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Positivism and International Criminal Law: The Principle of Legality as a Rule of Conflict of Theories

International Legal Positivism World, Jean d'Aspremont and Jörg Kammerhofer, eds., Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming

43 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2012  

Dov Jacobs

Leiden University - Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies; Legal Assistant at the International Criminal Court

Date Written: August 31, 2012

Abstract

This chapter discusses legal positivism in international criminal law through the lens of the Principle of Legality. First describing the slow adoption of the principle of legality in ICL from the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials, the chapter argues against most of the reasons put forward to limit its application in contemporary practice of ICL. In order to do this, the Chapter first develops the idea that the principle of legality imports legal positivism as a substantive norm of ICL, which makes it an original field of law and that the principle of legality therefore acts as a Rule of Conflict of Theories. Looking more closely at the practice of international courts, the chapter suggests that the principle of legality requires, among other things, the slow exclusion of customary law as a source of ICL and the exclusion of Articles 31 and 32 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties as means of interpreting international criminal statutes, even in the case of the ICC. The Chapter concludes with some general issues on the tension between criminal lawyers and international lawyers in ICL and on the limits of the alleged specifics of the field.

Keywords: legal positivism, international criminal law, judicial creativity, treaty interpretation, principle of legality, customary international law

Suggested Citation

Jacobs, Dov, Positivism and International Criminal Law: The Principle of Legality as a Rule of Conflict of Theories (August 31, 2012). International Legal Positivism World, Jean d'Aspremont and Jörg Kammerhofer, eds., Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2046311

Dov Jacobs (Contact Author)

Leiden University - Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies ( email )

Leiden University Law Faculty
P.O. Box 9520
Leiden, 2300 RA
Netherlands

Legal Assistant at the International Criminal Court ( email )

The Hague
Netherlands

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