Twenty years after the Geneva Convention began prosecuting war crimes as part of international law, a proposal from Poland incited the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations to begin drafting a document to discuss the punishment warranted by those who commit war crimes. As more aspects of the UN became involved in the project, the Commission established a Working Group to finish their work within the next two years. The document, The Convention on the Non-applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, was adopted by the UN’s General Assembly in November of 1968 and went into effect in November of 1980.
The document states that there is no statute of limitations on war crimes (as defined by Charter of the Nuremburg International Military Tribunal of 1945) or crimes against humanity (as defined by the Nuremburg International Military Tribunal and the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide). This means that a perpetrator of these crimes can be charged at any time no matter how long it has been since the act was committed. It also states that state parties will do all they can to help extradite and bring the criminals to justice when indicted, despite whatever rank they might be in the political or social sphere. It is because of this notion that some war criminals, most notably former Nazis who had remained under the radar for decades, can still be tried once found or when the case is strong enough to prosecute. This is one of the only cases in international law where the person can always be brought to justice.
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