The Courts

There are six international criminal tribunals created either by treaty, an agreement between the Security Council and a country, or created by a Security Council resolution.  Each Tribunal hosts codified statutes and rules that make up the procedure and evidence guidelines for the proceedings.  The Six international criminal tribunals include: the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

International Criminal Court (ICC)
ICC Building. Photo: ekenitr via Flickr (CC)
ICC Building. Photo: ekenitr via Flickr (CC)

The mandate of the ICC is to try those individuals most responsible for crimes under international human rights law and international humanitarian law; including, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  Jurisdiction before the court is based on a State join to the Rome State or referral of a situation to the Court by the UN Security Council.  A case may be initiated before the Court when a Member State requests that the Prosecution initiate an investigation or case, or when a non-Member state requests the same by submitting an Article 12(3) declaration giving the ICC limited jurisdiction over the crimes complained of.   A case may also be initiated through a referral by the UN Security Council, or by way of the Prosecution initiating an investigation into crimes committed in the territory of a Member State. As of 1 April 2015, 123 countries were states parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC.

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor is currently conducting 9 Preliminary Examinations into crimes committed in the following countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, Nigeria, Georgia, Ginea, Honduras, Iraq, Ukraine and Palestine. The OTP has also closed Preliminary Examination, deciding not to proceed to a formal investigation, into complaints submitted by the Government of the Union of the Comoros, the State of Palestine, the Republic of Korea and Venzuela. The OTP has proceeded into a formal investigation into crimes committed in the following countries: Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, Sudan, Central African Republic II, Kenya, Libya, Côte d’Ivoire and Mali. The ICC heard cases against Mathieu Ngudiolo Chui and Congolese Germain Katanga. Chui’s appeal judgment was delivered on 27 February 2015, confirming, by majority, the Trial Chamber II’s decision of 18 December 2012 acquitting Chui of crimes against humanity. Chui was subsequently deported after making applications to The Netherlands and Switzerland seeking asylum. Katanga’s case is pending on appeal.

On 14 March 2012, the ICC delivered its first verdict against Congolese Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. It found Lubanga guilty of conscripting child soldiers and enlisting children in conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On 10 July 2012, Lubanga was sentenced to a total period of 14 years imprisonment accounting for time served. On 1 December 2014, the Appeals Chamber confirmed, by majority, the verdict declaring Mr. Lubanga guilty and the decision sentencing him to 14 years of imprisonment.

The ICC is currently conducting cases at the Pre-Trial stage in cases concerning crimes committed in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Sudan, Libya and Cote d’Ivoire.  Contempt proceedings against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido are due to begin in September 2015.

On-going cases in the trial phase include the case against Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto and Josua arap Sang concerning post-election violence in Kenya.  Charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta were dropped by the Prosecution in December 2014.  The trial against Bosco Ntaganda will begin in September 2015 and the trial against former President of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, will begin in November 2015. The case against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is awaiting judgment after closing statements were conducted in November 2014.

The UN Security Council referred the situation in Darfur, Sudan to the ICC and the Office of the Prosecutor subsequently issued four international arrest warrants against top Sudanese officials, including sitting President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir. All remain at large. Following the revolution in Libya in February 2011 the Security Council referred the situation in Libya to the ICC and charges were issued against Muammar Gaddafi, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi.  The ICC has asked Libya to transfer Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi to the ICC for trial, but has found that the case against Al-Senussi is inadmissible before the ICC.

For more information on the ICC, including case materials and Court documents, click here.

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

ICTY building. Photo: ICTY photos via Flickr (CC)
ICTY building. Photo: ICTY photos via Flickr (CC)

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established to prosecute those responsible for crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001. The mandate of the ICTY covers atrocities committed in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  The ICTY was created by the United Nation’s Resolution 827 on 25 May 1993, and was established pursuant to the UN Charter’s Chapter VII ‘Peace and Security’ authority.  As the first Tribunal to be created before conflict in the region had ceased, the UN hoped the Tribunal would deter further crimes and provide justice for victims who had witnessed or experienced the atrocities.

