Complexity and Efficiency at International Criminal Courts

Stuart Ford

The John Marshall Law School

December 20, 2013

Emory International Law Review, Vol. 29, p. 1, 2014

One of the most persistent criticisms of international criminal tribunals has been that they cost too much and take too long. In response, this Article presents a new approach that utilizes two concepts: complexity and efficiency. The first half of this Article proposes a method for measuring the complexity of criminal trials and then uses that method to measure the complexity of the trials conducted at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”). The results are striking. Even the least complex ICTY trial is more complex than the average criminal trial in the United States, and the most complex ICTY trials are among the most complex trials that have ever taken place. This highlights why it is misleading to compare the cost and length of the ICTY’s trials to other trials, both domestic and international, without first accounting for their complexity.

The second half of the Article explores the efficiency of international criminal trials. Efficiency is defined as the complexity of a trial divided by its cost, and the Article calculates the overall efficiency of the ICTY and then compares that to the efficiency of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) and a sample of criminal trials in the United States. The results show that the ICTY is more efficient than the SCSL and approximately as efficient as complex murder trials in the United States. The ICTY is less efficient than a typical domestic murder trial, but this appears to be because efficiency decreases as complexity increases, making such cases poor comparators. Although the data is sparse, the ICTY appears to be much more efficient than its closest domestic comparator — mass atrocity trials. Ultimately, the ICTY has been more efficient than cases of comparable gravity and complexity tried in domestic courts or at the SCSL.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 69

Keywords: international criminal law, international criminal justice, international criminal court, efficiency, complexity, ICTY, ICC, SCSL

JEL Classification: K33, K14, K41

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Date posted: December 22, 2013 ; Last revised: December 4, 2014

Suggested Citation

Ford, Stuart, Complexity and Efficiency at International Criminal Courts (December 20, 2013). Emory International Law Review, Vol. 29, p. 1, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2370540 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2370540

Contact Information

Stuart Ford (Contact Author)
The John Marshall Law School ( email )
315 South Plymouth Court
Chicago, IL 60604
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.jmls.edu/directory/profiles/ford-stuart/
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