In Search of the 'Vertical': An Exploration of What Makes International Criminal Tribunals Different (and Why)

57 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2008 Last revised: 30 Oct 2008

See all articles by Frederic Megret

Frederic Megret

McGill University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: October 9, 2008


International criminal tribunals have often claimed that they are in a 'vertical' relationship vis-a-vis states that is fundamentally different from 'horizontal' international criminal law, as exists between states. Although there are many studies of specific aspects of that claim to verticality (for example, the power to order subponea), there have few attempts to systematically study all the possible ways in which international criminal tribunals could be described as being distinctly 'vertical'. More importantly, international criminal justice still lacks a comprehensive theory of what it is that allows international criminal tribunals to claim 'verticality'.

This chapter seeks to remedy these shortcomings. It argues that 'verticality' is truly the defining feature of the tribunals as institutions of international criminal justice, not only for the purposes of analyzing cooperation, but also to understand complex issues of jurisdiction. The chapter also develops a theory of the foundations of verticality, by arguing that it is only tenuously anchored in the law, and should be understood more broadly as an affirmation of international criminal tribunals' separate identity. That identity is indissociable from international criminal justice's claim to emancipate itself from the inter-state world.

Keywords: international criminal justice, international criminal tribunals, yugoslavia, rwanda, sierra leone, international criminal court, international criminal law, human rights, international organizations, exception, vertical, horizontal, judicial assistance, extradition, transfer, abduction, immunities

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Mégret, Frédéric, In Search of the 'Vertical': An Exploration of What Makes International Criminal Tribunals Different (and Why) (October 9, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Frédéric Mégret (Contact Author)

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec H3A 1W9

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