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Domestic Courts’ Contribution to the Development of International Criminal Law; Some Reflections


Harmen G. Van der Wilt


University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law

January 30, 2012

Impact of International Courts on Domestic Proccedings in Mass Atrocity Cases, T. Ingadottir, R. Mackenzie, Y. Shany, H. Van der Wilt, eds., 2012-2013
Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2012-15
Amsterdam Center for International Law No. 2012-03

Abstract:     
This essay seeks to give an impression of the way in which domestic courts are contributing to the development of international criminal law. Have they predominantly followed the case law of international tribunals and, by doing so, have they corroborated those standards? Or have they rather ventured new directions, which entails that they have been involved in a creative process, establishing and refining international criminal law? Four different approaches, reflecting domestic courts’ position vis à vis the standards and case law of international criminal tribunals, are identified and analyzed: strict compliance, antagonism, judicial construction and ‘casuistry’. The author concludes that the most important contribution of domestic courts to the development of international criminal law consists of further interpretation of open ended norms. While this is obviously inherent to the process of ‘judicial creativity’, the feature is reinforced by the non-hierarchical nature of international criminal law. As a consequence, international criminal tribunals lack the power and authority to impose their interpretation of international criminal law on domestic courts. The risk of fragmentation is mitigated, however, by the nature of criminal law, requiring strict and clear standards, and by the increasing interactions between courts at different levels.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 1

Keywords: international crimes, domestic courts, complementarity, hierarchy, fragmentation

JEL Classification: K33, K14

working papers series


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Date posted: January 30, 2012 ; Last revised: April 17, 2013

Suggested Citation

van der Wilt, Harmen G., Domestic Courts’ Contribution to the Development of International Criminal Law; Some Reflections (January 30, 2012). Impact of International Courts on Domestic Proccedings in Mass Atrocity Cases, T. Ingadottir, R. Mackenzie, Y. Shany, H. Van der Wilt, eds., 2012-2013; Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2012-15; Amsterdam Center for International Law No. 2012-03. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1995469 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1995469

Contact Information

Harmen G. Van der Wilt (Contact Author)
University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law ( email )
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands
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