No Justice Without Peace?
International Criminal Law
and the Decision to Prosecute
Simon Chesterman

In a recent book on crimes against humanity, Geoffrey Robertson quotes a joke that did the rounds of foreign correspondents in Sarajevo during 1994: “When someone kills a man, he is put in prison. When someone kills 20 people, he is declared mentally insane. But when someone kills 20,000 people, he is invited to Geneva for peace negotiations. 1 The black humor captures a dilemma central to the project of international criminal law: to what extent should the larger goal of peace take precedence over the prosecution of individual justice?

Following the establishment of ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in 1993 and 1994, and the adoption in 1998 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), much has been written on the history and the future of international criminal law. 2 In this chapter I focus on the specific questions of whether individual criminal responsibility should be pursued as part of the resolution to a conflict and the extent to which the international community can and should be involved in any such proceedings.

I begin with the legacy of the Nuremberg trials. Whether or not these proceedings are regarded as tainted by “victor's justice, they provided an unrealistic template for the development of international criminal law. In particular, the trials took place following unconditional surrender to an occupying power—as a result, amnesty for the Nazis was never seriously contemplated. Of primary interest here is the decision to pursue legal rather than military means at all; this was in large part due to the view that the desire for retribution had to be tempered by the need to deter similar atrocities in future.

I then turn to the modern experience of international criminal tribunals, focusing on the two ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The work of these tribunals—each created by the United Nations Security


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Civilians in War
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 291

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?