The ICTY sits in the The Hague, The Netherlands and has indicted over 161 individuals and has completed proceedings with regard to 147 of these individuals. 18 have been acquitted, 80 sentenced, and 13 have had their cases transferred to local courts. The Tribunal has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Enumerated in the Tribunal’s Statute, these violations include the crimes of murder, torture, rape, enslavement, destruction of property and other crimes. The ICTY’s objective is to charge and try those most responsible for committing these crimes. In creating the tribunal, the UN believed that guilt should be individualized so that no community or ethnic group was deem ‘collectively responsible’ for the crimes and atrocities. Those indicted before the ICTY have held varying degree of power over the committed atrocities with positions including heads of state, prime ministers, army chiefs, interior ministers and other political, military, and police leaders.

Currently, the Tribunal is entering its completion phase.  The remaining cases to be tried before the Tribunal include the trials against Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic, Goran Hadzic and Vojislav Seselj. The trial against Seselj is awaiting judgment, while the trial against Hadzic has been suspended due to health reasons.

In order to implement the completion strategy for the ICTY and ICTR, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) has been created.  See the description of the MICT below for more information.

For more information on the ICTY, including case materials and Court documents, click here.

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)

ICTR logo. Photo: Adam Jones via Flickr (CC).
ICTR logo. Photo: Adam Jones via Flickr (CC).

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was created on 8 November 1994 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.  UN Security Council Resolution 955 established the Tribunal in order to try those bearing the greatest responsibility for violations of international humanitarian law; including, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.   Jurisdiction is granted to the ICTR if these crimes are committed by a Rwandan or in the territory of Rwanda between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994.  In 1995, UN Resolution 977 established the court’s residency in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Tribunal is composed of three Trial Chambers consisting each of four judges and one Appeals Chamber consisting of four judges.  The Office of Prosecutor is divided into two sections; the investigations section and the prosecutions section.  The Registry is tasked with administration and management of the Tribunal, as well as, other legal functions.  The Defense is not considered an “organ” of the Tribunal, but instead, defense is provided to the accused through a contract basis.

As of November 2014, the ICTR completed 78 cases, with six pending appeal. Nine ICTR accused remain at large.The Appeals Chamber head oral arguments in the Nyiramasuhuko et. al. case on 23 April 2015.

In order to implement the completion strategy for the ICTY and ICTR, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals has been created.  See the description of the MICT below for more information.

For more information on the ICTR, including case materials and Court documents, click here.

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT)

ICTY Building. Photo: Roman Boed via Flickr (CC)
ICTY Building. Photo: Roman Boed via Flickr (CC)

The UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) was established by the United Nations Security Council on 22 December 2010 to carry out a number of essential functions of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribune for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), after the completion of their respective mandates. The MICT commenced functioning on 1 July 2012 and 1 July 2013, in the respective branches.

The establishment of the MICT is a key step of the Completion Strategies of the two Tribunals. It is a new, small, temporary, efficient body tasked with continuing the jurisdiction, rights and obligations and essential functions” (UNSC Resolution 1966) of the ICTR and the ICTY; and maintaining the legacy of both institutions.

The MICT comprises of two braches; one branch covering functions inherited from the ICTR and located in Arusha, Tanzania, and the other branch located in The Hague and inherited functions from the ICTY.  The MICT is comprised of a permanent President, Prosecutor and Registrar, common to both branches, and 25 independent judges cover both ICTR and ICTY branches.

The MICT’s ad hoc functions include; tracking and prosecution of remaining fugitives, appeals proceedings, retrials, trials for contempt of the Tribunal and false testimony, and proceedings for review of final judgment. The MICT’s continuing functions include; protection of victims and witnesses, supervision of enforcement of sentences, assistance to national jurisdictions, and preservation and management of MICT, ICTR and ICTY archives.

For more information on the MICT, including news archives and an enforcement of sentences map, click here.

Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL)

Special Court of Sierra Leone, Freetown. Photo: UNMEER via Flickr (CC).
Special Court of Sierra Leone, Freetown. Photo: UNMEER via Flickr (CC).

The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) was established by the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone jointly, and with the mandate to “try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean Law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996.”  UN Security Council Resolution 1315, which established the Special Court, was issued on 14 August 2000 after Sierra Leonean President Kabbah wrote UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to ask for international assistance.

The creation of the Special Court came in response to the deaths and human rights violations caused by Sierra Leone’s civil war.  In 2003, the Prosecutor of the SCSL issued thirteen indictments for individuals representing the leadership of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), the Civil Defense Forces (CDF) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), as well as former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Taylor in particular was accused of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity committed by the rebel groups mentioned above, and thus contributing to the destabilization of Sierra Leone.

