Destitution Inducing Benefit Sanctions as a Crime Against Humanity in the United Kingdom

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Law & Justice Conference (2020) (Lancaster Univeristy, U.K.)

Destitution is seldom addressed at a policy level nor from a human rights perspective. Consequently, the nexus between destitution and the denial of economic and social rights (ESRs) remains unrecognised within academia and policy and practice. This is despite the explicit link between destitution and the lack of enjoyment of several fundamental social and economic rights.

Using my human rights-based definition of destitution, this paper will demonstrate that destitution is a violation of ESRs. Building upon this, it will be further demonstrated that violations of ESRs – and indeed, as I have argued in a previous publication, social security policies – have the potential to be categorised as a Crime Against Humanity. Although other social security policies have also induced destitution, this paper focuses on benefit sanctions given the causal link which can more explicitly be drawn between sanctions – as government action – and the outcome of destitution. This analysis will inform an evaluation of the extent to which destitution inducing benefit sanctions (DIBS) can be categorised as a ‘widespread and systematic’ ‘attack’ against a ‘civilian population’. Having argued that DIBS have the potential to constitute a CAH this paper will then establish with whom individual criminal responsibility may lie and a number of responses aimed at ensuring accountability for this responsibility.

In choosing to focus on DIBS, the aim is to establish a foothold in this debate from which to further analyse other specific policies in the future. The broader aim, outside of academia, is to seek accountability for the non-realisation of ESRs to a level which prevents destitution through a ‘back door’ mechanism as although ESRs are generally non-justiciable in the UK Crimes Against Humanity are. If my arguments here are accepted this paper has the potential to open the floodgates for realising minimum entitlements of ESRs in the United Kingdom.
PeriodMar 2020
Event typeConference
LocationLancaster, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational