Abortion: the termination of a pregnancy by the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus.
Abu Ghraib: a prison in Iraq where prisoners were abused and brutalized by U.S. personnel in 2004.
Advisory Proceeding: a proceeding that does not involve any parties, and therefore does not have a plaintiff or defendant. The opinions produced by the Court in such proceedings are advisory in nature, and are intended to provide a statement of what the law is regarding a situation without providing a legally binding remedy to a dispute.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): a non-governmental organization dedicated to preserving individual rights and liberties in the United States through litigation and public policy advocacy.
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty: a treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union signed on May 26, 1972 that limited the deployment of anti-ballistic missile systems in each country. These systems were designed to defend against incoming missile-delivered nuclear weapons.
Arbitration: the process by which the parties to a dispute submit their differences to the judgment of an impartial person or group agreed upon by mutual consent.
Asphyxiation: the condition of suffocation or of being deprived of oxygen by choking, smothering, strangulation, or by gas or other poisonous agents.
Asylum: protection and immunity from extradition granted by a government to a political refugee from another country.
Autonomy: independence or freedom.
Bill of Rights: the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution that guarantee certain fundamental rights of the people, such as the right to free speech and freedom of religion.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA): a United States government agency responsible for the collection and analysis of intelligence and information outside the United States.
Chapter VII: the part of the Charter of the United Nations that outlines the enforcement powers of the Security Council. Under Chapter VII, the Security Council has the power to determine the existence of any threat to the peace or act of aggression and to then authorize the use of armed force to restore and maintain international peace and security in the face of the threat or act of aggression.
Charter of the United Nations: the document signed by the original 51 founding countries that created the United Nations. All nations that have subsequently joined the UN have also signed the document. It describes the structure and function of the UN, in a somewhat similar manner as a constitution describes the structure and function of a state.
Classical Liberalism: a doctrine stressing the importance of human rationality, property rights, natural rights, individual freedom, free markets, and limited government.
CNN Effect: the manner by which public opinion is shaped by the images seen on television, specifically referring to war-time coverage.
Cold War: a term used to describe the relationship between the United States and Soviet Union from World War II until 1990 that was characterized by intense political opposition and military rivalry that never developed into a full-scale, armed war.
Complementarity: the principle that the International Criminal Court (ICC) can act only in cases where states are unwilling or unable to prosecute crimes under the ICC’s jurisdiction on their own. The idea is to use the ICC only as a last resort when a state will not or cannot act on its own.
Contentious Cases: cases involving disputes between two parties requiring judicial settlement.
Convention: an international agreement between two or more states.
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: a multilateralmultiple countries working together to on a specific issue treaty under the purview of the United Nations that requires signatory countries to take effective measures to prevent torture within their borders. The Convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1984 and entered into force on June 26, 1987.
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide: a multilateralmultiple countries working together to on a specific issue treaty under the purview of the United Nations that defines and outlaws genocide. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1948 and came into force in January 1951.
Culture War: a conflict between groups with differing ideas, philosophies, and beliefs. The term is sometimes used to refer to conflict between competing social values within the political system.
Customary International Law: rules of law derived from the consistent conduct of states acting out of the belief that law required them to act that way, i.e. persistent and customary practice of states can lead to the consideration of their behavior as creating a legal precedent for future action.
Crimes Against Humanity: crimes committed in armed conflict that are directed against a civilian population (rather than just the opposing military forces). Crimes against humanity are very similar to ‘war crimes,’ and are often difficult to differentiate from ‘war crimes,’ but are more narrowly focused attacks against civilian populations.
Declaration of Independence: the document that proclaimed the independence of the American colonies from England, adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.
Derogability: the act by which a law or right is modified by a subsequent law that limits its scope or impairs its utility and force.
DeterrenceA security strategy by which the mutual possession of potentially devastating weapons prevents countries on either side of a conflict from actually using those weapons: the discouragement of specific actions or attempts to prevent specific behavior.
Development Ladder: term referring to the incremental steps in development each state experiences throughout its development into an industrial state.
Disempowered: to be deprived of power.
Divine Right: the notion that monarchs are endowed with their authority to rule by God, not by the people.
Enlightenment, (The): a philosophical movement in the 18th century that advocated the use of reason and individualism to scrutinize previously accepted traditions; the movement resulted in political, religious, and educational reforms.
Ethnic Cleansing: the systematic elimination of an ethnic group from an area or society by forced migration or genocide.
