]

Abandoning a population to hunger, neglecting to take the measures required to ensure adequate food to all, must be recognised as a crime against humanity, so that political leaders can be put in front of their responsibilities and forced to act to eliminate hunger.

For this to happen, sign our petition and let’s convince the Secretary-General of the United Nations to take the initiative for having hunger recognised as a crime against humanity. This will be an important step for generating the political and legal pressure that will compel our leaders to take the measures that will lead to the elimination of hunger.

Considering that around 70% of the undernourished in the world are small farmers and 2014 being the International Year of Family Farming, we have an opportunity to seize for making an important move on the way that will lead to the eradication of hunger.


Last update:    January 2014

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