Throughout the twentieth century and into the present, international humanitarian law developed not only to regulate the conduct of war, but to punish those who would violate it; be it national prosecutions for war crimes or international criminal courts. In recognition of that fact, international humanitarian law seeks to divide the politics of war from the law of war by requiring minimal standards of due process, even for the most heinous offenders. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, for example, famously provides that in armed conflict, all criminal punishment must be “pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”
But what is a "regularly constituted court" and what are indispensable "judicial guarantees"? When war often means a threat to and even a breakdown of civilized society, how is the balance struck between due process, public safety and vindicating the victims of war crimes?
This class will guide students through the salient areas of international criminal law by reading, analyzing and discussing the statutes and precedents from WWII, modern IHL tribunals, and the Military Commissions convened at Guantánamo Bay. The issues covered will range from how crimes are defined, to who is subject to law of war jurisdiction, to theories of liability, to the rules of evidence, including the use of national security information and evidence derived from torture, to the problems associated with distinguishing lawful acts of guerrilla warfare from terrorism.
Over and above this treatment of the substantive aspects of the law, the course will encourage students to consider such problems as fact-finding through adversarial litigation, the reliance on common law crimes, the use of such tribunals in place of domestic courts and truth and reconciliation commissions, the liability of lawyers for war crimes and what due process is possible before law of war tribunals.
Students will be evaluated on the basis of class participation and a research paper on one aspect of international criminal law. Course administration will be conducted through TWEN, where students can download the readings for class and pose questions for class discussion.