Human Rights in Fancy Dress? The Use of International Criminal Law by Human Rights Council Commissions of Inquiry in Pursuit of Accountability
(2015) 58 Japanese Yearbook of International Law 71-100
Grotius Centre Working Paper 2015/043-ICL
24 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2015 Last revised: 22 Oct 2017
Date Written: July 6, 2015
The United Nations Human Rights Council has established several international commissions of inquiry to investigate situations of concern, make findings as to the existence of violations and offer recommendations for follow-up action. Many commissions have gone beyond the realm of human rights, also finding that international humanitarian law was violated and international crimes were committed. While scholars have extensively explored human rights bodies’ engagement with international humanitarian law, the migration of international criminal law (ICL) into human rights fact-finding has received less attention. In light of commissions’ bourgeoning engagement with ICL, the time is ripe to critically examine the evolution and possible consequences of ‘dejudicialised’ international criminal law. Possible jurisdictional bases for this normative migration are explored. After laying the jurisdictional foundations, the article examines how commissions have utilised ICL norms in practice. The article cautions against normative distortions that may arise from the translocation of ICL norms into non-judicial settings. Recognising that differentiated treatment of international legal norms might in principle be possible in different institutional contexts, the article explores how normative coherence in ICL could be promoted in the non-judicial setting of international commissions of inquiry.
Keywords: Fact-finding, human rights, international criminal law, commissions of inquiry, Human Rights Council
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