On Tuesday, November 4, 2008, Paula Loyd, assigned to U.S. Army team AF-4 Blue, was conducting interviews among the local population in the small village of Chehel Gazi in southern Afghanistan. According to witnesses, she approached a man carrying a fuel jug, and they began discussing the price of gasoline. Suddenly the man, Abdul Salam, doused her with the fuel in his jug and set her on fire. She suffered second- and third-degree burns over sixty percent of her body. Tragically, Paula Loyd died of her injuries a few weeks later, in early January 2009.
This article attempts to explore the origin and evolution of the concept of persecution as a crime against humanity in international law. In particular, I will focus on the latest jurisprudence on this matter and will try to highlight the major challenges ahead for tribunals – both domestic and international – when faced with charges of this kind.
The twentieth century will be remembered for the millions of innocent children, women, and men who perished needlessly in war or in large-scale, organized extrajudicial killings. More than 170 million civilians lost their lives, many of them victims of “unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock[ed] the conscience of humanity.”