Practice Relating to Rule 160. Statutes of Limitation
In 1967, during a debate in the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly on the question of the punishment of war criminals and of persons who had committed crimes against humanity, the representative of Bulgaria stated:
He was convinced of the need to adopt a convention on the non-applicability of statutory limitation to war crimes in order to prevent new crimes … In resolution 1158 (XLI) the Economic and Social Council had urged all States to take “any measures necessary to prevent the application of statutory limitation to war crimes and crimes against humanity”. The Committee’s task was therefore very simple and essentially a technical one: it had to adopt a convention which was of the nature of a declaration and brought together principles that already existed in international law. Statutory limitation with respect to war crimes did not exist in Bulgaria, nor in the legislation of many countries … Although statutory limitation was known in the domestic law of many countries, it had always been very controversial, and in some countries applied to some crimes but not to others. All international documents dealing with international criminal law, moreover, pass over the question of the non-applicability of statutory limitation in silence … No moral considerations could justify the application of statutory limitation to such crimes … What should be done … was to take all necessary measures to confirm a principle which already existed in international law.