Deconstructing International Criminal Law

After nearly fifty years of post-Nuremberg hibernation, international criminal tribunals have returned to the world stage with a vengeance. The Security Council created the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”) in 1993 and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (“ICTR”) in 1994. Hybrid domestic-international tribunals have been established in Sierra Leone (2000), East Timor (2000), Kosovo (2000), Cambodia (2003), Bosnia (2005), and Lebanon (2007). And, of course, the international community’s dream of a permanent tribunal was finally realized in 2002, when the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) entered into force. This unprecedented proliferation of international criminal tribunals reflects the world community’s deep-seated faith in the ability of trials to heal the wounds caused by mass atrocity. The Security Council resolution establishing the ICTY claimed that an international tribunal “would contribute to the restoration and maintenance of peace.” The ICTR Statute states that the prosecution of those responsible for genocide in Rwanda would “contribute to the process of national reconciliation” and help ensure “that such violations are halted and effectively redressed.” Not to be outdone, the Rome Statute confidently links criminal prosecutions to the “peace, security and well-being of the world.”