Ex post facto: Latin term meaning “after the fact.” In legal settings, laws passed after the commission of a specific action that criminalize that action cannot be used to prosecute that instance of the action because it was not a crime at the time it was committed, i.e. the law was passed ex post facto.
Extradite: the act of delivering a fugitive to the authorities of another country pursuant to a preexisting agreement between the countries.
Fraternity: the quality of being brotherly or of having a common purpose. Similar in meaning to ‘solidarity.’
General Assembly: the main deliberative body of the United Nations. Each member nation is represented in the assembly and has one vote.
Geneva Conventions: a series of four treaties that provide the international legal standards for the conduct of war. The four conventions cover the treatment of the wounded and sick on land and sea, as well as the treatment of prisoners of war, and the protection of civilians in wartime. See section on “Geneva Conventions” in the Issue Brief for more details.
Genocide: the systematic, planned, and deliberate extermination, attempt to exterminate, or conspiracy to exterminate an entire national, racial, ethnic, or religious group.
Guantanamo Bay: the location of the U.S. Naval base in Cuba where a detention facility was created in 2002 for the detention of unlawful combatants collected by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries.
Guerilla: a member of an irregular armed force (a military force not controlled by a government) that often operates in small units to sabotage, harass, and undermine a stronger force by surprise attacks.
Hague Conventions: international treaties negotiated at The Hague, Netherlands in 1899 and 1907 that were among the first formal codifications of the laws of war.
Hate Crime: a crime motivated by prejudice or intolerance toward a racial, gender, ethnic, religious, or social group.
Helsinki Accords: also known as the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, this is the document that created the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). This was an agreement among the United States, Canada, the Soviet Union and most of the countries of Europe. The document recognized the existing boundaries of states at the time, but also included a strong expression of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to self-determination.
Holocaust: the genocide of European Jews and others by the Nazi regime during World War II.
Humanitarian Aid: assistance provided to innocent civilians caught in the middle of a conflict, such as medical assistance, food, and temporary housing.
Impunity Agreements: a term typically used to refer to agreements between the United States and other countries that provide an explicit exemption for all U.S. citizens from International Criminal Court jurisdiction, guaranteeing that the other country will not surrender a U.S. citizen to the Court in the even that he or she is indicted by the Court.
Inalienable: not transferable to another or capable of being repudiated. Inalienable rights are those that are inherent to each person and that cannot be taken away from each individual.
Indigenous: peoples who inhabited a land before it was conquered by colonial societies and who consider themselves distinct from the societies currently governing those territories.
International Bill of Rights: the term used to refer to both the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights when considered together.
International Court of Justice (ICJ): the principle judicial body of the United Nations with responsibility for adjudicating disputes between states on questions of international law. The Court does not have jurisdiction over individuals, and individuals have no standing to bring a suit before the ICJ.
International Criminal Court (ICC): a permanent international court created by treaty, with 104 states party to the treaty. The treaty came into force in July, 2002. The Court has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide involving countries that are party to the treaty and in instances when those countries are unwilling or unable to prosecute an instance of one of those crimes occurring on its territory.
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR): the international court created under United Nations auspices to prosecute those responsible for the genocide committed in Rwanda in 1994 as well as other offenses against international humanitarian law. The court is international in character due to concerns that Rwanda was incapable for prosecuting these crimes solely under its domestic legal system due to the extreme violence and instability the genocide caused.
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY): the international court created under United Nations auspices to prosecute those responsible for the war crimes that occurred during the conflict in Bosnia, such as ethnic cleansing and the Srebrenica massacre.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): is a legally binding treaty that embodies many of the rights proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The treaty offers the right of self-determination; right to freely dispose of wealth and resources; right to life; right to pardon in case of death sentence; right not to be subject to torture; right not to be held in slavery; right to liberty and security of person; right to be informed of charges if arrested; right to compensation if unlawfully arrested; right to leave and enter their own country without restrictions; right to be treated equally at court; right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; right to freedom of association; right to marry; right to a nationality; and other basic rights. The covenant ensures that these rights should be carried out without discrimination.
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR): is a legally binding treaty that embodies many of the rights proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The treaty offers the right of self-determination; right to work; right to favorable and just conditions at work; right to form trade unions; right to strike; right to protection for mothers after childbirth; right to adequate standard of living; right to physical and mental health; right to education; and other basic cultural and economic rights. The covenant ensures that these rights should be carried out without discrimination.
International Criminal Tribunals: international courts constituted to prosecute war crimes, genocide, and other human rights crimes that are of an international character. The two prime examples of these are the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Both were created to deliver justice to the victims of ethnic cleansing, genocide, and war crimes committed by or supported by the governments of each country. Importantly, these types of tribunals are typically created with the help of the United Nations in instances when the national courts are not capable of prosecuting these crimes for whatever reason (lack of capacity, political instability, etc.).
International Military Tribunal: the tribunal created by the victorious allies in the European theater of World War II to try those Nazis deemed responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Often, this tribunal is referred to as the Nuremberg Tribunal, or Nuremberg Trials, for the German town where the tribunal sat.
International Military Tribunal for the Far East: The tribunal created by the victorious allies in the Pacific theater of World War II to try leaders of the Empire of Japan who were responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Often, this tribunal is referred to as the Tokyo Tribunal, or the Tokyo Trials for the capital city of Japan.
Jurisdictional: restricted to the geographic area controlled or otherwise under the authority of a state.
Jus Cogens: a principle of international law that is based on values taken to be fundamental to the international community and that cannot be set aside.
Lawful Combatants: those who act in accordance with the law of war, generally understood to be the Geneva Conventions and Hague Conventions. This designation caries legal protections, provided for under the above conventions, for anyone detained and classified a lawful combatant.
Laws and Customs of War: the standards of conduct of warfare as established by the Geneva and Hague Conventions that limit the type and scope of justifiable actions that may be taken by each side in a war.
League of Nations: an international organization created by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 to promote world peace and cooperation in the wake of World War I. It was replaced by the United Nations in 1946, an organization with a significantly different structure.
Legal Precedent: a legal decision or form of proceeding that serves as an authoritative rule in future similar cases or situations.
Multilateralmultiple countries working together to on a specific issue: involving more than two countries or parties.
Natural Rights: rights deriving from natural law, a body of law believed to be derived from nature, and therefore to be binding on human actions in addition to law established by human authority.
New Deal: the programs advocated by and created by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that were designed to promote economic recovery from the Great Depression as well as social reform.
Non-derogable: refers to rights that cannot be taken away or limited under any circumstances. For instance, the right to live and the right to freedom from genocide are so fundamental that no limit may justly be placed on them.
Non-governmental organization (NGO): an organization not affiliated with any government, but that deals with public policy issues, often in an advocacy role. Often helps link individuals and society to the larger political forces and structures to which they are subject.
Non-refoulement: the principle that governments must not only refrain from torturing individuals themselves but also refuse to turn people over to other countries in which there is a reasonable suspicion they will be tortured (found in Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture).
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO): an alliance of states formed for the purpose of collective defense, principally in response to the perceived threat of the Soviet Union. The alliance continues to exist despite the fall of the Soviet Union, and now exists as a more general collective defense mechanism against any possible threats. It is primarily comprised of the United States and Canada along with most of the countries of the European Union and Turkey.
Nuremberg Trials: the trials of military and political leaders of Nazi Germany for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during World War II before the International Military Tribunal. See also “International Military Tribunal” above.
Peacekeeping: the attempt to maintain peace and security by the deployment of armed forces to a particular region or country. Generally, such operations are directed under United Nations auspices in post-conflict societies in an effort to reconstruct the state and aid in its transition out of conflict. See “Chapter VII” above for more information.
Preamble: an introductory statement, particularly in formal documents, that explain their purpose.
Preemptive War: an attack or war waged in the face of an imminent, credible attack or invasion, generally pursued to gain a strategic advantage. Such a war may be sanctioned under international law if the threat is imminent, credible, and significant. This is distinct from ‘preventive war’ which is waged to prevent another country from gaining a strategic advantage, such as the development of weapons of mass destruction prior to an imminent attack. Whether ‘preventive war’ is sanctioned by international law remains controversial and is generally doubted.
Progressive Realization: the constant improvement of human rights.
Propaganda: information, ideas, or rumors that are spread for the purpose of promoting some cause.
Prostitution: the act or practice of engaging in sexual activities for money.
Protocol: the first draft of a treaty before ratification, or an international agreement of less formal stature than a treaty. The term ‘protocol’ may also be used to refer to an optional and supplemental agreement to a treaty that states have already signed.
Ratify: to confirm or express consent by formal approval, often through voting.
Rendition (extraordinary rendition): the secret removal of a suspect to another country without due process of law. Often, the suspect is delivered to a country where torture is secretly allowed.
Retribution: a justly deserved punishment or penalty.
