International criminal justice : an unattainable goal or current reality?
University of British Columbia
Master of Laws - LLM
This thesis examines the area of conflict between the fundamental principles of sovereign equality of states and a people's right to self-determination on the one hand, and the need for efficient protection of human rights and the imperative to end impunity for perpetrators of international crimes on the other. In this context, the argument is focused on the question whether the current system of international criminal justice is suitable to administer justice, i.e. not only appropriate to improve the protection of human rights, but also to promote justice and peace in general. At the centre of this question lies the problem of selectivity, that is the question whether international criminal law is just another means for powerful states to suppress weaker countries by judging their nationals and even their state officials while at the same time the nationals of powerful nations are basically exempt from the jurisdiction both of foreign national criminal courts and the International Criminal Court (ICC). In order to find an answer to this question and to give a better understanding of international criminal justice, the highly controversial principle of universal jurisdiction and the still, vague and blurred principle of complementarity as established by the Rome Statute of the ICC are analysed. The thesis concludes that the suggestion that any limitation of the principle of state sovereignty is regarded as a success for human rights is false and dangerous since it has even been used to justify the use of force by one state against another and without the authorization of the UN Security Council. However, in view of the unprecedented atrocities committed throughout the 20th century by humans against humans, there is clearly an exigence to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice to prevent the repetition of at least some of such events in the future. Still, it is indispensable that national criminal courts and the ICC exercise their jurisdiction over foreign perpetrators of the ICC core crimes with caution in order to prevent that international criminal law is abused to further increase the inequality between states.
Law, Peter A. Allard School of