The present article revisits international criminal law as a tool for sanctioning the most patent abuses against migrants. Although deportation is traditionally considered as an attribute of the state inherent to its territorial sovereignty, this prerogative may degenerate into an international crime. The prohibition of deportation has been a well-established feature of international criminal law since the Nuremberg trials following the Second World War. This prohibition has been further refined over the past 15 years by an extensive jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court.
Against such a background, this article demonstrates that, in some circumstances, deportation may amount to a war crime, a crime against humanity or even a crime of genocide, depending on the factual elements of the case and the specific requirements of the relevant crime. This article accordingly reviews the constitutive elements of each crime and transposes them into the context of migration control. It highlights in turn that, although its potential has been neglected by scholars and practitioners, international criminal law has an important role to play for domesticating the state's prerogative of deportation and infusing the rule of law into the field of migration. The article concludes that there are reasonable grounds for asserting that a crime against humanity would have been committed in the Dominican Republic and Australia with regard to their deportation policy.