The Challenge of 'Firsts' in International Criminal Justice: First Courts, First Judges, and Issues of First Impression
Posted: 28 Sep 2009 Last revised: 19 Jun 2010
Date Written: September 28, 2009
Since 1993, we have witnessed the creation of international criminal courts for the first time since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals in the aftermath of World War II. The 50-year gap between the post-World War II tribunals and the current international criminal courts means that the present international courts and judges are the first in our modern era to conduct trials of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes on an international stage. Not only are the courts and the role of the international criminal judges new, but also many of the issues coming before the courts are issues of first impression. This article explores judicial decision-making in four important cases that involve issues of first impression in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and the International Criminal Court. The cases illustrate the depth of knowledge and legal reasoning that was required of the judges in these new tribunals and the lasting contribution of the decisions to the development of international criminal law.
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