International Criminal Law
Full course description
This master course builds upon earlier acquired basic knowledge of substantive criminal law and criminal procedure and international law, and consists of seven tutorials, as well as several mandatory lectures. In the first week, we will focus on the question of what international criminal law is, how it came into being and why. We will also address the question of whether criminal prosecutions are always the best way to go. Quite a number of states have established Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in some form or found other ways of dealing with the dark pages in their past. What reasons exist for doing so? Next, we will examine who or what can trigger a prosecution and under what conditions international criminal courts and tribunals exercise jurisdiction. Sources of international criminal law, jurisdiction as well as admissibility will hence be the topics discussed in week 2. In week 3 and 4, we will take a closer look at substantive criminal law, namely the four core crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. This has various elements. Over which crimes do the ICTY, ICTR, ICC and several other courts have jurisdiction? When can we speak of genocide? What are the elements of a crime against humanity? What conduct amounts to a war crime? How is aggression defined? In a next step, these crimes need to be connected to a perpetrator: how can individuals become responsible for international crimes? Is the perpetrator individually criminally responsible? What forms of participation are recognized in international criminal law? How is criminal liability imposed in situations of command responsibility? Modes of liability will be looked at in week 5. In week 6, we will identify possible justifications and excuses (defenses) for committing international crimes. Was the person forced to commit the crime? Was s/he acting in self- defense? What role do defenses play in international criminal law more generally? Once a perpetrator has been found guilty, the question arises how s/he should be punished. Which penalties are provided for in the statutes of the international courts and tribunals? What purpose does sentencing serve and how are respective sentences established? And where and under what conditions are sentences enforced? Obligations to cooperate with the international criminal courts and tribunals are related to these questions. These topics will be discussed in week 6. In week 7, we will focus on several contemporary issues and challenges within international criminal law. There are many. Some of these include the challenge of reconciling fair trial rights of the accused with including victims in international criminal proceedings or conducting them in the absence of the accused. Immunities, applicable under public international law but inapplicable under international criminal law are another challenge to the courts and tribunals. How are these challenges handled and how do states react to this? That will be analyzed in session 7. We will also see how international crimes can be prosecuted at national level.
The goal of this course is to gain a deep understanding of both the substantial and procedural law of the vast and fragmented area of international criminal law. Students will be able to identify the elements of international crimes as well as the modalities of criminal responsibility for those crimes. They shall recognize possible defenses as well as assess different factors relevant for determining a penalty. Students will be taught to distinguish between the different jurisdictional models of international criminal courts and tribunals as well as national criminal justice systems. In addition, the course also aims at a thorough understanding of the choices to be made between national and international prosecution of international crimes. The ability to apply this theoretical knowledge to actual case problems will be the outcome of this course. Lastly, students shall interpret and evaluate the challenges connected to international criminal prosecutions, appraise different answers to these challenges and justify possible alternative international criminal proceedings.
- Good knowledge of substantive criminal law and criminal procedure
- Basic knowledge of international law, especially international humanitarian law
- R. Cryer, H. Friman, D. Robinson, E. Wilmshurst, An Introduction to International Criminal Law and Procedure, Cambridge University Press 2019, 4th ed.
- Additional literature indicated for each week
- R.M. Heemskerk