International unlawful actions engaging the responsibility of a State towards other States or the international community as a whole constitute what is termed a State crime. This crime, according to the International Law Commission, can result from a serious and large-scale violation of an international obligation that is of essential importance for the protection of the human being, such as those prohibiting slavery, genocide or apartheid. The actions engaging the international responsibility of a State are the same as those giving rise to individual criminal liability in the case of persons who, whether as groups or as private individuals, commit actions constituting an offence.
According to the preamble to the Hague Convention (1907) - approved in France by the Act of 25 May 1910, populations remain under the protection and the rule of the principles of the law of nations, as they result inter alia from the laws of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience. The duty of prosecuting and punishing crimes under international law rests primarily with the State on the territory of which the crimes were committed and in which the perpetrators can be apprehended.