Virtuous Accomplices in International Criminal Law

19 Pages Posted: 29 May 2019 Last revised: 5 Mar 2024

See all articles by Miles Jackson

Miles Jackson

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Date Written: May 24, 2019


Humanitarian actors sometimes have to decide whether to render assistance in situations that put them at risk of liability for aiding and abetting under international criminal law. This is the problem of the virtuous accomplice – the idea that knowingly contributing to the wrongdoing of others might, exceptionally, be the right thing to do. This article explains why the problem arises and clarifies its scope, before turning to criminal law in England and Wales and Germany to assess potential solutions. It argues that the best approach is to accept a defence of necessity – of justified complicity – and shows that such an argument works in international criminal law.

Keywords: complicity, international criminal law, humanitarian assistance, necessity, aiding and abetting

Suggested Citation

Jackson, Miles, Virtuous Accomplices in International Criminal Law (May 24, 2019). Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 26/2019, Available at SSRN: or

Miles Jackson (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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