Human Rights and Societies in Transition: Causes, Consequences, Responses

By Shale Horowitz; Albrecht Schnabel | Go to book overview

6
The consequences of the war crimes
tribunals and an international
criminal court for human rights in
transition societies

Paul J. Magnarella

The twentieth century witnessed two world wars and a number of brutal regional conflicts that resulted in massive killings. One response to some of these tragedies has been the imposition of war crimes tribunals on certainofthe warringparties,byeither the victors or the United Nations Security Council. More recently, the world community, through the United Nations, has embarked upon the venture of establishing a permanent international criminal court (ICC) with jurisdiction over humankind's most serious crimes.

This chapter deals with the background, legal structure, and consequences of war crimes tribunals and assesses the potential effects of an ICC on human rights in societies in transition. These tribunals and the ICC implement humanitarian law – that is, the customary human rights law that applies to situations of armed conflict as well as to crimes against humanity that may occur in the absence of armed conflict. Humanitarian law supplements and complements general human rights law. Some human rights conventions permit states to derogate from several of their human rights obligations during times of public emergency, such as war;1 humanitarian law, in contrast, becomes operative during wartime and allows for no derogation. Consequently, humanitarian law offers people human rights protection just when states may be derogating from some of their conventional human rights obligations.

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