Custom, General Principles and the Great Architect Cassese

19 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2012 Last revised: 14 Dec 2012

See all articles by Mary D. Fan

Mary D. Fan

University of Washington School of Law

Date Written: November 29, 2012


Major advances in international criminal law and procedure rose on the trusses of judicially-elucidated sources of international law − custom and general principles. These sources depend on the crucial art of derivation greatly advanced by the architect of modern international criminal justice, President Antonio Cassese. What has transformed international criminal justice into flourishing law able to address changing configurations of violence is the development of the art of finding law in the dark and wilds of murky unwritten norms. President Cassese pioneered paths through the perilous bog.

‘[T]he law lives in persons,’ and to understand the law one must study the vision of the persons who animate the law, another great scholar and judge teaches. In that spirit, this article explores advances in the art of elucidating custom and general principles in international criminal justice through the lens of President Cassese’s legacies and views on legality, sovereignty and the imperatives of humanity. The result are major landmarks in the prosecution of international crimes, such as developing protections in armed conflict and against sexual violence – and also progress in developing defenses and protections for the accused. The article distills lessons to guide the elucidation of customary international law and general principles from national systems and to regulate the transposition of concepts from national criminal law into international criminal law.

Keywords: International Criminal Law, Interpretation, Custom, General Principles, Sources of International Law, Nullum Crimen Sine Lege, Legality, Antonio Cassese, Nino Cassese

Suggested Citation

Fan, Mary, Custom, General Principles and the Great Architect Cassese (November 29, 2012). 10 J. Int'l Crim. Just. 1063 (2012), University of Washington School of Law Research Paper No. 2012-20, Available at SSRN:

Mary Fan (Contact Author)

University of Washington School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98195
United States


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