In any utopic vision of the international refugee protection regime at least these two conditions ought to prevail: (1) all those who are genuinely in need of refugee protection will be granted international protection; (2) all those who are responsible for criminality, especially,
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In any utopic vision of the international refugee protection regime at least these two conditions ought to prevail: (1) all those who are genuinely in need of refugee protection will be granted international protection; (2) all those who are responsible for criminality, especially, serious international crimes, shall be held criminally liable. This presumes that the so-called “exclusion clauses” of the 1951 Refugee Convention, Article 1F, and those found in the regional refugee rights instruments (1969 OAU Convention, 1984 Cartagena Declaration, 2011 EU Qualifications Directive) are not required. No one would be excluded from refugee protection who meets the definition of refugee as found in these international refugee rights instruments. By the same token, anyone who is responsible for serious criminality, especially, serious international crimes, (as defined by the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court) shall be held criminally liable. This serves the ideal of bringing an end to impunity for serious international criminality and ensuring everyone is held accountable for their contribution for the persecution of others. Accordingly, the first part of this article presents the thesis that serious criminality should be part of the inclusionary portions of the definition of who is a refugee and not its exclusionary portions, Article 1F of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Indeed, Article 1F, it is argued, is antiquated and no longer conforms to contemporary international norms and principles and can result in injustices to refugee applicants. Given the inherent complexity and difficulties with Article 1F and the fact it is no longer required, it can be repealed and Article 1A(2), the definition of who is a refugee, can be amended to not include anyone who is responsible for the commission of serious criminality. Moreover, when there is sufficiently reliable and trustworthy evidence that a refugee applicant is responsible for serious criminality then they can be prosecuted and by doing so both ending impunity for serious international crimes and advancing international justice can be achieved. The second part of the article is a commentary on the first part and raises a word of caution. The thesis of this part is that before adopting any radical solution with respect to the exclusion clause, it would be useful to provide a broader context to the issues raised. The commentary raises some questions regarding the underlying assumptions in the first part, specifically, in its examination of the human rights and international criminal justice framework. These questions are on three levels, namely conceptual, legal, and practical. The commentary concludes with some overarching observations in respect to the criticisms raised and the proposal submitted.