Principle 19. Duties of States with Regard to the Administration of Justice
in: Haldemann/Unger, The United Nations Principles to Combat Impunity, 2018, 205-216
Posted: 14 May 2018
Date Written: 2018
States shall undertake prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of criminal justice, by ensuring that those responsible for serious crimes under international law are prosecuted, tried and duly punished. Although the decision to prosecute lies primarily within the competence of the State, victims, their families and heirs should be able to institute proceedings, on either an individual or a collective basis, particularly as parties civiles or as persons conducting private prosecutions in States whose law of criminal procedure recognizes these procedures. States should guarantee broad legal standing in the judicial process to any wronged parry and to any person or non~ governmental organization having a legitimate interest therein.
Principle 19 focuses on states' (criminal) justice obligations regarding serious human rights violations. The duty to carry out criminal proceedings in these cases, as expressed, albeit not unambiguously, in paragraph 1 follows from this very duty of states under international law, that is, from treaty obligations, customa1y international law, or as a general principle of international law. This duty has long been recognized by regional human rights courts and international human rights bodies. Paragraph 2 reflects the growing tendency in national and international criminal procedure to strengthen the position of victims of international crimes. This tendency is also reflected in domestic criminal procedure, especially of civil law jurisdictions, where victims for decades have the status of parties civiles with extensive participatory rights. At the international level, this tendency has been taken up by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which, contrary to the more common law-inspired UN ad hoc tribunals, grants victims broad participation rights. Principle 19 goes beyond that in extending these rights 'to any person or non-governmental organization having a legitimate interest'. In sum, it can be safely concluded that the fight against impunity through criminal proceedings and the victims' role therein has steadily advanced and found its most comprehensive reflection in the regime of the ICC.
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