War Crimes

The Center for Justice and Accountability is the leading NGO that brings civil and criminal cases against individual human rights abusers in the United States and Spain for war crimes.

BBC reports that “at the heart of the concept of war crimes is the idea that individuals can be held criminally responsible for the actions of a country or its soldiers. War crimes and crimes against humanity are among the gravest crimes in international law.”

According to the International Criminal Court, “War crimes include grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict and in conflicts “not of an international character” listed in the Rome Statute, when they are committed as part of a plan or policy or on a large scale. These prohibited acts include:

  • murder;
  • mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
  • taking of hostages;
  • intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population;
  • intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historical monuments or hospitals;
  • pillaging;
  • rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy or any other form of sexual violence;
  • conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities.”

CJA’s cases shed light on war crimes committed during brutal conflicts in countries like Peru, Colombia, and Somalia. Our landmark litigation rebuilds the story of the crimes from the point of view of survivors and victims, oftentimes marking the first time that these stories have been exposed in a court of law.

For example, our clients in CJA’s cases against two commanders of the Peruvian military testified about the horrific crimes that took place during the Accormarca Massacre in Peru, when 69 villagers were murdered in cold blood. CJA’s landmark case, Yousuf v. Samantar, was the first case ever to hold a Somali official accountable for war crimes committed under the brutal Siad Barre regime. During the 1980s, General Samantar and his troops retaliated against a civilian democracy movement with increasing brutality, killing and looting livestock; blowing up water reservoirs; and torturing, imprisoning, and summarily executing civilians.

Yousuf v. Samantar also established that foreign government officials are not immune from prosecution for war crimes or any other universally recognized human rights violations because no foreign official has the authority to commit international crimes.

In addition to our litigation, our transitional justice projects have helped uncover evidence of war crimes. For example, we support the exhumation of mass graves in Somaliland. These projects help countries address the war crimes of the past, and pave the way for justice.

In the United States, CJA also advocates for the expansion of the Torture Victim Protection Act to include a civil cause of action for war crimes.