Research project

The spectacle of international criminal law before national courts

The use of international criminal norms by domestic jurisdiction and their impact on human rights law

While the International Criminal Court is turning twenty, scholars are proclaiming that the future of international criminal justice is domestic. Ranging from cases where states are directly pressured by the ICC to exercise their domestic jurisdiction to states adjudicating past atrocities to states exercising universal jurisdiction, national judges are increasingly resorting to the international criminal case law.

This research seeks to unveil why, when and how national judges resort to modern international criminal law and what is the impact of such process on domestic human rights law. The fear that international criminal law becomes a tool for the arbitrary exercise of power was indeed one of the reasons why international criminal courts and tribunals were preferred to domestic trials. The research will thus investigate whether the international criminal case law’s journey to the domestic context - the ‘vernacularization’ - subverts or adapts it and whether such process is consistent with the goals of the international criminal justice project.

To be sure, it is not surprising that a range of actors invoke and use international criminal case law as a spectacle for their own political agendas - the Eichmann trial, for instance, has been criticized for having used international criminal law for further purposes than merely rendering justice. Asking how national courts do so, for whose benefit and with what effects upon human rights law will furthermore help drawing theoretical conclusions on the legacy of the international criminal case law, from Nuremberg to the ICC passing by the UN ad hoc tribunals.

Project lead