International Criminal Tribunals: A Review of 2007

Schabas, William A. | January 1, 2008

This article will provide an overview of some of the highlights of the case law of the tribunals during 2007. The volume of material is enormous, and any attempt to be comprehensive will stumble on superficiality. Necessarily, then, this review article focuses on only some of the major issues. During 2007, the tribunals for the former and were in the advanced stages of their ‘completion strategy.’ Major cases were underway, with an ambitious target: to conclude trials at first instance by the end of 2008. Each tribunal had a big question mark about future priorities. The for completed its three multi-defendant trials, and prepared to begin what will be its final trial, of former Liberian president Charles Taylor. As for the International Criminal Court, it was readying for its very first trial, of Charles Lubanga, who has been charged with war crimes related to the recruitment of child soldiers in . But arguably the most important judicial decision during the year in the field of international criminal law was the work of the International Court of Justice, and not one of the international criminal tribunals. On February 26, 2007, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, issued a seminal ruling on the crime of genocide. Its judgment concluded litigation that had begun in 1993, when newly-independent sued what was then called the and what had become, by the time of the 2007 decision, . The Court addressed a number of important interpretative problems with respect to provisions of the 1948 It adopted a relatively conservative interpretation of the definition of the crime, and rejected the suggestion that ‘ethnic cleansing,’ ‘cultural genocide’ and forms of attack and persecution directed at ethnic groups falling short of physical destruction are comprised within the concept. Other issues addressed in this article also include: (1) balanced prosecution and ‘flipside cases’; (2) hate propaganda and the incitement to genocide; (3) transferring cases back to national courts; (4) joint criminal enterprise; (5) witness proofing; (6) confirmation hearings; and (7) forced marriage.