National Courts finally begin to prosecute genocide, the ‘crime of crimes’

Schabas, William A. ORCID logoORCID: (2003) National Courts finally begin to prosecute genocide, the ‘crime of crimes’. Journal of international criminal justice, 1 (1) . pp. 39-63. ISSN 1478-1387 [Article] (doi:10.1093/jicj/1.1.39)


The 1948 Genocide Convention contemplates prosecution by the national courts of the territory where the crime took place, and by an international criminal court. The drafters of the Convention meant to exclude universal jurisdiction, although courts have since tended to interpret Article VI of the Convention as being merely permissive, and in no way a prohibition of universal jurisdiction. Finally, within the past decade, the national courts of the territory where genocide was committed, other national courts and the international tribunals created by the Security Council have undertaken genocide prosecutions. Alongside the activities of the two ad hoc international tribunals, national courts in Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo have held trials based on the provisions of the Convention. The Rwandan trials now number in the thousands, but those in the other jurisdictions have been essentially symbolic. As for universal jurisdiction, the mere handful of genocide prosecutions (for instance in Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium) show that it can fill the gaps in the Convention. The problems appear to be political rather than judicial.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Law > Law and Politics
Item ID: 7725
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Depositing User: Devika Mohan
Date Deposited: 20 Apr 2011 07:14
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2019 12:20

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