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Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice, Revised and Updated Edition [Paperback]

Geoffrey Robertson , Kenneth Roth
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 31, 2007 1595580719 978-1595580719 Third Edition
For centuries it seemed an impossible dream that international institutions could ever tell nation-states how to treat their own citizens. But after a century in which 160 million lives have been wasted by war, genocide, and torture, the worldwide human rights movement is gaining popular and political strength. In a book that has been called "an epic work" by The Times (London), Geoffrey Robertson, one of the world's leading human rights lawyers, weaves together disparate strands of history, philosophy, international law, and politics to show how an identification of the crime against humanity, first defined at Nuremberg, has become the key that unlocks the closed door of state sovereignty, enabling the international community to bring tyrants and torturers to heel. This newly revised and expanded edition features additional chapters on Iraq and Guantánamo, and incorporates insights from the author's experience since 2002 as a UN appeals judge for the Special Court on war crimes in Sierra Leone. Robertson also brings us up to date on the trials against Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein and the International Criminal Court at Darfur.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A British lawyer long involved in human rights observations and tribunals, Robinson writes of the history and the contemporary politics of international human rights. He devotes a chapter each to the history of human rights law; the case of General Pinochet; the "Guernica Paradox" (that is, bombing in the service of human rights); the International Court; and recent events in the Balkans, East Timor, Latin America and the U.S. An unabashed supporter of international military intervention, Robinson puts individuals' rights above the right of national sovereignty. Passionate almost to a fault, he occasionally even argues that morality, the defense of human rights, should supersede the rule of international law. To his credit, he is consistently willing to criticize all sidesAand he does criticize the U.S. Congress (for what he says is its occasional desire to place U.S. interests above international human rights), U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (for what Robinson considers his occasional incompetence) and anyone who'd excuse human rights violations in the name of cultural relativism. The author's disgust with the U.N.'s inaction leads him to propose that the human rights community form a separate organization to deal with the issue. At times, Robinson's intense focus on law may blind him to important holes in his argument. But overall, this is an erudite book that adds sophistication to the debate on a crucial subject. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The author, a distinguished British barrister, has written a complex and demanding account of the developing regime of international human rights. Specifically, he focuses on the "struggle" (as the subtitle says) to hold accountable those who use state sovereignty as an exculpatory defense of government acts of repression, torture, and genocide. He also explains the gradual transformation of the ideals of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights into domestic law through international covenants. Much of this task remains to be completed, and Robertson is not the first to comment on the significance of the Hague Tribunal concerning former Yugoslavia or even the recent case involving Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet. Nevertheless, his account is told with abundant detail, rigorous analysis, and tenacious advocacy. Robertson is especially critical of the Pentagon for opposing recent efforts to create an effective international criminal court and the right-wing advisers of Gen. Douglas MacArthur for preventing a trial of Japanese Emperor Hirohito. This book balances an optimistic prognosis for the recognition of human rights with an acknowledgment that no leadership of a major power will likely be held accountable for their violation. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.DZachary T. Irwin, Behrend Coll., Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: New Press; Third Edition edition (January 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595580719
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595580719
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #207,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars David Takes on a Goliath Task April 19, 2002
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Geoffrey Robertson's "Crimes Against Humanity" is a thoughtful and thorough analysis of modern attempts at global justice. I have struggled with this issue for some time and have found most books of little help, perhaps because the amount of material to be digested is so substantial. Robertson does an excellent job of assembling, organizing, and presenting an extremely complex body of knowledge. There are many books on individual topics covered here and some readers would no doubt like their pet topics to have been discussed in more detail. The beauty of the book, however, is not in its detailed coverage of any single issue, but in it ability to integrate a large number of topics (e.g., the Lieber Code, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,The Geneva Conventions, Nuremberg, Truth Commissions, International Criminal Court, etc.). The author is able to show how these various issues are connected in a string of advances toward a global system of human rights -- advances that are admittedly glacial in their pace but advances nonetheless. Anyone who has tried to organize this vast body of knowledge can appreciate what Robertson has accomplshed. A fine companion to this book is Samantha Power's book "A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide." Taken together, these two books will take the reader a long way toward understanding international efforts at global justice.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just Keeps Getting Bigger March 6, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Now in its third edition, this mainstay textbook on the subject just keeps getting bigger, and one might say better. Whereas in earlier editions, the author was known to write in a somewhat dry, analytical tone, with some excellent categorical or structural analysis, I might add, the tone is now almost conversational, with the author telling "the story of human rights." The "story" pervades the first five or six chapters, and consists of little snippets or witty comments lamenting the fact that someone didn't do this or that. The meaty stuff includes chapter 8 (the Pinochet case), chapter 9 (the Milosvic case), chapter 11 (Kosovo), and chapter 13 (the last chapter, on Saddam Hussein). There is only one chapter on terrorism (12) and it's mostly devoted to the Guantanamo Bay issue. Overall, the book may be essential reading, and it does make the complex simple, but it is an overview book and the kind of thing which is sufficient only for beginners because there are lots of areas where the reader might want to do some more research and all they are given are little snippets or emotive hints of something.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read for putting things in perspective May 8, 2000
A thoroughly enjoyable book. Excellent for someone who has basic knowledge of international and human rights law and who wishes to see things from a different perspective.
As a law student I found this book to be pleasantly refreshing when compared with the usual mind-numbing textbooks on international law. There are only two relatively negative things I can say about this book. Having read through this book a couple of times I found that it feels somewhat rushed, and also there is a tendency to make sweeping statements in places.
Yet overall I loved this book from page one and it really is easy to read yet makes you think. Highly recommended for anyone who wishes to know more about the practical side of international and human rights law, and also specifically for law students, because this is a book that tells you some things that are not even mentioned in your law course. I particularly loved Geoffrey's dry humour which pervades this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Allow yourself to be challenged, at least September 11, 2002
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Geoffrey Robertson is a passionate advocate of human rights - and (possibly paradoxically) of the ability to affect them within the system/s in which we try to enforce them. This book makes no claim to be a perfect history, but knowing Robertson's experience, we are better to hear his opinion and understanding than a dry history of the progress of human rights law itself. If you love this book, good. If you hate it, good. The idea is to make you think about it... and that is what Robertson is best at. This may be the only law history book you will ever read which will make you laugh and cry - occasionally at the same time. I read some other reviews of this and am saddened at their negativity - Robertson has personal experience most "experts" never have, and combines that with a wicked wit, enormous intelligence and a humanitarian heart. This is some book, and Geoffrey Robertson is some man - read whatever you can of his.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Human rights law for the average person February 8, 2008
By Mostyn
Crimes against humanity is a very comprehensive review of the human rights directed at readers not well versed in law. The author, Geoffrey Robertson, an accomplished lawyer and advocate of human rights, does an superb job of discussing the origins of modern human rights, and their development to the present day, (the updated edition covers the Iraq war.)

He laments the repeated failures of members of the international community to uphold human rights when it is in their interest. Yet he does so with reason, fairness and empathy (not sympathy) for countries who abuse human rights as well as the UN which has failed to protect human rights so often. For example he blasts all of the big 5 members of the security council at various times for abusing their veto powers. He also criticises the small enclaves such as Lichtenstein, Monaco and the Vatican who abuse their voting power in the general assembly which is equivalent to that of China or India.

At the same time he talks up the progress that human rights have made in recent years, something that is rarely acknowledged. The leaders of nations now fear that they might one day fall into the grasp of justice, and the US can no longer support despotic regimes throughout the world.

This book serves as an excellent introduction to the broader issue of human rights for those who are not well read on this subject. It is a quite long, and can become tedious at times, but it is not dry like I assume a law textbook must be. Nor is it a one sided attack by some commentator which seeks to popularise the author's agenda.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars powerful - but historical diligence a tad tardy
Geoffrey Robertson, Crimes Against Humanity, New Edition, Penguin Books, 2006

Geoffrey Robertson's books are essential reading for anyone concerned with international... Read more
Published 11 months ago by GRAEME DRYSDALE
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading
While Mr Robertson's style can be a little heavy going somertimes, his undoubted knowedge, experience and passion for the subject shine through. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Desmond Howell
5.0 out of 5 stars An urgent book for today and our future!
I bought this book for my university class, but I doubt we will get through it in our class, so I plan on reading it on my own, too. Read more
Published on November 6, 2011 by Olya
4.0 out of 5 stars Crimes Against Humanity
Its a solid read with many interesting cases and examples. I bought this book to compete in a high school debate, it was though thoroughly enjoyable for me to read. Read more
Published on January 24, 2009 by Robert R. Werle
4.0 out of 5 stars Lengthy but worth the effort
At 609 pages this is a lengthy read on a difficult subject; Robertson deals with it logically and often with charm and wit (perhaps a useful coping mechanism for such a depressing... Read more
Published on January 16, 2008 by Annapolis Bookstore LLC
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Read!!
After readinbg Geoffrey Robertson's book "The Justice Game" (which was just so good.....) I again wanted to have some more of his personal style, wit and in-depth knowledge of his... Read more
Published on August 23, 2007 by Ms. Jay Bonnington
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing revival of a dead letter
Before 1990, international law was a dead letter office. Its foundations post-dated a universal church and pre-dated the Enlightenment. Read more
Published on November 26, 2002 by Edward G. Nilges
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars to the book, zero star to "davidpet"'s review
Does Robertson accuse that the US "constantly" makes mistakes? Has the US ever done anything right when it comes to human rights? Read more
Published on January 28, 2001
1.0 out of 5 stars MIGHT MAKES RIGHT
Geoffrey Robertson's book, Crimes against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice (The New Press, 2000), merits a different title: "Might Makes Right. Or: Bombs Away! Read more
Published on November 9, 2000 by "davidpet"
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