War Crimes Tribunals

Gary J. Bass

in The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199208425
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

 War Crimes Tribunals

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This article reviews the state of the field in three crucial issues about war crimes tribunals: victors' justice, outlawing war, and the trade-off between peace and justice. In all three, the tension between the partiality of politics and the impartiality of law is stark and enduring. Although international tribunals are often billed as simply the extension of the domestic rule of law, there is no set legitimate authority in place in international relations. Even the permanent International Criminal Court is brand new, and its permanence is hardly guaranteed. The question of who judges is particularly salient because of the weak consensus on underlying values in the international system. The ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda did not formally include aggression in their charters. The world is in the bizarre position of pursuing an international legal order that enshrines the key tenets of jus in bello, while largely ignoring jus ad bellum.

Keywords: Yugoslavia; Rwanda; war crimes tribunals; justice; war; peace; politics; law; international relations

Article.  7623 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; International Relations ; Comparative Politics ; Politics and Law

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