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: the multilateralmultiple countries working together to on a specific issue treaty that established the International Criminal Court. See “International Criminal Court” above.
Secretary General: the chief administrator of the United Nations. The Secretary General serves for renewable five-year terms after appointment by the General Assembly acting on the nomination of the Security Council. By convention, the Secretary General cannot be a national of one of the five permanent members of the Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States).
Security Council: the division of the United Nations that is responsible for maintaining international peace and security. It is composed of five permanent members, each of which may veto any proposed resolution and ten temporary members that serve two year terms and do not have a veto. The five permanent members are Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States.
Self-determination: the right of people to form the government of their choosing, without reference to the desires of any other nation.
Slavery: the state of being owned or under the complete control of another person.
Social Security: the provision of economic security and welfare for individuals by the government through programs and direct payments provided by public funds and/or payments collected from employers and employees.
Solidarity: a union of interests or purposes or of fellowship among members of a group. Similar in meaning to ‘fraternity.’
Sovereign: autonomous, independent, self-governing state with sole power over its internal affairs.
Special Rapporteur: the title given to individuals designated to work on behalf of international organizations, often the United Nations, who are given specific mandates to investigate, monitor, and recommend actions on a specific human rights issue.
Srebrenica massacre: the massacre of an estimated 8,000 people in the town of Srebrenica by the Serbian Army in July, 1995 during the war in Bosnia.
Subsidiarity: the principle that matters ought to be handled by the lowest or smallest competent authority. In practice this means leaving local issues to be handled by local government while national issues (such as war or national security) should be handled by national government. In the context of the International Criminal Court, the term refers to the principle of allowing a country to prosecute a crime the Court has jurisdiction over unless that country is unwilling or unable to do so, at which point the Court will exercise jurisdiction.
The Enlightenment: see ‘Enlightenment, (The)’
Three Generations of Rights: the grouping of rights into three distinct categories, generally in the order in which they are protected during a country’s development into an advanced, industrial state. First generation rights are the most basic, fundamental rights and include civil and political rights; those that deal with liberty, freedom of speech, due process of law, etc. Second generation rights are social, economic, and cultural in nature; focusing on access to employment, housing, and health care. Finally, third generation rights encompass a much broader range of “rights,” such as the right to a healthy environment, the right to protection of cultural heritage, and the right to social development.
Tokyo Trials: the trials of military and political leaders of the Empire of Japan for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during World War II before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. However, the Emperor of Japan was not included in the list of persons indicted. See also “International Military Tribunal for the Far East” above.
Torture: the act of inflicting excruciating physical or mental pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.
Traffickingin the context of “human trafficking,” it is the illegal recruitment and trade of people to be exploited against their will.: in the context of “human traffickingin the context of “human trafficking,” it is the illegal recruitment and trade of people to be exploited against their will.,” it is the illegal recruitment and trade of people to be exploited against their will.
Treaty: a formal, legal agreement between two or more states.
Tribunals: seats or courts of justice; often those that have jurisdiction on behalf of countries such as the Nuremberg Tribunal. See “Nuremberg Trials” for more information.
UN Transitional Administration in East Timor: The United Nations program that administered the territory of East Timor during its transition from occupation by Indonesia to its full independence, running from August 1999 to May 2002.
United Nations: an international organization formed in 1945 after the end of World War II to promote international peace, security, and cooperation. It was created under the terms of the charter signed by 51 founding countries in San Francisco in 1945.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the declaration is primarily a statement of principle, a foundation upon which the legal framework for practical protections of the agreed upon rights could be constructed. It is not a legally binding document, but rather serves as a statement of aspirations for all states to achieve a more equitable and just world.
Unilateral: undertaken by or relating to only one side. A unilateral action in international relations is one taken by only one state, not a group of states.
Unlawful Combatants: the classification used by the United States for terrorist enemies that are captured by U.S. forces. This classification does not enjoy the legal protections provided under the Geneva Conventions for the detainment of prisoners of war or other “legal” enemy combatants. (See discussion of “lawful combatant” in the Issue Brief for further information).
U.S. Constitution: the document that provides the fundamental principles and laws that prescribe the structure, functions, and limits of the U.S. government.
War Crimes: violations of the laws and customs of war as codified by the Geneva and Hague Conventions. These crimes include, but are not limited to, the destruction of cities or towns not justified by military necessity, the targeting and killing of civilians, torture, killing a surrendered combatant, willful destruction of religious institutions or educational centers, and the plunder of public or private property.