State Involvement in War Crimes Trials - Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC

17 Apr 2013   54:01   6
42   19

International war crimes courts deal only with the responsibility of individuals for crimes they committed. In order to avoid over-simplification of understanding what may have happened by the necessary concentration on individual criminal responsibility, it is vital not to overlook collective and state criminal responsibility; but state responsibility can only be dealt formally with at a different court, the International Court of Justice. Has this allowed states to escape attention that should have been paid to their responsibility -- as states -- for conflicts, a responsibility different in kind from the responsibility of their leaders?

All war crimes trials rely on cooperation with states, often the very ones which were involved in the relevant war, for production of valuable documents from state archives and to facilitate access to witnesses. States will be obligated by membership of the UN to cooperate while at the same time wanting or needing to obscure information that would make public the involvement of the state in the commission of crimes and mass atrocities.

What does the evidence in the Milošević trial and in other ICTY trials tell us about the responsibility of states, and not just of the states involved in conflicts? What does it tell us about the vulnerability of trials such as Milošević's to state interests that may run counter to open, forensic exploration of complex histories?

The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:

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Tags: Law, Milosevic, Tokyo, Crime, war crimes, Serbia, Bosnia, Balkans, Balkan conflict, Nuremberg

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