Hybrid and Internationalised Criminal Tribunals: Selected Jurisdictional Issues

By Mehigan, James | Australian International Law Journal, Annual 2012 | Go to article overview

Hybrid and Internationalised Criminal Tribunals: Selected Jurisdictional Issues


Mehigan, James, Australian International Law Journal


Sarah Williams, Hybrid and Internationalised Criminal Tribunals: Selected Jurisdictional Issues (Hart, 2012), ISBN 978-1-84113-672-1, 470 pages.

This work looks at seven so-called 'hybrid' or 'internationalised' tribunals established in recent times in order to combat impunity in cases where the most serious international crimes are alleged to have taken place. I say 'so-called' because the search for a precise definition of hybrid and internationalised tribunals occupies a significant part of the book (1) and requires intricate and delicate analysis. The author considers in detail the Special Court for Sierra Leone ('SCSL'), the Special Tribunal for Lebanon ('STL'), the International Judges and Prosecutors Programme in Kosovo, the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in East Timor, the War Crimes Chamber in the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Iraqi High Tribunal and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. These are the tribunals considered to fall within the category of hybrid and internationalised tribunals. The exclusion of a number of notable tribunals including, inter alia, the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals, the Serbian War Crimes Chamber and the Lockerbie Court is a carefully considered choice. These latter tribunals are not considered to be 'mixed tribunals', notwithstanding the fact that they have both international and national elements. They are, however, discussed in order to use their differences from the hybrid and internationalised tribunals as a way of shedding light on the significant characteristics of the tribunals which are the focus of the study.

Prior to discussing the selected tribunals, the author spends significant time discussing the emergence of the international criminal justice system, from the prosecution of international crimes in domestic courts through the post-war period and the ad hoc tribunals to the International Criminal Court CICC). (2) While this is a testament to the author's thoroughness, it is somewhat unnecessary. It is hard to believe that a reader searching for the level of detail provided on hybrid and internationalised tribunals in this work would not be aware of this historical background.

Having set out this background, the work describes the existing practice of each of the tribunals. (3) This includes a helpfully concise introduction to the context of the conflict and the politics which led to the establishment of each tribunal and a discussion of their key features and jurisdiction. The varying contexts of their establishment, particularly the legal and political aspects of the process, have led to divergent features and jurisdiction for each of the tribunals. This range supports the argument that there is no standard definition or model for a hybrid or internationalised tribunal. Indeed, the author goes so far as to state that 'there are probably more differences than similarities' between the tribunals studied. (4) So, while each of the tribunals is different in character to one another, they are comfortably categorised as 'hybrid' or 'internationalised' when in fact there is no generally accepted definition of what such a tribunal is. Most studies, the author concludes, 'tend to refer to this category of tribunals without providing a definition, or alternatively suggest a definition based on the similarities between existing models that have been established'. (5)

To try to establish what such a definition might look like, the author considers not only the seven tribunals set out above, but also the characteristics of a number of tribunals which are not considered to be hybrid or internationalised. The work also considers a range of situations where the international community's involvement in a criminal tribunal is being mooted. These jurisdictions, including Sudan, Kenya and Liberia, have proposed hybrid and internationalised tribunals as a mechanism for dealing with the aftermath of their conflicts. (6) Even after the establishment of the ICC, there remains an appetite for hybrid and internationalised tribunals to supplement its work in situations where a full referral to the Court is either impossible or undesirable. …

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