Atrocity Crimes Litigation: 2008 Year-In-Review

Schaack, Beth Van | January 1, 2009

This article–prepared in connection with the annual review of atrocity crimes litigation conference hosted at Northwestern University School of Law–surveys important developments in the field of international criminal law in 2008. Although the article does feature certain key procedural developments, it primarily addresses developments in substantive law concerning the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and gender-based violence, as well as applicable forms of responsibility, including conspiracy, incitement, co-perpetration, and joint criminal enterprise. The survey identifies several trends in the jurisprudence toward better delineating the interfaces between international crimes and forms of responsibility and identifies cases with immediate relevance to the “war on terror” proceedings in the United States addressed to such issues as when acts of terrorism contribute to triggering international humanitarian law (the law of war), what conduct constitutes direct participation in hostilities, and when acts of terrorism may constitute war crimes within the jurisdiction of international criminal tribunals. On the whole, although there have been some important rulings in 2008, it is clear that the rate of innovation in substantive international criminal law is slowing as international criminal law begins to exhibit features of a more mature body of law.