LAW 465

Prospects for International Justice


Criminal Justice, Human Rights, International Law

Prosecutions of the most serious international crimes through international criminal tribunals and courts have emerged as a visible yet uneven force on the global landscape over the last twenty-five years.

The first ad hoc tribunals have closed down, leaving the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC), along with a handful of national courts, to actively address impunity for the most serious international crimes. There have been notable performance failings at the ICC. Having been threatened with serious punitive measures by the Trump administration, the ICC, which emerged in the period of unprecedented judicial construction, now operates on a very difficult global terrain.

This course will examine some of the key issues arising from the Court’s effort to render justice for crimes that have shocked the conscience of humankind. Through examining recent case law and practice, we will seek to better understand the progress and problems as well as the prospects for the ICC which was envisioned to be the centerpiece of a fragile “system” of international justice. We will explore some of the underlying problems and how this permanent Court can manage the challenges it is facing.    

To assess these questions, the readings and class discussion will use a few aspects of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal’s jurisprudence and practice. We will examine similar issues at the ICC. In class, where relevant, we will compare and contrast these judicial institutions with an eye to drawing lessons for the ICC’s bringing justice for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Specifically, we will explore modes of establishment (Security Council resolution as distinct from multilateral treaty negotiations), some of the substantive crimes, theories of individual criminal liability (command responsibility), expediting very lengthy proceedings and securing the arrest of suspects.

Students will be expected to weigh the relevant statutory provisions, rules of procedure, pertinent case law and interpretative history. Reflecting on a few lessons from the Yugoslav tribunal, class members will be asked to consider the implications for the future of the ICC.  


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