Superior Responsibility of Civilians for International Crimes Committed in Civilian Settings

39 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2009 Last revised: 15 Apr 2015

See all articles by Yael Ronen

Yael Ronen

Academic Center for Science and Law, Hod Hasharon; Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law, Minerva Center

Date Written: August 20, 2009

Abstract

The article examines the notion of superior responsibility of civilians for international crimes committed in civilian settings. The doctrine of superior responsibility grew out of the military doctrine of command responsibility, and its evolution is informed by this origin. Jurisprudence and academic writers emphasize that the doctrine is also applicable to civilian superiors, but the discourse has invariably focused on civilian leaders of military or paramilitary organizations. Moreover, there has never been a detailed analysis of the doctrine’s relevance and applicability in civilian settings. The article argues that the claim that superior responsibility extends to civilians, and moreover to civilian settings, is inaccurate as a matter of a customary law. In judicial practice (including recent rulings), civilians have rarely been convicted under the doctrine even as leaders of military organizations, and when they have, this conviction was generally secondary to their direct responsibility. The article elaborates various challenges to the application of the doctrine in civilian settings, particularly in the determination of the existence of a superior-subordinate relationship. Despite the difficulties in transposing the doctrine to the civilian sphere, the article argues that as a matter of policy civilians should also be subject to the doctrine. It also argues that the normative distinctions between civilians and military superiors, today entrenched in Article 28 of the ICC Statute, is neither absolutely necessary nor practicable.

Keywords: superior responsibility, command responsibility, international criminal law, ICC, ICTY, ICTR, media case, Nahimana

Suggested Citation

Ronen, Yael, Superior Responsibility of Civilians for International Crimes Committed in Civilian Settings (August 20, 2009). Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 43, No. 2, 2010; Hebrew University International Law Research Paper No. 16-09. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1458263

Yael Ronen (Contact Author)

Academic Center for Science and Law, Hod Hasharon ( email )

5 Margoa St.
Hod Hasharon, 45101
Israel

HOME PAGE: http://en.mishpat.ac.il/yael_ronen/

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law, Minerva Center ( email )

Mount Scopus
Mount Scopus, IL 91905
Israel

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