Holding Domestic Judges Accountable under International Criminal Law – A Useful Step to Foster the International Rule of Law?
KFG Working Paper Series, No. 36, Berlin Potsdam Research Group “The International Rule of Law – Rise or Decline?”
31 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2019
Date Written: June 2019
This article explores, whether domestic judges might be held accountable under international criminal law (ICL). To date, international criminal justice has almost entirely focused on prosecuting political or military leaders. The Justice Case tried before the Nuremberg Military Tribunal in 1946 marks the most prominent exception. Prior to it, the judiciary – otherwise considered the epitome of justice – had mutated into a murderous machinery under Nazi rule. Judicial decisions do have far-reaching implications possibly constituting or contributing to international crimes. This holds true in a wide range of cases, for instance on practices of warfare and torture, on the use of certain weapon technologies, or on policies relating to minorities or racial segregation. I argue that domestic judges are accountable when engaging in international crimes. The article delves into technical aspects of criminal law; as well as the notions of judicial independence and immunity. While guaranteeing the rule of law, these two notions challenge the core idea of ICL: its equal application vis-à-vis all perpetrators of international crimes irrespective of official capacity. In order to differentiate due judicial conduct and its abuse in violation of ICL, I suggest a threshold a judicial act needs to exceed for entailing accountability for an international crime.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation