Implementing International Humanitarian Law: From the Ad Hoc Tribunals to a Permanent International Criminal Court

By Yusuf Aksar | Go to book overview

3

Individual Criminal Responsibility in International Law

Introduction

Despite the fact that international humanitarian law and international human rights law are interrelated in protecting the rights of individuals, there are significant differences between the two branches of international law with regard to being a subject of international law. International humanitarian law originated in customary law and sought to implement individual criminal responsibility through either domestic courts or international institutions (tribunals or courts, ad hoc or permanent). Human rights law is a recent category of international law and regulates the relations between States and individuals who are seeking protection of their rights, primarily against States. 1 As will be explained below, although the purpose of international humanitarian law is to enforce individual criminal responsibility, this concept could not be truly implemented by the international community until recent times, and States remain internationally responsible since they are the principal subject of international law. However, during the twentieth century the international community has witnessed two World Wars and a number of international or non-international armed conflicts around the world.These events resulted in the notion that individual criminal responsibility should be enforceable by international and national courts or tribunals in order to deter future crimes and to prevent future conflicts. The establishment of the ICTY and the ICTR by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter as a measure to protect international peace and security, and the practice of these ad hoc tribunals are the latest examples proving that individual criminal responsibility is enforceable at the international level for crimes which are of concern to the international community. Moreover, the adoption of the Statute of the ICC by a large number of States indicated that the principle of individual criminal responsibility and its implementation is one of the most important desires of the international community in achieving a universal justice for

1. For the differences and similarities between international human rights and international humanitarian law, see Vinuesa, R.E., 'Interface, Correspondence and Convergence of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law' (1998), 1 YIHL, p. 69.

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