The SCSL, seated in Freetown, completed the trials and appeals of the accused from the AFRC, CDF and RUF, resulting in the conviction of all eight defendants.  Charles Taylor currently awaits his trial judgment in The Hague, Netherlands for eleven counts listed in the indictment. His trial was moved to The Hague so as to avoid destabilizing the fragile post-conflict peace in the region. The trial judgment is expected 26 April 2012.

For more information on the Special Court, including case materials and Court documents visit the Court’s residual mechanism site by clicking here.

To view the legal documens of the SCSL Residual Mechanism, click here.

Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL)

Special Tribunal For Lebanon. Photo: STL via Flickr (CC).
Special Tribunal For Lebanon. Photo: STL via Flickr (CC).

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was mandated to prosecute and try individuals related to the 14 February 2005 criminal and “terrorist” crimes in Beirut that resulted in the death of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 other individuals.  Expansion of the Tribunal’s jurisdiction to include attacks in Lebanon between October 2004 and December 2005 could be possible if these attacks “are connected in accordance with the principles of criminal justice and are of a nature and gravity similar to the attack of 14 February 2005.”

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is an international hybrid tribunal created by an agreement between the Lebanese government and the UN Security Council under Resolution 1664 on 29 March 2006.  The Tribunal’s creation and Statute entered into force on 30 May 2007 pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1757.  Article 2 of the Statute specifies that, unlike other hybrid tribunals, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will not apply international law but the Lebanese Criminal Code’s provisions on acts of terrorism and other crimes “against life and personal integrity.”

In June 2011, the identifications of four Hezbollah members were released by the STL; the four are charged with homicide, conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, and as accomplices to homicide and terrorism, among other crimes. In February of this year Trial Chambers authorized the trial in absentia of the four accused.

For more information on the STL, including case materials and Court documents, click here.

To view the STL Statute and applicable law, including the Lebanese Rules of Procedure and Criminal Code, click here.

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), or Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT)

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. Photo: ECCC via Flickr (CC).
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. Photo: ECCC via Flickr (CC).

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) was created after the government of Cambodia requested assistance from the United Nations in 1997.  The Cambodian government sought to try senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge responsible for genocide and other crimes against humanity, as a result of the nearly 3 million deaths that occurred from 1975 to 1979 during the Khmer Rouge regime.

In 1997, the Cambodian government created the Khmer Rouge Trial Task Force which set out to establish the legal structure that would conduct the trials against the Khmer Rouge leaders.  In 2001, the ECCC was officially created through legislation of the Cambodian National Assembly.  Though the Cambodian government asked for the assistance of the international community, it insisted that the trials should take place in Cambodia and mixed Cambodian and international judges and staff.

Case 001 against the accused, Kaing Guek Eav alias “Duch,” concluded and in February 2012 the Appeals Chamber issued a life sentence against Duch. Case 002 against Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea, leng Sary, leng Thirith, and Khieu Samphan commenced in January of 2011 and is ongoing.

For more information on the ECCC, including case materials and Court documents, click here.

To view the ECC Internal Rules and Regulations, click here.

To view the ECCC law establishing the Tribunal, click here.

Domestic Courts, Regional Tribunals, and other criminal courts

UN Human Rights Council. Photo: United States Mission Geneva via Flickr (CC).
UN Human Rights Council. Photo: United States Mission Geneva via Flickr (CC).

Those responsible for international war crimes or crimes against humanity are also being prosecuted by courts and tribunals besides the UN supported tribunals listed above.  Many countries and regions have established courts which are trying individuals for violations of human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Below is a list of tribunals, countries and regions participating in these prosecutions.

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

African Union. Photo: Embassy of Equatorial Guinea via Flickr (CC).
African Union. Photo: Embassy of Equatorial Guinea via Flickr (CC).

The Inter American Court for Human Rights. 

United Nations Human Rights Council.

The International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh.

Republic of Serbia, Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor.

The Prosecutors Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

International Court of Justice (ICJ)

International Court of Justice. Photo: U.S. Embassy The Hague via Flickr (CC)
International Court of Justice. Photo: U.S. Embassy The Hague via Flickr (CC)

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is tasked with resolving legal disputes between states or answering legal questions posed by United Nations organs or agencies. As the judicial arm of the UN, it can issue decisions in contentious cases or in an advisory capacity. For contentious cases, decisions are binding only upon the parties named in the proceedings.

For more information on the ICJ, including case materials and court documents, click here.