A war crime is a violation of established protections of the laws of war. The term is defined largely by international law, including the Geneva Conventions. It comprises such acts as mistreatment of prisoners of war or civilians. Some instances of mass murder and genocide are in whole or part to be considered war crimes.
War crimes are significant in human rights law because it is an area where international tribunals such as the Nuremberg Trials have been convened. Recent examples are the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
On July 1, 2002 the International Criminal Court based in The Hague came into being for the prosecution of war crimes committed after that date.
To date, the only former heads of state or government that have been charged with war crimes are Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, and former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Recently there have also appeared testimonies of "peace crimes" committed against the Nazi children in the peace time after the war, after 1945, as part of the victors' celebration. These peace crimes reflect the complexity of justice when the winners' mentality dominates in international criminal tribunals.
See also: Crime against peace, Crime against humanity, laws of war, War Crimes Law (Belgium)