4. The Advent of an International Criminal Court

This is a translation of a lecture I gave at the Collège de France on 18 June 2019 as part of a series entitled The History and Future of International Criminal Justice. A video of the French-language original of this lecture is available online here.


A. Introduction

Members of the College de France, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. We arrive at the fourth and final lecture in this series on the history of international criminal justice. Today we will focus on the ICC, which was established in The Hague in 2002.  

This court should not be confused with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, nor with the International Court of Justice, both of which are also located in The Hague.  As we will see, the International Criminal Court is quite different to both. Indeed, it is an institution that people have been trying to establish for more than 150 years. 

Today, I will again use the six themes I have employed throughout this series of lectures to frame this discussion. For those of you have not attended the previous presentations, they are: a narrative of the ICC, a discussion of its purposes, an exploration of its political significance, alternatives to prosecution, the law, and consequences of the court’s work.  I hope to show that even though the ICC was established to transcend many aspects of the previous iterations of international criminal law, it still mimics them in many respects. 

In my first presentation, I began with a series of theses about international criminal law. I will not repeat them now, but at the end of my presentation about the ICC, I will return to these theses as a way of summarizing the entire series of lectures.  As I mentioned at the beginning of the first lecture, I hope you will emerge with a sense of the potential and limitations of international criminal justice.

B. Narrative Overview of the International Criminal Court

Allow me to begin with a narrative.  There have been major attempts to establish a permanent International Criminal Court for at least 150 years.  In 1870, Gustav Moynier, the founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross, authored a treatise arguing for the creation of an International Criminal Court.  How else could we enforce the laws of war? How could we get past the problem of partiality in enforcing them?[1]  

In 1919, the Commission of Responsibility established by the Entente Powers recommended the establishment of an International Criminal Court.[2]  In 1920, an advisory committee created by the League of Nations to draft a statute for the Permanent Court of Justice proposed giving the Court jurisdiction over “crimes against the universal Law of Nations.”[3]  The Genocide Convention in 1951 references an “international penal tribunal” in the hope that one be established.  

Then in 1998, in the fertile political space between the fall of the Berlin Wall and September 11, 2001, States agreed to establish a permanent International Court.  The historic milestone was met with enormous euphoria, although others warned that there could be no escape from politics. 

One of my theses is that each new iteration of international criminal justice has attempted to improve on the shortcomings of its predecessor.  With the ICC, formally, there was much to celebrate in this respect.  All the other international courts and tribunals we have discussed were established post hoc, whereas the ICC was created ex ante in anticipation of atrocities.  Moreover, because the ICC was established by treaty, it promised to end the history of imposing criminal institutions on states that did not agree to them.  Although the statute did envision the UN Security Council referring cases to the ICC, for the most part, the court relied on states to willingly consent to the institution’s jurisdiction.  

In this sense, the ICC promised to move us past victor’s justice.  As a result of this new structure, the ICC also promised to transcend the problem of retroactive law, which had troubled the field from the very beginning.  Standards would be defined and agreed to in advance.  And finally, the ICC would have global reach, instead of being limited to a very particular geography or time period like all its predecessors. 

Depending on how one counts, the court has arguably attracted widespread adherence.  As of today, 123 of 195 states are members of the ICC, meaning that the court has jurisdiction over international crimes committed on their territory or by their nationals overseas.  

Clearly 123 out of 195 states is a major majority, but the absences are also very important.  Russia, China, The United States, India, Pakistan, and Indonesia are not members of the ICC.  In short, more than half the world’s population and most superpowers are not party to the ICC system. 

It is fair to say that in the first 17 years of the Court’s existence have been difficult.  In all, it has indicted 37 people people and only had 3 convictions.  Admittedly, four of the 27 people died before being arrested and another 11 more have not been transferred to the court, but a series of high profile acquittals have badly hurt the institution’s reputation.  

In large part, the experience indicates that the institution could not transcend the tension between politics and morality that has always characterized this field.  In the time that remains, I hope to provide you with several illustrations within the six themes I have used throughout these lectures, showing how the ICC replicated previous historical experiences. 

Before I move to the next theme, I want to highlight one structural feature of the ICC that is crucial to your understanding.  It is also a feature that replicates a feature of the ways trials were designed after the first world war, which produced similar problems then.  The ICC is designed to be a backup to national trials, giving national courts the first opportunity to hear cases.  Using the term complementarity, the ICC is only able to hear cases if it establishes that national courts are “unwilling or unable” to bring the cases themselves.  This structure replicates Leipzig.  

After the first World War, the Treaty of Versailles contained provisions that required the Germans to extradite its nationals to the Entente powers to be tried there, but when the Germans refused for reasons of honour, the Entente Powers reluctantly agreed to allow Germany to try its own nationals.  In our earlier lecture, I called this vanquished’s justice.  

According to Gerd Hankel, the Entente only agreed to this vanquished’s justice on the basis that they could reassert jurisdiction if the German trials proved to be “exclusively aimed at protecting the guilty from punishment for their offenses.”[4]  Of course, the Leipzig trials proved to be a farce because of the conflict of interest in the prosecuting state. Moreover, it was impossible for Entente powers to reassert jurisdiction.  

As I hope will become clear, in many respects, the ICC’s structure and experience mirrors this history.
 

C. The Purposes of the International Criminal Court

I move then to my second theme, the purposes of the ICC. 

As we have seen, international criminal justice has multiple possible purposes, and these are not fully articulated or prioritized.  In my previous presentations I have discussed retribution on the basis of moral indignation, deterrence, incapacitation, regime change, reconciliation and others. All of these purposes are also applicable to the role of the ICC, but I want to emphasize two others that are especially prominent at the ICC.  Both are contained in the preamble to the ICC Statute. 

First, the preamble states, and I cite, 

“Mindful that during this century millions of children, women and men have been victims of unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity.”  

This idea of atrocities as shocking the conscience of humanity is not new; in fact it has been used from the earliest discussions after the First World War and at every stage since.  I used the facts from the Doctor’s case at Nuremberg to try to produce this sense of moral shock for you, and I will give another example from Colombia later in this lecture. I share these stories because I want to provide you with a small dose of the feeling that has propelled this field morally. 

However, many criticize the weight placed on this sentiment politically.  Many political scientists are deeply skeptical of the idea of atrocities “shocking the conscience of mankind.”[5]  They argue that this grandiose language is an attempt to override politics, that it assumes more moral uniformity in the world than there is, and that it crowds out other equally compelling agendas, like global poverty. 

While this is all likely true, having seen these realities up close, I affirm that the shock is very significant and that to feel moral outrage as a response to it is a very natural, psychically healthy and perhaps universal human reaction. That outrage stems from a sense that the perpetrators made these choices.  

In addition, as matter of history, I believe that this shock to our conscience is a driving force behind much of what we have discussed even if it has been selectively deployed for political reasons.  Thus, in just this purpose, we see the tension between morality and politics that forms a theme in these presentations. 

Similarly, the preamble to the ICC Statute also states, and I cite again,  

“Determined to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes.”  

I argue that this notion of impunity is also a moral idea; it is about not letting them get away with it.  To do so would be morally absurd.  In fact, all the moral absurdities we have seen over the course of these lectures inform this notion of impunity.  

Again, there is an excellent critical literature arguing that this notion of impunity is far too blunt and that it allows us to look past all of the shortcomings of international criminal justice,[6] which we have discussed over the course of this series.  Like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who I discussed in the last lecture, I believe both these things are true.
 

D. Political Implications of the International Criminal Court

We come to the third theme I will use to explore the ICC, political implications.  There is so much we could talk about here, but I will limit myself to highlighting three parallels between the ICC and earlier manifestations of international criminal law. 

First, the ICC is also susceptible to double standards by great powers.  In the negotiating of the ICC Statute, states made many compromises to accommodate American interests, only to find that the US would not become a member to the Statute.  

In deference to the authority of the UN Security Council, the ICC Statute would formally envision the ability of the Security Council to refer situations to the Court.  These referrals would give the court jurisdiction over the country referred, regardless of whether the State concerned had signed and ratified the ICC treaty.  When the United Nations Security Council referred Sudan and then Libya, the American government made their agreement conditional on inserting language that exempted nationals from third-world states that are not parties, so that American troops could not be prosecuted at the ICC while others could. 

Most recently, the US government has openly threatened the ICC prosecutor with sanctions if she proceeds with an investigation of allegations of systematic torture by US troops in Afghanistan.  Because Afghanistan is a member of the ICC, the Court enjoys jurisdiction over all international crimes committed by all nationals on that territory.  Unfortunately, all of this mimics Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals, where Allies constructed international trials for others while insulating themselves from their own responsibilities.

Second, the ICC  faces the same co-operation dilemmas we discussed with respect to the Rwanda Tribunal, the ICTR. In my earlier lecture, I cited authors like Thierry Cuvellieur and Victor Peskin,[7] who argued that the Rwandan government was able to control the prosecutorial agenda of the ICTR by threatening to withdraw co-operation, either by preventing Rwanda witness from traveling to the Tribunal in neighbouring Tanzania or by refusing to ensure security of investigators.  

A number of more recent authors argue that similar problems exist with the ICC’s work elsewhere in Africa.[8]  The ICC needs the co-operation of governments to gain access to evidence, for security while undertaking investigations and to make arrests.  This is problematic when leaders of the states the ICC is cooperating with have very poor democratic credentials and considerable blood on their own hands. Again, the concern is that politics has overrun issues of equality, and that our moral concern has been instrumentalized for particular political interests. And again, there is a concern that we have not escaped victor’s justice in practice. 

Third, the ICC has become embroiled in heated disputes between previously warring states. For example, the ICC is presently investigating the Georgia Russia war that took place in 2008.  It is widely accepted that both sides committed international crimes during that conflict, but there appear to be important impediments to prosecutions.  A recent report states that “on the Georgian side there were concerns that Russian authorities were sending witness statements that were falsified or otherwise less than credible”.[9]  On the other side, the ICC has also noted “Russia’s claim that it could not proceed with its national investigation because Georgia refused to provide legal assistance.”[10] 

This narrative reminds us of the trials after the First World War, where convictions par coutumace in France and Belgium were met with acquittals in Leipzig in a climate of open hatred.  In either case, it is far from clear how international criminal justice might operate when, politically speaking, opposing sides want to use trials as a continuation of war.

E. Alternatives to Prosecutions

We come to the fourth theme I explore in these lectures, the alternatives to prosecution.  

In our previous discussions, we addressed many alternatives, including exile after the First World War, summary executions are the Second World War and Truth and Reconciliation Commissions after the Cold War. All of these, and many others we considered, are also feasible for the ICC.  This shows again how complex the choices about addressing atrocity are.  

Although it is not entirely new, I want to discuss an alternative that has become especially important for the ICC, that is amnesties in order to end a war and bring about peace instead of criminal prosecutions. 

Although the Yugoslav Tribunal also existed during ongoing armed violence, the vast majority of the courts we have considered in this series of lectures have involved institutions that were established after violence had come to an end.  In some instances, the lapse of time between the end of the violence in question and the establishment of the tribunal is very considerable.  The Cambodia Tribunal, for example, was established in 2001 to address the Khmer Rouge’s atrocities more than two decades earlier between 1975 and 1979.  

In the case of the ICC, though, it exists as atrocities take place. This reality raises the question of whether it should play a role attempting to end wars. Suddenly, conflict resolution is also a goal for international criminal justice. In this regard, there is a significant debate about whether amnesties for atrocities should be offered to incentivize warring factions to put down their weapons. If they will face prosecution when they stop fighting, they will not. 

By insisting on criminal accountability, international criminal law might prolong violence by preventing warring groups from reaching a peace deal. Conversely, by offering amnesties, you incentivize armed violence in general and atrocities in particular. 

I will use the Colombian situation as an example. As many will know, Colombia reached an historic peace deal with the FARC in 2016 after 50 years of war.  What to do about the international crimes over that period was a difficult issue for the parties to the conflict, and for the ICC that had jurisdiction over the crimes.  

I will share with you the details of one set of alleged international crimes in Colombia to make these dilemmas real, and to let you again feel the moral shock that has animated a large part of this field for the past century. Allegedly, between 2002 and 2008, the Colombia army routinely executed civilians. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, and I cite,  

“Under pressure from superiors to show positive results and boost body counts in their war against guerrillas, soldiers and officers abducted victims or lured them to remote locations under false pretenses—such as with promises of work—killed them, placed weapons on their dead bodies, and then reported them as enemy combatants killed in action.”[11] 

Apparently, there are at least 3000 such cases under investigation.  For me, it is often the combination of human creativity and brutal violence that is most shocking, perhaps because it reals human agency most clearly. 

In the shadow of these atrocities in Colombia, commentators like René Urueña have argued that the ICC has played an influential role in the Colombian Peace Process.[12]  Some view the ICC’s flexible agreement to allow substantially reduced sentences for truth telling in Colombian courts as facilitating the historic peace deal, whereas others are more critical about the ICC’s insistence that there must be trials.[13]  

In either instance, it is clear that the ICC has yet another major conceptual issue to address in considering international prosecutions.  It is also clear that these decisions can have major ramifications for people suffering the scourge of war. These problems too are great moral responsibilities. 


F. The Law

This brings us to our fifth theme, the law.  I will offer positive and critical perspectives on the law enshrined within the ICC Statute. 

On the positive side, the ICC Statute largely moves us beyond the struggles with retroactive law.  With exceptions I can discuss in response to questions at the end if people are interested, the ICC has a formal and detailed articulation of the relevant international crimes, forms of responsibility, and key procedure, which can be applied prospectively.  In terms of content, the ICC Statute also represents a more advanced set of norms that better reflect the realties of war. 

For example, authors like Tuba Inal have shown how previous understandings of international criminal law payed very little attention to the experience of women in war.[14]  Inal shows how this results from the very limited participation of women within the negotiation of international treaties governing international humanitarian law.  As late as 1977, rape was still not formally recognized as a war crime in the field.  The Statute of the ICC corrects this, containing a new and varied set of criminal offenses that better reflect women’s experience of warfare and atrocity.  

Others see the glass as half empty. The international law scholar Gerry Simpson, for example, argues that international criminal law makes arbitrary distinctions between violence by hand and violence by political economy.[15]  This criticism is partly concerned that international criminal law is doing very little about global poverty, which kills vastly more people each day than perpetrators of international crimes. Indeed, some of these facts about global poverty are staggering:  

  • 2.3 billion people still do not have basic sanitation facilities such as toilets,  
  • there are 750 million illiterate adults, two-thirds of whom are women; 
  • one out of eight women die giving birth in Sierra Leone; 
  • and diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water and sanitation kills an estimated 842,000 people every year globally.  

As Gandhi is famous for saying, “poverty is the worst form of violence.” Some argue that international criminal law helps us forget this.
 

G. Consequences of ICC Trials

This brings us to our sixth and final theme, the consequences.  There are many we could discuss here but I will mention only two sets, both positive and critical. 

On the positive side, there are a number of important researchers who use empirical methods to assess the impact of international criminal justice.  Beth Simmons and Hyeran Jo have published an important paper arguing that empirical evidence indicates that the ICC is having a demonstrable effect on the deterrence of atrocities.[16] Using empirical methods also, Kathryn Sikkink argues that international criminal justice has a beneficial effect on human rights performance, not just within the states where the prosecution is brought, but also in the surrounding regions.[17]  

These findings are the subject of much debate, but they reinforce the importance of the ICC.  They implicitly suggest that despite its shortcomings, the ICC’s moral contribution outweighs its deficiencies. 

Others view the ICC as an illegitimate neo-colonial institution that does more harm than good.  Scholars like Mahmood Mamdani, Kamari Clarke and many others are deeply skeptical about the future of the ICC, arguing that its unique focus on Africans presently reveals its continuity with the civilizing mission of colonialism.[18] With the African Union and various African Presidents expressing similar views, a number of states have withdrawn from the court based on these observations.  Moreover, scholars like Sarah Nouwen and Phil Clarke argue that the Court is exacerbating human rights problems in recipient states.[19]

To my mind, again, both these positive and critical perceptions are potentially correct; much depends on context. 

FINAL SUMMARY

To conclude this series of lectures, I want to return to the theses I began with for the first of my presentations. I will summarise where we have come in the context of each thesis, and offer some tentative suggestions for how the field may continue into the future. 

My first thesis was that, for over a century now, the end of each major global war has resulted in the championing of international criminal justice to pursue a wide range of objectives that are not coherently defined or prioritized.  While Sikkink refers to the rise of international criminal justice in recent years as a “justice cascade”,[20] in truth, all the periods we discussed involved deluges of prosecutions.  

There were over 1,600 trials par coutumace in France and Belgium after the First World War, we saw how between 2 and 3 percent of the population of Europe was charged for treason, collaboration or war crimes after WWII, and the globalization of international criminal justice after the Cold war has been equally spectacular.  In each of these scenarios, trials have pursued a range of objectives, including retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, regime change, reconciliation, peace and more.  We have not chosen between these goals or prioritized them. 

Second, I argued that International criminal justice is constituted by a tension between the very intense moral sentiments about responsibility for atrocity and the politics that tend to instrumentalize those sentiments on the other.  

I have tried to help you experience these moral sentiments by telling you stories about German orders to massacre all French prisoners during the First World War, brutal medical experiments undertaken by Nazi doctors on prisoners within concentration camp during the Second World War, and allegations of false positive executions in Colombia in in the past decade.  

I’ve also shown how moral absurdity has acted as a powerful argument for criminal responsibility at all stages of this history.  At the same time, I have tried to show how every manifestation of these trials has involved unequal enforcement.   

Third, I have described how the history of international criminal justice is often a reactionary attempt to reconstitute the balance between these poles, morality and power, in light of the shortcomings of an earlier period.  We saw how Nuremberg and Toyko were direct and opposite reactions to the perceived failures of the vanquished’s justice at Leipzig.  In addition, the victor’s justice dispensed after the Second War War had to be overcome by ad hoc tribunals created by the United Nations, a putatively neutral party. In turn, the very limited geographical and temporal focus of ad hoc tribunals was overcome by a permanent International Criminal Court that was not limited in the same ways.  

Fourth, I argued that neither moral sentiment nor power will ever claim final victory over the other in our thinking about accountability for atrocities.  

Consequently, the history of international trials reveal something significant about the potential and limitations of international criminal justice in the current global legal order.  On the one hand, it is very human to feel great moral outrage about atrocities, and there will always be those who seek to address these sentiments in a legalistic fashion.  They will be joined by those who see ethical and consequential value in these prosecutions.  

On the other hand, those who view the frequent political instrumentalization of these trials as undermining the project will also find much to justify their opinion. 

But assuming international criminal justice persists as a very human reaction to atrocity, those committed to the field will have to development a fresh strategy for maximizing the moral value of these trials while minimizing their political instrumentalization.   No doubt, this task will require very considerable imagination, a significant degree of political courage, great sensitivity to the very many variables we have discussed, and an awareness of how trials might have unintended consequences.  I am convinced that an honest inquiry into the history of international criminal justice can be helpful to this process. Indeed, it will be crucial to my generation’s spirited efforts in pursuit of the ideal, never again. 


[1] Gustave Moynier, Essai sur les caractères généraux des lois de la guerre (1895).

[2] M. Adatci, Commission on the Responsibility of the Authors of the War and on Enforcement of Penalties, 14 Am. J. Int. Law 95 (1920).

[3] See Mark Lewis, The Birth of the New Justice: The Internationalization of Crime and Punishment, 1919-1950 82–83 (1 edition ed. 2014).

[4] Gerd Hankel, The Leipzig Trials: German War Crimes and Their Legal Consequences after World War I 31 (2014).

[5] Brad R. Roth, Coming to Terms with Ruthlessness: Sovereign Equality, Global Pluralism, and the Limits of International Criminal Justice, 8 St. Clara J. Int. Law 231, 284 (2010).

[6] Karen Engle, Zinaida Miller & D. M. Davis, Anti-Impunity and the Human Rights Agenda See, for example, (2016).

[7] Thierry Cruvellier, Court of Remorse: Inside the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (2010); Victor Peskin, International Justice in Rwanda and the Balkans: Virtual Trials and the Struggle for State Cooperation (2008).

[8] See in particular, Phil Clark, Distant Justice: The Impact of the International Criminal Court on African Politics (2018).

[9] Human RIghts Watch, Pressure Point: The ICC’s Impact on National Justice 67 (2018), https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/05/03/pressure-point-iccs-impact-national-justice/lessons-colombia-georgia-guinea-and (last visited Nov 30, 2019).

[10] Id. at 67.

[11] Nick Miroff, Colombian army killed civilians to fake battlefield success, rights group says, Washington Post, June 24, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/colombian-army-killed-civilians-to-fake-battlefield-success-rights-group-says/2015/06/23/5e83700e-191d-11e5-bed8-1093ee58dad0_story.html (last visited Dec 1, 2019).

[12] René Urueña, Prosecutorial Politics: The ICC’s Influence in Colombian Peace Processes, 2003–2017, 111 Am. J. Int. Law 104–125 (2017).

[13] Id.

[14] Tuba Inal, Looting and Rape in Wartime (Reprint edition ed. 2016).

[15] Gerry Simpson, Human Rights with a Vengeance: One Hundred Years of Retributive Humanitarianism Kirby Lecture in International Law 2015, 33 Aust. Yearb. Int. Law 1–14 (2015).

[16] Hyeran Jo & Beth A. Simmons, Can the International Criminal Court Deter Atrocity?, 70 Int. Organ. 443–475 (2016).

[17] Kathryn Sikkink, The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics (1 ed. 2011).

[18] Kamari Maxine Clarke, Fictions of Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Challenge of Legal Pluralism in Sub-Saharan Africa (1 edition ed. 2009); Mahmood Mamdani, The International Criminal Court’s Case Against the President of Sudan: A Critical Look, 62 J. Int. Aff. 85–92 (2009).

[19] Clark, supra note 8; Sarah M. H. Nouwen, Complementarity in the Line of Fire: The Catalysing Effect of the International Criminal Court in Uganda and Sudan (2013).

[20] Sikkink, supra note 17.

4. Place à la Cour Pénale Internationale

J’ai prononcé cette conférence au Collège de France le 18 juin 2019 dans le cadre d’une série intitulée « L’histoire et avenir de la justice pénale internationale. » Une vidéo de cette conférence est disponible en ligne ici


A. Introduction

Membres du Collège de France, invités distingués, mesdames et messieurs. Nous arrivons à la quatrième et dernière conférence de cette série sur l’histoire de la justice pénale internationale. Nous nous intéressons aujourd’hui à la Cour pénale internationale (la CPI), qui a été créée à La Haye en 2002. 

Cette cour ne doit pas être confondue avec le Tribunal pénal international pour l’ex-Yougoslavie, ni avec la Cour internationale de justice, qui se trouvent toutes deux à La Haye. Comme nous le verrons, la CPI est très différente des deux autres. En effet, il s’agit d’une institution pénale que l’on cherche à mettre en place depuis plus de 150 ans. 

Aujourd’hui, j’utiliserai à nouveau les six thèmes que j’ai employés tout au long de cette série de conférences pour encadrer cette discussion. Pour ceux d’entre vous qui n’ont pas assisté aux conférences précédentes, il s’agit : d’un aperçu narratif de la Cour pénale internationale, d’une discussion sur ses objectifs, d’une exploration de sa signification politique, de solutions de substitution aux poursuites, du droit et des conséquences du travail de la cour. J’espère montrer que, même si la CPI a été créé pour transcender de nombreux aspects des précédentes versions du droit pénal international, il en imite encore beaucoup. 

Lors de ma première conférence dans cette série, j’ai commencé par une série de thèses sur le droit pénal international. Je ne les les répéterai pas maintenant, mais à la fin de ma présentation sur la CPI, je reviendrai sur ces thèses afin de résumer l’ensemble de la série de conférences. Comme je l’ai mentionné au début de la première conférence, j’espère que vous sortirez avec une idée du potentiel et des limites de la justice pénale internationale.
 

B. Narrative

Permettez-moi de commencer par un apercu narratif. Des efforts importants ont été déployés depuis au moins 150 ans pour mettre en place une cour pénale internationale permanente. En 1870, Gustac Moynier, fondateur du Comité international de la Croix-Rouge, est l’auteur d’un traité plaidant pour la création d’une Cour pénale internationale. Comment pourrions-nous sinon appliquer les lois de la guerre ? Comment pourrions-nous surmonter le problème de la partialité dans leur application ?[1] 

En 1919, la Commission de responsabilité établie par les puissances de l’entente a recommandé la création d’une Cour pénale internationale.[2] En 1920, un comité consultatif créé par la Société des Nations pour élaborer un statut pour la Cour permanente de justice a proposé de donner compétence à la Cour pour “les infractions au droit universel des nations”. La convention sur le génocide de 1951 fait référence à un « tribunal pénal international »[3] dans l’espoir qu’il en soit créé un. 

Puis, en 1998, dans l’espace politique fertile entre la chute du mur de Berlin et le 11 septembre 2001, les États ont convenu de créer une Cour internationale permanente. Cette étape historique a suscité une énorme euphorie, même si d’autres ont averti qu’il ne pouvait y avoir d’échappatoire à la politique. 

L’une de mes thèses est que chaque nouvelle édition de la justice pénale internationale a tenté d’améliorer les lacunes de son précédent. Avec la CPI, formellement, il y avait beaucoup à célébrer à cet égard. Toutes les autres cours et tribunaux internationaux dont nous avons discuté ont été créés post hoc, alors que la CPI a été créée ex ante en prévision des atrocités. De plus, la CPI ayant été établie par traité, elle a promis de mettre fin à la tradition d’imposer des institutions pénales aux États qui ne les acceptaient pas. Bien que le statut prévit effectivement que le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies renvoie les affaires à la CPI, la Cour s’est principalement appuyée sur les États pour qu’ils consentent de leur plein gré à la compétence de l’institution. 

En ce sens, la CPI a promis de nous sortir de la justice des vainqueurs. À la suite de cette nouvelle structure, la CPI a également promis de dépasser le problème du droit rétroactif, qui préoccupait le domaine depuis le début. Les normes seraient définies et convenues à l’avance. Enfin, la CPI aurait une portée mondiale, au lieu d’être limitée à une géographie ou une période très particulière, comme tous ses prédécesseurs. En fonction de la manière dont on compte, le tribunal a suscité une adhésion généralisée. 

À ce jour, 123 États membres sur 195 sont membres de la CPI, ce qui signifie que le tribunal est compétent en matière de crimes internationaux commis sur leur territoire ou par leurs ressortissants à l’étranger. Il est clair que 123 États sur 195 constituent une majorité majeure, mais les absences sont également très importantes. La Russie, la Chine, les États-Unis, l’Inde, le Pakistan et l’Indonésie ne sont pas membres de la CPI. En bref, plus de la moitié de la population mondiale et la plupart des superpuissances ne sont pas parties au système de la CPI.

En plus, il est juste de dire que les 17 premières années de l’existence de la Cour ont été difficiles. En tout, 37 personnes ont été inculpées et seule 3 condamnations ont été prononcées. Certes, quatre des 27 personnes sont décédées avant leur arrestation et 11 autres n’ont pas été transférées à la cour, mais une série d’acquittements très médiatisés ont gravement porté atteinte à la réputation de l’institution. 

En grande partie, l’expérience montre que l’institution ne pouvait pas transcender la tension entre politique et morale qui a toujours caractérisé ce domaine. Avec le temps qu’il nous reste, j’espère pouvoir vous fournir plusieurs illustrations au sein des six thèmes que j’ai utilisés tout au long de ces conférences, montrant comment la CPI a reproduit des expériences antérieures sur le terrain. 

Avant de passer au thème suivant, je souhaite mettre en évidence une caractéristique structurelle de la CPI qui est cruciale pour votre compréhension. C’est également une caractéristique des procès postérieurs à la Première Guerre mondiale, qui ont ensuite généré des problèmes similaires. La CPI est conçue pour servir de support aux procès nationaux, offrant aux tribunaux nationaux la première occasion d’entendre des affaires. 

En utilisant le terme complémentarité, la CPI n’est en mesure d’entendre des affaires que si elle établit que les juridictions nationales « manque de volonté ou de capacité » à porter elles-mêmes les affaires en justice. Cette structure reproduit Leipzig. 

Après la première guerre mondiale, le traité de Versailles contenait des dispositions obligeant les Allemands à extrader ses ressortissants vers les puissances de l’Entente pour y être jugés, mais lorsque les Allemands ont refusé pour des raisons d’honneur, les puissances de l’Entente ont accepté à contrecoeur d’autoriser les Allemands à juger ses propres ressortissants. Lors de notre conférence précédente, je l’ai appelée la justice des vaincus. 

Selon Gerd Hankel, l’Entente n’a accepté cet amendement que parce qu’elle pouvait réaffirmer sa compétence si les procès allemands s’étaient révélés « exclusivement destinés à protéger les coupables de la punition pour leurs infractions ».[4]  Bien entendu, les procès de Leipzig se sont avérés être une farce en raison du conflit d’intérêts existant dans les États poursuivants en justice. De plus, il était impossible pour les pouvoirs de l’Entente de réaffirmer leur compétence. 

Comme nous le verrons, à de nombreux égards, la structure et l’expérience de la CPI reflèteront cette histoire.
 

C. Objectifs

J’aborde ensuite mon deuxième thème, les objectifs de la CPI. Comme nous l’avons vu, la justice pénale internationale a plusieurs objectifs possibles, qui ne sont pas clairement définis ni hiérarchisés. Lors des conférences précédentes, nous avons discuté du châtiment fondé sur l’indignation morale, la dissuasion, l’incapacité, le changement de régime, la réconciliation, etc. Tous ces objectifs sont également applicables au rôle de la CPI, mais je tiens à en souligner deux autres qui sont particulièrement importants à la CPI. Les deux sont contenus dans le préambule du statut de la CPI.

Premièrement, le préambule dit, et je cite :  

« Ayant à l’esprit qu’au cours de ce siècle, des millions d’enfants, de femmes et d’hommes ont été victims d’atrocités qui défient l’imagination et heurtent profondément la conscience humaine. »

En Anglais la disposition parle d’un veritable choc pour la conscience humaine. Cette idée d’atrocités heurtant ou choquant la conscience de l’humanité n’est pas nouvelle; en fait, elle a été utilisée dès les premières discussions après la Première Guerre mondiale et à toutes les étapes depuis. J’ai utilisé les faits de l’affaire du docteur à Nuremberg pour essayer de produire ce sentiment de choc moral chez vous, et je donnerai un autre exemple venant de Colombie plus tard au cours de cette conférence. Je partage ces histoires parce que je veux vous permettre d’avoir une petite idée du sentiment qui a propulsé ce domaine moralement. 

En revanche, nombreux sont ceux qui critiquent le poids de ce sentiment politiquement. De nombreuses sciences politiques sont profondément sceptiques quant à l’idée d’atrocités « choquant la conscience de l’humanité ».[5] Ils soutiennent que ce langage solennel et ronflant est une tentative de neutralisation de la politique, qu’il suppose une plus grande uniformité morale dans le monde qu’il n’en existe, et qu’il élimine d’autres programmes tout aussi convaincants, comme la pauvreté dans le monde. 

Bien que tout cela soit vraisemblablement vrai, après avoir examiné de près ces réalités, j’affirme que le choc est très important et que ressentir une indignation morale en réponse à celui-ci est une réaction humaine très naturelle et psychiquement saine. Cet outrage découle du sentiment que les auteurs ont fait ces choix. En outre, j’estime que, dans l’histoire, ce choc sur notre conscience est à la base d’une grande partie de ce dont nous avons discuté, même s’il a été déployé de manière sélective pour des raisons politiques. Ainsi, dans ce seul objectif, nous voyons la tension entre la morale et la politique qui constitue un thème dans ces présentations.  

De même, le préambule du Statut de la CPI stipule également, et je cite encore, 

« Déterminés à mettre un terme à l’impunité des auteurs de ces crimes et à concourir ainsi à la prévention de nouveaux crimes »

Je soutiens que cette notion d’impunité est aussi une idée morale; il s’agit de ne pas les laisser s’en tirer. Ce serait moralement absurde. En fait, toutes les absurdités morales que nous avons vues au cours de ces conférences éclairent cette notion d’impunité. 

Par contre, encore une fois, il existe une excellente littérature critique affirmant que cette notion d’impunité exclut d’autres questions importantes et qu’elle nous permet de passer outre toutes les lacunes de la justice pénale internationale,[6] dont nous avons discuté au cours de cette série. 

Comme Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, je crois que ces deux choses sont vraies. L’impunité est moralement absurde et parfois abusée politiquement.

 

D. Implications politiques

Nous arrivons au troisième thème que je vais utiliser pour explorer la CPI, ses implications politiques. Il y a tellement de choses dont nous pourrions parler ici, mais je me contenterai de souligner trois parallèles entre la CPI et les manifestations antérieures du droit pénal international. 

Premièrement, la CPI est également susceptible d’être sujette au double standard par les grandes puissances. Lors de la négociation du statut de la CPI, les États ont fait de nombreux compromis pour tenir compte des intérêts américains, pour finalement en conclure que les États-Unis ne deviendraient pas membre du Statut. 

Par respect pour l’autorité du Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies, le Statut de la CPI envisageait formellement la capacité du Conseil de sécurité de renvoyer à la Cour des situations. 

Ces renvois ont donné à la court la juridiction sur le pays visé, que l’État concerné ait ou non signé et ratifié le traité sur la CPI. Lorsque le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies a renvoyé les situations au Soudan et à la Libye, le gouvernement américain a subordonné son accord à l’insertion d’un libellé exemptant les nationaux des états tiers qui ne sont pas membres, afin que les troupes américaines ne puissent être poursuivies devant la CPI, contrairement à d’autres. 

Plus récemment, le gouvernement américain a ouvertement menacé les procureurs de la CPI de sanctions si elle procédait à une enquête sur des allégations de torture systématique par les troupes américaines en Afghanistan. L’Afghanistan étant membre de la CPI, la Cour est compétente pour tous les crimes internationaux commis par tous les nationaux sur ce territoire. Malheureusement, tout cela imite les tribunaux de Nuremberg et de Tokyo, où les Alliés avaient organisé des procès internationaux pour des tiers tout en se protégeant de leurs propres responsabilités. 

Deuxièmement, la CPI a été confrontée aux mêmes délimitations de coopération que nous avons discutées en ce qui concerne le Tribunal pour le Rwanda, le TPIR. Lors de ma conférence précédente, j’ai cité des auteurs tels que Thierry Cruvellier et Victor Peskin,[7] qui ont affirmé que le gouvernement rwandais était en mesure de contrôler l’agenda du procureur en menaçant de retirer sa coopération, soit en empêchant un témoin rwandais de se rendre au Tribunal en Tanzanie voisine, soit en refusant de garantir la sécurité des enquêteurs. 

Un certain nombre d’auteurs plus récents affirment que le travail de la CPI ailleurs en Afrique pose des problèmes similaires.[8] La CPI a besoin de la coopération des gouvernements pour avoir accès aux preuves, assurer la sécurité tout en menant des enquêtes et procéder à des arrestations. Cela pose problème lorsque les dirigeants des États avec lesquels la CPI coopère ont de très mauvaises références démocratiques et ont beaucoup de sang sur leurs mains aussi. Encore une fois, le souci est que la politique a dépassé les questions d’égalité et que notre préoccupation morale a été instrumentalisée pour des intérêts politiques particuliers. Là encore, il est à craindre que nous n’ayons pas échappé à la justice de vainqueur dans la pratique.

Troisièmement, la CIP a été impliquée dans des conflits houleux entre des États antérieurement en guerre. Par exemple, la CPI enquête actuellement sur la guerre Géorgie-Russie qui a eu lieu en 2008. Il est largement admis que les deux parties ont commis des crimes internationaux au cours de ce conflit, mais il semble que les poursuites soient entravées par des obstacles importants. Un rapport récent indique que « la partie géorgienne craignait que les autorités russes n’envoient des déclarations de témoins falsifiées ou de toute autre manière moins crédibles ».[9] De l’autre côté, la CPI a également indiqué que « l’affirmation de la Russie selon laquelle elle ne pourrait pas poursuivre son enquête nationale parce que la Géorgie a refusé de fournir une assistance juridique ».[10] 

Ce récit nous rappelle les procès qui ont suivi la Première Guerre mondiale, où des condamnations par coutumace prononcées en France et en Belgique ont été acquittées à Leipzig dans un climat de haine ouverte. Dans les deux cas, le fonctionnement de la justice pénale internationale est loin d’être clair lorsque, d’un point de vue politique, les parties adverses veulent utiliser les procès comme une continuation de la guerre.
 

E. Alternatives

Nous arrivons au quatrième thème que j’explore au cours de ces conférences, les alternatives à la poursuite. 

Lors de nos conférences précédentes, nous avons abordé de nombreuses solutions, y compris l’exil après la Première Guerre mondiale, les exécutions sommaires après la Seconde Guerre mondiale et les Commissions Vérité et Réconciliation après la guerre froide. Tous ces éléments, ainsi que d’autres que nous avons envisagés, sont également réalisables pour la CIP. Cela montre à nouveau la complexité des choix concernant la façon dont répondre aux atrocités. 

Bien que ce ne soit pas tout à fait nouveau, je souhaite aborder une solution particulièrement importante pour la CPI, à savoir les amnisties visant à mettre fin à la guerre et à instaurer la paix au lieu de poursuites pénales. 

Bien que le tribunal yougoslave ait également existé au cours de la violence armée en cours, la grande majorité des tribunaux que nous avons examinés au cours de cette série de conférences ont impliqué des institutions créées après la fin de la violence. Dans certains cas, le laps de temps entre la fin de la violence en question et la création du tribunal est très important. Le tribunal cambodgien, par exemple, a été créé en 2001 pour s’occuper des atrocités commises par les Kmer Rouges plus de vingt ans plus tôt, entre 1975 et 1979. 

Dans le cas de la CIP, cependant, elle existe lors de la perpétration d’atrocités. Cette réalité soulève la question de savoir si elle devrait jouer un rôle pour tenter de mettre fin aux guerres. Soudain, la résolution des conflits est également un objectif de la justice pénale internationale. À cet égard, il existe un débat important sur la question de savoir si des amnisties pour atrocités devraient être proposées pour inciter les factions belligérantes à déposer les armes. S’ils font l’objet de poursuites lorsqu’ils cesseront de se battre, ils ne le feront pas.

Ainsi, en insistant sur la responsabilité pénale, le droit pénal international pourrait prolonger la violence en empêchant les groupes en conflit de parvenir à un accord de paix. Inversement, en proposant des amnisties, vous incitez à la violence armée en général et aux atrocités en particulier. 

Je vais utiliser la situation colombienne comme exemple du problème. Comme beaucoup le savent, la Colombie a conclu un accord de paix historique avec les FARC en 2016, après 50 ans de guerre. Que faire des crimes internationaux commis au cours de cette période était une question difficile pour les parties au conflit et pour la CPI compétente en matière de crimes. 

Je partagerai avec vous les détails d’un ensemble de crimes internationaux présumés commis en Colombie pour concrétiser ce dilemme et vous faire ressentir à nouveau le choc moral qui a animé une grande partie de ce domaine au cours du siècle dernier. 

Entre 2002 et 2008, l’armée colombienne est soupçonné d’avoir exécuté régulièrement des civils. Selon un rapport de Human Rights Watch, et je cite, 

« Sous la pression des supérieurs pour obtenir des résultats positifs et augmenter le nombre de morts dans leur guerre contre la guérilla, des soldats et des officiers ont enlevé des victimes ou les ont attirés dans des lieux lointains sous de faux prétextes – par exemple avec des promesses de travail – les ont tués, ont placé des armes sur leurs cadavres et les ont ensuite signalés comme des combattants ennemis tués au combat. »[11] 

Apparemment, il y a au moins 3000 cas qui font l’objet d’une enquête. Pour moi, c’est souvent la combinaison de la créativité humaine et de la violence brutale qui est la plus choquante, peut-être parce qu’elle traduit le plus clairement un choix moral. 

À l’ombre de ces atrocités en Colombie, des spécialistes tels que René Urueña ont affirmé que la CPI avait joué un rôle influent dans le processus de paix colombien.[12] Certains considèrent que l’accord flexible de la CIP, qui autorise des peines considérablement réduites pour dire la vérité devant les tribunaux colombiens, facilite l’accord de paix historique, tandis que d’autres sont plus critiques vis-à-vis de l’insistance de la CIP selon laquelle des procès sont nécessaires.[13] 

Dans un cas comme dans l’autre, il est clair que la CIP a encore une autre question conceptuelle importante à traiter lors de l’examen des poursuites internationales. Il est également clair que ces décisions peuvent avoir des conséquences importantes pour les personnes qui subissent le chagrin de la guerre. Ce sont de grandes responsabilités morales.
  

F. Le droit

Cela nous amène à notre cinquième thème, la loi. J’offrirai des perspectives positives et critiques sur le droit inscrit dans le Statut de la CPI. 

Du côté positif, le Statut de la CPI nous fait largement dépasser les luttes avec le droit rétroactif. À quelques exceptions près dont je peux discuter en réponse aux questions posées à la fin si les gens sont intéressés, la CPI définit de manière formelle et détaillée les crimes internationaux, les formes de responsabilité et les procédures clés pertinentes, qui peuvent être appliqués de manière prospective. Sur le plan du contenu, le Statut de la CPI représente également un ensemble de normes plus avancées reflétant mieux les réalités de la guerre. 

Par exemple, des auteurs tels que Tuba Inal ont montré comment les précédentes conceptions du droit pénal international accordaient très peu d’attention à l’expérience des femmes en guerre.[14] Inal montre comment cela résulte de la participation très limitée des femmes à la négociation des traités internationaux régissant le droit international humanitaire. En 1977 encore, le viol n’était toujours pas officiellement reconnu comme un crime de guerre sur le terrain. 

Le statut de la CIP corrige ce problème en proposant un ensemble nouveau et varié d’infractions pénales reflétant mieux l’expérience des femmes en matière de guerre et d’atrocités. 

D’autres voient le verre à moitié vide. Le Professeure du droit international Gerry Simpson, par exemple, affirme que le droit pénal international établit des distinctions arbitraires entre la violence manuelle et la violence fondée sur l’économie politique.[15] Cette critique est en partie préoccupée par le fait que le droit pénal international fait très peu pour lutter contre la pauvreté dans le monde, qui tue chaque jour considérablement plus de personnes que des criminels internationaux. En effet, certains de ces faits sur la pauvreté mondiale sont également choquant : 

  • 2,3 milliards de personnes ne disposent toujours pas d’installations sanitaires de base telles que des toilettes, 
  • il y a 750 millions d’adultes analphabètes, dont les deux tiers sont des femmes; 
  • une femme sur huit meurt en couches en Sierra Leone; 
  • et la diarrhée causée par un manque d’eau potable et d’assainissement tue environ 842 000 personnes par an dans le monde. 

Comme le dit si bien Gandhi, « la pauvreté est la pire forme de violence ». Certains soutiennent que le droit pénal international nous aide à oublier cela.
 

G. Conséquences

Cela nous amène à notre sixième et dernier thème, les conséquences. Nous pourrions en discuter beaucoup ici, mais je ne mentionnerai que deux ensembles, à la fois positifs et critiques. 

Sur le plan positif, un certain nombre de spécialistes importants utilisent des méthodes empiriques pour évaluer l’impact de la justice pénale internationale. Beth Simmons et Hyeran Jo ont publié un article important dans lequel ils soutiennent que des preuves empiriques indiquent que la CIP a un effet démontrable sur la dissuasion des atrocités.[16] 

En utilisant également des méthodes empiriques, Kathryn Sikkink affirme que la justice pénale internationale a un effet bénéfique sur la performance des droits de l’homme, non seulement dans l’État où les poursuites sont engagées, mais également dans la région environnante.[17] 

Ces résultats font l’objet de nombreux débats, mais ils renforcent l’importance de la CIP. En d’autres termes, ils suggèrent implicitement que, bien que regrettable, l’apport moral surpasse les carences politiques. D’autres considèrent la CIP comme une institution néocoloniale illégitime qui fait plus de mal que de bien. Des érudits tels que Mahmood Mamdani, Kamari Clarke et bien d’autres sont profondément sceptiques quant à l’avenir de la CPI, affirmant que sa focalisation unique sur les Africains révèle actuellement sa continuité avec la mission civilisatrice du colonialisme.[18] L’Union africaine et divers présidents africains ayant exprimé des points de vue similaires, un certain nombre d’États se sont retirés de la Cour sur la base de ces observations. De plus, des spécialistes comme Sarah Nouwen et Phil Clarke soutiennent que la Cour aggrave les problèmes de droits de l’homme dans les États bénéficiaires.[19] 

En conclusion, le CPI se trouve actuellement dans une position très précaire, ce qui explique précisément l’importance d’une conversation très franche et honnête sur l’histoire du droit pénal international. J’espère que cette conférence, ainsi que les autres de ces dernières semaines, vous ont fourni une orientation utile à cet égard. 

RÉSUMÉ FINAL

Pour conclure cette série de conférences, je souhaite revenir aux thèses avec lesquelles j’ai commencé pour la première de mes présentations. Je vais résumer où nous en sommes dans le contexte de chaque thèse et faire quelques suggestions préliminaires sur la manière dont le domaine peut se poursuivre dans le futur. 

Ma première thèse était que, depuis plus d’un siècle, la fin de chaque grande guerre mondiale avait incité la justice pénale internationale à défendre un large éventail d’objectifs non définis ni hiérarchisés de manière cohérente. Sikkink parle de cascade de la justice,[20] pour la montée de la justice pénale internationale au cours des dernières années, mais en réalité, toutes les périodes dont nous avons discuté impliquaient un déluge de poursuites. 

Il y a eu plus de 1 600 procès par coutumace en France et en Belgique après la Première Guerre mondiale. Nous avons vu comment, selon l’historien Istvan Deak, entre 2 et 3% de la population européenne a été accusée de trahison, de collaboration ou de crimes de guerre après la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, et la mondialisation de la justice pénale internationale après la guerre froide a été tout aussi spectaculaire. Dans chacun de ces scénarios, nous avons constaté une série d’objectifs, notamment la punition, la dissuasion, l’incapacité, le changement de régime, la réconciliation, la paix, etc. Nous n’avons pas choisi entre ces objectifs ni ne les avons hiérarchisés. 

Deuxièmement, j’ai soutenu que la justice pénale internationale est constituée d’une tension entre les sentiments moraux très intenses à propos de la responsabilité pour des atrocités et, de l’autre côté, les politiques qui tendent à instrumentaliser ces sentiments. 

J’ai essayé de vous aider à ressentir une petite dose de ces sentiments moraux en vous racontant des histoires sur les ordres allemands de massacrer tous les prisonniers français pendant la Première Guerre mondiale, les expériences médicales brutales entreprises par des médecins Nazi sur des prisonniers dans des camps de concentration pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, et les allégations d’exécutions dites « fausse positives » en Colombie au cours des dix dernières années. 

J’ai également montré à quel point l’absurdité morale constituait un argument puissant en faveur de la responsabilité pénale à toutes les étapes de cette histoire. En même temps, j’ai essayé de montrer comment chaque manifestation de ces procès impliquait une application inégale. 

Troisièmement, j’ai soutenu que l’histoire de la justice pénale internationale était souvent une tentative réactionnaire de reconstituer l’équilibre entre ces pôles, la morale et le pouvoir, à la lumière des lacunes d’une période antérieure. Nous avons vu comment Nuremberg et Toyko étaient des réactions directes et opposées aux échecs présumés de la justice des vaincus à Leipzig. De plus, la justice du vainqueur rendue après la Seconde guerre mondiale avait dû être surmonté par des tribunaux ad hoc créés par les Nations Unies. À son tour, la très faible concentration des tribunaux ad hoc sur les plans géographique et temporel a été surmontée par une Cour pénale internationale permanente qui ne l’était pas. 

Quatrièmement, j’ai fait valoir que ni notre sentiment moral ni le pouvoir ne prétendraient jamais remporter la victoire finale sur l’autre dans notre réflexion sur la responsabilité pour les atrocités. 

En conséquence, l’histoire des procès internationaux révèle quelque chose de significatif sur le potentiel et les limites de la justice pénale internationale dans l’ordre juridique mondial actuel. D’une part, il est très humain de ressentir un grand outrage moral face aux atrocités, et il y aura toujours ceux qui chercheront à répondre à ces sentiments de manière rétributive. Ils seront rejoints par ceux qui voient une valeur conséquente dans ces poursuites. 

D’autre part, ceux qui considèrent que l’instrumentalisation politique fréquente de ces procès sape le projet, trouveront également beaucoup pour justifier leur opinion. En supposant que les procès pour les criminels internationaux persistent, les personnes engagées sur le terrain devront élaborer une nouvelle stratégie pour maximiser la valeur morale de ces procès tout en minimisant leur instrumentalisation politique.  Nul doute que cette tâche nécessitera une très grande imagination, un courage politique considérable, une grande sensibilité aux très nombreuses variables dont nous avons parlé et une conscience de la manière dont les procès pourraient avoir des conséquences imprévues. Je suis convaincu qu’une enquête honnête sur l’histoire de la justice pénale internationale peut être utile à ce processus. En effet, il sera crucial pour les efforts énergiques de ma génération dans la poursuite de l’idéal, plus jamais.


[1] Gustave Moynier, Essai sur les caractères généraux des lois de la guerre (1895).

[2] M. Adatci, Commission on the Responsibility of the Authors of the War and on Enforcement of Penalties, 14 Am. J. Int. Law 95 (1920).

[3] See Mark Lewis, The Birth of the New Justice: The Internationalization of Crime and Punishment, 1919-1950 82–83 (1 edition ed. 2014).

[4] Gerd Hankel, The Leipzig Trials: German War Crimes and Their Legal Consequences after World War I 31 (2014).

[5] Brad R. Roth, Coming to Terms with Ruthlessness: Sovereign Equality, Global Pluralism, and the Limits of International Criminal Justice, 8 St. Clara J. Int. Law 231, 284 (2010).

[6] Karen Engle, Zinaida Miller & D. M. Davis, Anti-Impunity and the Human Rights Agenda See, for example, (2016).

[7] Thierry Cruvellier, Court of Remorse: Inside the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (2010); Victor Peskin, International Justice in Rwanda and the Balkans: Virtual Trials and the Struggle for State Cooperation (2008).

[8] See in particular, Phil Clark, Distant Justice: The Impact of the International Criminal Court on African Politics (2018).

[9] Human RIghts Watch, Pressure Point: The ICC’s Impact on National Justice 67 (2018), https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/05/03/pressure-point-iccs-impact-national-justice/lessons-colombia-georgia-guinea-and (last visited Nov 30, 2019).

[10] Id. at 67.

[11] Nick Miroff, Colombian army killed civilians to fake battlefield success, rights group says, Washington Post, June 24, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/colombian-army-killed-civilians-to-fake-battlefield-success-rights-group-says/2015/06/23/5e83700e-191d-11e5-bed8-1093ee58dad0_story.html (last visited Dec 1, 2019).

[12] René Urueña, Prosecutorial Politics: The ICC’s Influence in Colombian Peace Processes, 2003–2017, 111 Am. J. Int. Law 104–125 (2017).

[13] Id.

[14] Tuba Inal, Looting and Rape in Wartime (Reprint edition ed. 2016).

[15] Gerry Simpson, Human Rights with a Vengeance: One Hundred Years of Retributive Humanitarianism Kirby Lecture in International Law 2015, 33 Aust. Yearb. Int. Law 1–14 (2015).

[16] Hyeran Jo & Beth A. Simmons, Can the International Criminal Court Deter Atrocity?, 70 Int. Organ. 443–475 (2016).

[17] Kathryn Sikkink, The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics (1 ed. 2011).

[18] Kamari Maxine Clarke, Fictions of Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Challenge of Legal Pluralism in Sub-Saharan Africa (1 edition ed. 2009); Mahmood Mamdani, The International Criminal Court’s Case Against the President of Sudan: A Critical Look, 62 J. Int. Aff. 85–92 (2009).

[19] Clark, supra note 8; Sarah M. H. Nouwen, Complementarity in the Line of Fire: The Catalysing Effect of the International Criminal Court in Uganda and Sudan (2013).

[20] Sikkink, supra note 17.

3. Ad hoc Courts and Hybrid Tribunals in the Post-Cold War Era

This is a translation of a lecture I gave at the Collège de France on 12 June 2019 as part of a series entitled The History and Future of International Criminal Justice. A video of the French-language original of this lecture is available online here.


A. Introduction

Members of the Collège de France, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the third and penultimate lecture on the history of international criminal law.

Before now, we have considered the role of international criminal justice after the First and Second World Wars. Today we focus on the next major iteration of the field, following the end of the next major world war, the Cold War. In particular, I will today discuss just two tribunals that developed after the fall of the Berlin Wall, namely, the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and that for the former Yugoslavia. I will place particular emphasis on the former, because without my period working for it, I would not be speaking French. In fact, I would not be here at all. 

For those who have not followed the previous lectures, I began them with three theses about this field. I will repeat these theses in more detail in the final lecture next week, but in brief, they were that shifts in international criminal follow major world wars, that each iteration is a response to perceived shortcomings of the former, and that all are encapsulated by a tension between morality and politics. 

As I have done in my previous lectures, I here use six themes to explore the history of ad hoc tribunals in general and the Rwanda Tribunal in particular. Notably, a narrative about the trials, the purposes of the processes, the political dimensions behind the trials, the alternatives to criminal prosecutions, the law, and the consequences of these prosecutions. 

There is, however, one major difference between our previous histories and the ones I recount today. Whereas our previous lectures were based on purely scholarly learning, this history is also informed by personal experience. I worked for both these United Nations War Crimes Tribunals for a number of years almost two decades ago as a young lawyer. That fact is relevant because part of this lecture is about bearing witness to what I have observed, some of which was unspeakable. Moreover, as I mention we would certainly not be here today but for these experiences.

B. Narrative Overview of Ad Hoc Tribunals

Let me begin then with a narrative about the trials. Here I will go into slightly more detail than in previous lectures, because I want to connect this stage of international criminal justice’s history to our previous lectures and to set the scene for our next discussion about the permanent International Criminal Court. I will talk to you about the Cold War, introduce the ad hoc tribunals, discuss their overlap with other courts and tribunals, and share a personal story as an illustration.

First, these ad hoc Tribunals were created by the United Nations Security Council at the end of the Cold War. The term Cold War is, of course, a misnomer. As David Kennedy has remarked, the Cold War was only cold for people in a small percentage of countries. For the vast majority, the Cold War was very hot as superpowers sponsored various armed groups throughout the world based on their ideological commitments, not their respect for basic human rights. There were no shortage of atrocities that would constitute international crimes over this period. Korea, Algeria, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia, East Timor, Uganda, Angola, the list goes on.

There is something of a myth that nothing happened for international criminal law during the Cold War. The myth is that between Tokyo in 1946 and the Yugoslav Tribunal in 1993, international criminal justice was stagnant. The myth is based on the view that superpower politics created a stalemate for the field. This  meant that the bold but inevitable idea of international criminal justice would have to wait nearly a half century to be implemented after the fall of the Berlin Wall. As historian Joseph Perisco argued: 

“After a hiatus of nearly half a century, Nuremberg is again on people’s lips. After over one hundred wars, insurrections, civil conflicts, and revolutions that have racked the world over the past forty-five years and claimed more than 21 million lives, after hardly a breath of outrage over atrocities committed in the name of ideology, liberation, independence, and religion, people at last have begun to cry our for justice that can penetrate national borders, for a Nuremberg-style prosecution of war criminals.”[1] 

This view is an important reflection of a public perception that would see international criminal trials proliferate like never before after the Cold War, akin to after the Second World War. As the author Kathryn Sikkink has explained, after the Cold War, there was a veritable “Justice Cascade,” where the so-called Nuremberg idea spread like contagion throughout the world.[2] The idea had caught on, and advocates were now motivated to correct its shortcomings at Nuremberg.  

However, there were important inaccuracies in the idea Perisco and so many others entertained about the Cold War period. First, as we have seen in earlier lectures, the idea of international criminal justice pre-dated Nuremberg by at least several decades. The export of the “Nuremberg model” would focus on only one aspect of a much larger history, that included Leipzig, Tokyo, and many other forms. 

Second, there were also important trials during the Cold War. For example, Israeli operatives abducted Adolf Eichman from Argentina and brought him to Israel where he stood trial in 1961.[3] In addition, the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials held in West Germany between 1963 and 1965 were also hugely important.[4] Together, these trials exposed the Holocaust, something the Nuremberg Judgement had not emphasized in its focus on aggressive war. In fact, as we will see later in this lecture, these trials helped genocide overtake aggression as the “crime of crimes” in our imaginations. 

Third, Perisco’s statement assumed that international criminal justice was an inevitability waiting to happen. Once Nuremberg had occurred, it was just a matter of time before we perfected its deficiencies and transformed the global order. While that thinking certainly motivated the rise of international criminal law after the Cold War, it unhelpfully assumed that these trials could transcend the tension between morality and politics that has and always will characterise this field in the world as presently constituted. 

As part of this longer narrative introduction, I also want to talk to you about how the two ad hoc Tribunals were established in 1993 and 1994 respectively. The Leipzig trials took place in local German courts, based on legislation that allowed for international crimes within German criminal law. By contrast, the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals were established by treaties then forced upon a vanquished enemy. It is a major distinction that the ad hoc international criminal tribunals were established by the United Nations Security Council, under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. 

I will not enter into the technicalities of the United Nations Charter, except to emphasize the very new and creative interpretation of it required to create these international tribunals. Chapter VII of the Charter gave the Security Council power over any “threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression.” Once the Security Council is satisfied that one of these criteria is met, Article 41 allows it to take measures not involving the use of armed force in response. Nowhere is it mentioned that the Security Council can create courts, that these courts would be hierarchically superior to local courts, or that States would have to comply with all of the decisions of these courts as if they emanated from the Security Council itself. All of these things were major leaps. 

As part of this narrative overview, I also want to emphasize the network of overlapping courts that would start prosecuting these crimes. At all stages in the history of international criminal justice, international courts have overlapped with national courts. The proposed trial of the Kaiser overlapped with national trials in Germany, France and Belgium. The Nuremberg trials overlapped with national trials in Israel, Poland, Canada, Germany and beyond. In fact, former Nazi guards are still being tried today in Germany in their nineties.[5] There is often a mosaic of courts, national and international, that are able to hear these cases, creating an important degree of complexity. 

I have a personal story which I hope makes these points clear. In the year 2000, I spent time in Rwanda investigating allegations of genocide. Together with other members of a prosecutorial team, I met with several perpetrators within a Rwandan prison, before they testified in our case. At the end of one day, we came to our last interviewee. It was easy to develop empathy for him. He lived in a prison system that was so overcrowded that 80 people occupied a cell built for 6. Epidemics were common. The prisoners rotated the ability to sit down. Food was provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross, not the prison itself. As he was speaking with us, he was given a piece of bread. He was so hungry, he ate it like a wolf. He was also very brave, since there could well be violent recriminations against him for speaking to us, and his evidence was very helpful to our case. At the end of the interview, we clarified what he was in prison for, and he responded that he’d killed 200 people with a machete. Working in international criminal law involves so many jarring experiences like this. 

One of these jarring incongruities was legal. At the time, he faced the death penalty in Rwanda after a very brief legal procedure. And yet, he was only following orders of superiors who were most responsible for devising this genocidal plan, and he would probably have been killed himself if he refused to participate. Even though they were more responsible, the superiors who gave these orders were living very comfortable lives within a spacious United Nations detention facility in Tanzania, enjoying AIDS retrovirals at enormous expense, and eating good food. Apparently, there was one motion before the Rwandan Tribunal, although I have never located it, complaining that the croissants in detention were too rich. Defendants at the Rwanda Tribunal were not subject to the death penalty, and they enjoyed much longer trials. 

In fact, the cases at the Rwanda Tribunal took an exceptionally long time. When I arrived at the Tribunal in 2000, one of the accused in the case I worked on, Joseph Kanyabashi, had been in prison for 6 years before the trial started. Seven years later in 2007, when I was working on appellate cases for the prosecutor of the Yugoslav Tribunal in The Hague, I returned to the Rwanda Tribunal in Tanzania for a joint training program. The first thing I saw as I walked into the building was Kanyabashi still in court with his lawyers. Thirteen years is an unacceptably long period of time to be in prison while charged against you are adjudicated. 

By contrast, several cases against Rwandan genocidaire were held in Belgium pursuant to a notion of universal jurisdiction.[6] This form of jurisdiction gives courts the power to hear cases that took place overseas, even when neither the perpetrator nor the victims were citizens of the state carrying out the prosecutions. By contrast, these cases against Rwandan defendants able to flee Africa took significantly less time and involved far greater human rights protections. I hope this illustrates the network of courts that might hear these charges after the Cold War, there differences between them, and how they might affect perceptions of justice.  

Many years ago, I took a course from one of the leading Belgian prosecutors involved in prosecuting these trials. Clearly affected by some of the impossible dilemmas people faced in deciding whether to risk their lives and those of their families to resist participation in the Rwandan genocide, this normally quiet man would occasionally shout very loud “what would you do in the same situation.” Another way of asking that question is, how often do you stand up for what’s obviously humane when everyone else is against you? Friedrich Nietzsche was only partially right. If you stare into the darkness, it not only stares back, it also demands a response.
 

C. The Purposes of Ad Hoc Tribunals

After this long overview, I move to the second of my themes, the purposes of these ad hoc tribunals. No doubt, these tribunals were also inspired by many of the purposes we have discussed in previous lectures about international criminal justice after the first and second world wars. In all likelihood, people were partly motivated by retribution based on moral indignation, by a desire to deter future atrocities, and by the notion of regime change after state-sponsored violence. I will mention one recurrent purpose we have witnessed throughout these lectures and point to an altogether new one. 

First, as we saw in all of the previous lectures moral absurdity is a consistently used argument for pushing against impunity. This was true after both world wars, where advocates argued that it would be perverse for the Kaiser to escape justice because he sent millions of men to commit a crime he’d be arrested for immediately if he had done it himself, and when Robert Jackson talked about little criminals being prosecuted while big ones got away. In the Cold War period, there was an equivalent that I call the Geneva Absurdity. It involves the following series of questions: if you kill a single person, you’re tried for murder; if you kill ten people you’re tried for murder and in many countries subject to the death penalty; but if you kill 10,000 people you’re invited to Geneva for peace talks. The advocates of international criminal justice sought to undermine that moral absurdity after the Cold War.  

Nevertheless, a new, significant and ambitious new purpose emerged with this iteration of international criminal law: reconciliation. When the ICTR was established in 1994, the United Security Council explicitly indicated that the Tribunal would “contribute to the process of national reconciliation and to the restoration and maintenance of peace.” This change is very significant historically, because it reflects a shift in emphasis born of a change in the constitutional structure of international criminal law.  

First, notice how this purpose was not mentioned beforehand. After both the first and second world wars, there was little need for international criminal justice to promote reconciliation in a neutral, explicit way. If there was to be a reconciliation, it would be on the victors’ terms. But by employing the United Nations to establish ad hoc tribunals this time as an apparently neutral party, international criminal justice could boldly seek to use international criminal justice as a means for overcoming longstanding inter-ethnic rivalries and hatred between two warring factions. 

Historically speaking, this aspiration was highly innovative, and more than a little ambitious. What would it take for you to make peace with someone who had tortured your loved ones to death? Here the question was not how courageous you would be within a genocide, it was how forgiving you are after one.  

Second, the idea behind reconciliation had arguments for and against it. On the one hand, these tribunals promised that by focusing on the responsibility of individuals for mass violence, it precluded racialized generalizations. This aspect of the Rwandan genocide resulted from the actions of individuals like Joseph Kanybashi. It is therefore his responsibility, not the Hutu group. Here, the aspiration was to break down stereotypes, treating individuals as such. On the other hand, critics would argue that this missed group responsibility entirely, which was the major causal factor in the violence. In addition, this individualized approach effectively exonerated an enormous number of people who had played an important role without ever being prosecuted. 

Whatever one’s feelings about reconciliation, it is vital to recognise its emergence here and how it is made possible from the putatively neutral role the United Nations played here.
  

D. Political Implications of these Trials

This brings us to my third theme, the political considerations with these trials. I want to make three main points here. 

First, the establishment of these ad hoc tribunals was meant to cure some of the problems with the Nuremberg Trials. This was equally true of the ICTR.  The US Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, was reported as saying:  

“’The Nuremberg principles have been reaffirmed,” however  “This will be no victors’ tribunal. The only victor that will prevail in this endeavour is the truth.” [7]

Yet, although the ad hoc tribunals was not formally victor’s justice, it still involved imposition without consent. By chance, Rwanda was a member of the Security Council at the time the Tribunal was established. Rwanda voted against its creation. So even if the tribunal was not formally victor’s justice because the United Nations was never a party to the war, the Tribunal was not freely agreed to either, creating a problem the permanent International Criminal Court would attempt to cure.  

Second, there is literature suggesting that, in the end, the ICTR did amount to a form of victor’s justice in practice. The journalist Thierry Cruvellier, who followed the Rwandan Tribunal very closely, concluded that the Rwandan government was able to control the Tribunal quite effectively by threatening to discontinue co-operation with it, either by not allowing witnesses to travel to neighbouring Tanzania to give evidence or by refusing to grant UN investigators security in Rwanda.[8] As Victor Peskin concluded in his excellent study of these courts:

“The international war crimes tribunals that emerged in the early 1990 s sought to distance themselves from the first generation of tribunals established by the victorious Allied powers at Nuremberg and Tokyo nearly half a century earlier… [i]n reality, the ICTY and the ICTR have found themselves dependent on these targeted states to follow through on this obligation to provide cooperation.”[9]

According to Cruvellier, this dynamic influenced concrete cases and precluded the investigation of atrocities allegedly committed by Tutsi during the genocide because they implicated personnel then in government. If true, this makes the Rwandan Tribunal similar to Nuremberg; both Tribunals were instrumental in prosecuting the worst offenders, but other important responsibility went unaddressed because of the way politics interfaced with morality. 

Third, the Rwanda Tribunal did not resolve the political equality problem that was so clear at Leipzig, Nuremberg and Tokyo. My own experience made this very clear to me. When I was investigating genocide in Rwanda in 2000, there were massacres of a similar amplitude taking place less than one hundred kilometres away in neighbour Democratic Republic of the Congo. In may respects, these atrocities were a direct continuation of the Rwandan genocide, just transposed across the border. And yet the same deliberate blindness and moral indifference that had tolerated the Rwandan genocide was again on full display in the Congo. At the time, having worked so closely with perpetrators of genocide and their victims, this inconsistency was not a political anomaly I could process in the abstract, it was a personal problem.
 

E. Alternatives to Prosecutions

This brings us to the fourth theme I hoped to discuss, that is alternatives to prosecution. Here, there were two particular alternatives that were both new. 

First, the Rwandan Tribunal always existed in the shadow of the international community’s decision not to militarily stop the genocide. As is well known, US appetite for humanitarian intervention was very low after the bodies of American soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu soon beforehand. Internally, the United States would use the “G” word so as not to trigger obligations to prevent that are contained in the Genocide Convention. After the United Nations substantially reduced its troops present during the genocide, Canadian General Romeo Dallaire said “no government had ever betrayed its soldiers like the United Nations did us.” And the New Zealand chairman of the United Nations Security Council at the time described the Council’s decision not to militarily intervene “like asking the Jews to reach a ceasefire with Hitler.”

The Rwanda Tribunal was created out of a sense of remorse for this inaction. That same guilt lead to the famous Responsibility to Protect doctrine, which sought to establish bases to militarily intervene in countries where the Security Council would not do so, in order to prevent human catastrophes like Rwanda. At yet, even those very sympathetic to the cause are very concerned that Responsibility to Protect risks becoming a trojan horse for aggression. As Christine Gray highlights, many if not all of the uses of force since 1945 have been publicly justified, at least in part, on humanitarian grounds.[10] If we make an exception for humanitarian intervention, we might just be permitting more war. Nonetheless, earlier military intervention was a primary alternative to post-hoc prosecutions, which many thought were too little too late. 

Second, a truth and reconciliation commission modeled on the South African experience emerged as another clear alternative to prosecutions after the Rwandan genocide. Many argued that criminal law is intended to address deviant behaviour in a society, not responsibility for wrongdoing that is widespread amongst a majority of a society. Given the demands of international trials, in terms of both time and money, faster more collective processes were a distinct possibility. A truth and reconciliation commission was an obvious option. In the end, Rwanda developed an internal process based on truth-telling called Gacaca along these lines, although this came with its own complexities and created another tier in a complex justice mosaic.[11]

F. The Law at Ad Hoc Tribunals

This brings us to the fifth theme I will discuss today, the law. Here, the ad hoc tribunals had some commonality with earlier manifestations as well as some points of difference. 

First, the problem of retroactive law did not go away at the ad hoc tribunals. In our previous lectures, we saw how this problem became a major political issue after WWI, where the United States and the Netherlands opposed an international tribunal to try the Kaiser because doing so would require applying retroactive law. At Nuremberg and Tokyo, these same states changed their position entirely, concluding that prospective law was merely one principle of justice to be weighed against others. At ad hoc tribunals these problems also presented themselves another time.

Formally, ad hoc tribunals disagreed with the Nuremberg reasoning, promising strict compliance with the prohibition on retroactive law. In practice, realities were  sometimes not so different. Ad hoc tribunals had to use definitions of international criminal law derived from customary international law, which is general practice of states that is accepted as law. 

The difficulty was that litigation raised a whole series of questions that had no precedent in the practice of states, placing these tribunals in a position similar to the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals.  

Deciphering what the customary international law was governing, for example, the responsibility of a superior commander for crimes perpetrated by his subordinates, was exceptionally difficult. This problem would later lead to attempts to codify international criminal law in a binding treaty that states agree to in advance of these trials, which we will discuss in our next lecture when we come to the International Criminal Court. 

Even at the International Criminal Court, however, the long standing problem of retroactive law would not disappear entirely. 

Second, the crime of aggression curiously disappeared from international criminal law after the Cold War. It was literally left out of the statutes of the ad hoc tribunals.  As we saw in our previous lectures, attempts to try the Kaiser after the first world war and Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after the second world war where primarily concerned with responsibility for waging aggressive war.  Aggression was declared the worst evil, in large part because all of the suffering of war flowed from it.  

As Samuel Moyn has helpfully demonstrated, however, after the Cold War, international criminal law suddenly became less concerned about criminal responsibility for waging war and more concerned about genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes within violent conflict.[12]  Moyn argues that this change marks an important and potentially worrying political shift in Western ideas. Perhaps the rise of international criminal justice since the Cold War overshadows pacifist thinking that predominated in previous eras. 

Third, the cases against businesspeople that featured so prominently after the Second World War have not reappeared before modern ad hoc tribunals. As we saw in our previous lecture, the concern that big business had instigated or facilitated Nazi expansionism led to a major interest in holding Nazi businesspeople responsible. The relative opening of international criminal justice to all actors within the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda over specified timeframes appears to have come at a cost. Businesspeople would not be the subject of investigation and prosecution, despite ample evidence of their role in facilitating atrocity. Although the law would allow for such cases, the ad hoc tribunals shied away from them, again showing how modern international criminal justice could be regressive relative to what came before.

G. Consequences of these Trials

Finally, we come to the sixth principal theme, the consequences of these trials. Again, I will attempt to be balanced, offering a limited set of positive consequences as well as a more critical perspective without being too speculative. 

First, the ICTR held a substantial number of individuals responsible for very serious crimes who would not have been held accountable but for this institution. When it finally closed its doors, the court had sentenced 61 individuals, acquitted 14, referred 10 to national jurisdictions for trial, referred 3 fugitives to a permanent oversight body, and withdrawn indictments against 2 individuals. If one believes in retribution based on moral indignation, which has always animated much of this field and most theorists of criminal responsibility, this record will provide some satisfaction.   

Second, together with the Yugoslav Tribunal, this court contributed to what the political scientist Kathryn Sikkink calls a “justice cascade.”[13] Suddenly, international courts and tribunals emerged in Sierra Leone, East Timor, Kosovo, Cambodia and beyond.  States also began prosecuting international crimes nationally, setting up war crimes units within their own prosecutorial services for these purposes.  

For example, Dutch prosecutors brought cases against their own businesspeople for international crimes in Iraq and Liberia, upsetting the victor’s justice model we have discussed throughout these lectures.[14]  Sikkink’s work suggests that these trials have positive effects for human rights within the regions they take place in. 

Third, in keeping with one of my theses, the perceived shortcomings of these ad hoc tribunals inspired a new variety of criminal institutions. While ad hoc tribunals were set up outside conflict zones to preserve their independence, their work was perceived as far too distant from local populations. In addition, ad hoc tribunals were not transferring skills to lawyers and judges in these countries, thereby missing an opportunity to build legal capacity and the rule of law. Hybrid courts in Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Kosovo and East Timor would emerge as half-international half-national institutions within local systems to address these concerns.

Fourth, the ad hoc tribunals gave rise to myriad other difficulties we have discussed: they were excessively costly in terms of both time and money, suggesting that resources might have been better spent elsewhere.  They were sometimes held ransom by threats of non co-operation, which had an impact on their functioning, credibility and legitimacy.  They were legally regressive in important respects, and there is little clear evidence that they ultimately contributed to reconciliation as promised.[15] In some instances, they provided a platform for radical leaders to galvanize support.

But perhaps, as Dianne Orentlicher’s important work suggests, their value in this regard should be measured in generations not years.[16]  As she shows, it was only after a young generation of Germans witnessed the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials in German in 1963 to 1965, which was modeled on the Nuremberg trials, that German contrition for the Holocaust finally emerged.[17]  If you have questions, I would be happy to answer them as best I can.


[1] Joseph E. Persico, Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial ix (1995).

[2] Kathryn Sikkink, The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics (1 ed. 2011).

[3] Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: a report on the banality of evil (1992).

[4] Devin O. Pendas & Pendas Pendas Devin Owen, The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial, 1963-1965: Genocide, History, and the Limits of the Law (2006).

[5] Agence France-Presse, Former SS guard, 94, weeps at testimony of Holocaust survivors, The Guardian, November 6, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/06/former-ss-guard-trial-holocaust-survivors-germany-stutthof (last visited Nov 30, 2019).

[6] Luc Reydams, Belgium’s First Application of Universal Jurisdiction: the Butare Four Case, 1 J. Int. Crim. Justice 428–436 (2003).

[7] Julia Preston, U.N. Security Council Establishes Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal, Washington Post, February 23, 1993, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1993/02/23/un-security-council-establishes-yugoslav-war-crimes-tribunal/9e8e74d1-18e4-4998-bb53-f96466dbf4b3/ (last visited Nov 30, 2019).

[8] Thierry Cruvellier, Court of Remorse: Inside the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (2010).

[9] Victor Peskin, International Justice in Rwanda and the Balkans: Virtual Trials and the Struggle for State Cooperation 235 (2008).

[10] Christine Gray, International Law and the Use of Force (3rd edition ed. 2008).

[11] Nicola Frances Palmer, Courts in Conflict: Interpreting the Layers of Justice in Post-genocide Rwanda (2015).

[12] Samuel Moyn, From Aggression to Atrocity: Rethinking the History of International Criminal Law (2016), https://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=2805952 (last visited Nov 30, 2019).

[13] Sikkink, supra note 2.

[14] See, for example, The Historical Importance of the Kouwenhoven Trial |, ,

The Historical Importance of the Kouwenhoven Trial
(last visited Nov 30, 2019).

[15] Janine Natalya Clark, International Trials and Reconciliation: Assessing the Impact of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (2014).

[16] Diane Orentlicher, Some Kind of Justice: The ICTY’s Impact in Bosnia and Serbia 441–442 (2018).

[17] Id. at 441–442.

3. Cours ad hoc et tribunaux hybrides après la Guerre froide

J’ai prononcé cette conférence au Collège de France le 12 juin 2019 dans le cadre d’une série intitulée « L’histoire et avenir de la justice pénale internationale. » Une vidéo de cette conférence est disponible en ligne ici.


A.         Introduction

Membres du Collège de France, invités distingués, mesdames et messieurs. Bienvenue à la troisième et avant-dernière conférence sur l’histoire du droit pénal international. 

Jusqu’à présent, nous avions examiné le rôle de la justice pénale internationale après les Première et Deuxième Guerres mondiales. Aujourd’hui, nous nous concentrons sur la prochaine étape majeure sur le terrain, après la fin de la prochaine grande guerre mondiale, la guerre froide. En particulier, je ne parlerai aujourd’hui que de deux tribunaux créés après la chute du mur de Berlin, à savoir les tribunaux pénaux internationaux des Nations Unies pour le Rwanda, le TPIR, et celui de l’ex-Yougoslavie, le TPIY. J’ai travaillé pour ces deux tribunaux pendant un certain nombre d’années, il y a presque deux décennies, en tant que jeune avocat. Cependant, je mettrai un accent particulier ici sur le TPIR, car sans la période où j’ai travaillé avecs les auteurs du génocide et leurs victims au Rwanda, je ne parlerais pas français aujourd’hui. En fait, je ne travaillerais pas du tout dans ce domaine. 

Comme lors de mes conférences précédentes, j’utilise six thèmes pour explorer l’histoire des tribunaux ad hoc en général et du TPIR en particulier. Notamment, un exposé sur les procès, les objectifs des processus, les dimensions politiques derrière les procès, les alternatives aux poursuites pénales, le droit et les conséquences de ces poursuites.


B.         Narrative

Permettez-moi de commencer par un exposé sur les procès. Ici, j’entrerai un peu plus dans les détails que lors des conférences précédentes, car je souhaite faire le lien entre cette étape de l’histoire de la justice pénale internationale et notre conférence précédente et aussi préparer le terrain pour notre prochaine discussion sur la Cour pénale internationale permanente. Je vais vous parler de la guerre froide, vous présenter les tribunaux ad hoc, et vous parler de leur chevauchement avec d’autres cours et tribunaux. 

Premièrement, ces tribunaux ad hoc ont été créés par le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies à la fin de la guerre froide. Le terme guerre froide est, bien sûr, un terme impropre. Comme l’a fait remarquer David Kennedy, la guerre froide n’a été froide que pour les habitants d’un petit pourcentage des pays. Pour la grande majorité, la guerre froide a été très chaude car les superpuissances ont parrainé divers groupes armés dans le monde en se basant sur leurs engagements idéologiques et non sur leur respect des droits fondamentaux de l’homme. Les atrocités qui constituaient des crimes internationaux au cours de cette période n’ont pas manqué. La Corée, l’Algérie, le Vietnam, le Bangladesh, le Cambodge, le Timor oriental, l’Ouganda, l’Angola, la liste est encore plus longue. 

Très peu de ces atrocités ont été poursuivies en justice pendant la guerre froide. La politique des superpuissances a créé une impasse, ce qui signifie que l’idée d’une justice pénale internationale a dû attendre après la chute du mur de Berlin pour être mise en œuvre. L’idée de faire revivre le « précédent de Nuremberg » à la fin de la guerre froide a été accueillie avec triomphe. Comme l’a dit l’historien Joseph Perisco : 

« Après un hiatus de près d’un demi-siècle, Nuremberg est à nouveau sur les lèvres. Après plus de cent guerres, d’insurrections, de conflits civils et de révolutions qui ont déchiré le monde au cours des quarante-cinq dernières années et qui ont coûté la vie à plus de 21 millions de personnes, après à peine un souffle d’indignation contre des atrocités commises au nom de l’idéologie, de la libération, de l’indépendance et de la religion, les peuples ont enfin commencé à réclamer une justice capable de pénétrer les frontières nationales, une poursuite du type Nuremberg des criminels de guerre ».[1] 

Sur la base de cette perception, le monde a vu un véritable déluge de poursuites internationales après la guerre froide.  Un peu comme après le second guerre mondiale. Comme l’a expliqué l’auteur, Kathryn Sikkink, après la guerre froide, il existait une véritable « cascade de la justice », où un grand nombre de tribunaux internationaux se sont multipliés et où les procureurs nationaux ont commencé à poursuivre les auteurs de crimes internationaux devant les tribunaux locaux.[2] Selon l’une de mes thèses, nous pensions pouvoir enfin ressusciter le précédent de Nuremberg sans son défaut majeur : la justice du vainqueur. 

Cependant, l’idée que Perisco comportait d’importantes inexactitudes. Il y a aussi eu des procès importants pendant la guerre froide et ils ont fondamentalement changé la justice pénale internationale moderne. 

Par exemple, des agents israéliens ont enlevé Adolf Eichman d’Argentine et l’ont emmené en Israël où il a comparu devant un tribunal en 1961.[3] En outre, les procès de Francfort-Auschwitz tenus en Allemagne de l’Ouest entre 1963 et 1965 revêtaient également une importance capitale.[4] Ensemble, ces procès ont mis en lumière l’holocauste nazi, que le jugement de Nuremberg n’avait pas souligné dans son accent sur une guerre d’aggression.

En fait, comme nous le verrons plus tard au cours de cette conférence, ces procès ont aidé le génocide à l’emporter sur l’agression en tant que « crime des crimes » dans notre imagination. Les conséquences sont importantes. 

Dans le cadre de cette introduction narrative plus longue, je voudrais également vous parler de la manière dont les deux tribunaux ad hoc ont été respectivement créés en 1993 et ​​1994. Les procès de Leipzig ont eu lieu devant des tribunaux allemands locaux, sur la base d’une législation autorisant des crimes internationaux relevant du droit pénal allemand. En revanche, les tribunaux de Nuremberg et de Tokyo ont été créés par des traités, puis imposés à un ennemi vaincu. Le fait que les tribunaux pénaux internationaux ad hoc aient été créés par le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies en vertu du Chapitre VII de la Charte des Nations Unies constitue une distinction majeure. 

Je n’entrerai pas dans les détails techniques de la Charte des Nations Unies, si ce n’est pour souligner l’interprétation toute nouvelle et très créative qu’elle nécessite pour créer ces tribunaux internationaux. Le Chapitre VII de la Charte a donné au Conseil de sécurité le pouvoir sur toute « menace pour la paix, violation de la paix ou acte d’agression ». Une fois que le Conseil de sécurité est convaincu que l’un de ces critères est rempli, l’article 41 lui permet de prendre des mesures n’impliquant pas le recours à la force armée. Nulle part n’est-il mentionné que le Conseil de sécurité peut créer des tribunaux, mais le Conseil de sécurité s’est arrogé ce pouvoir. Ce fut un saut constitutionnel majeur. 

Dans le cadre de cette introduction narrative, je tiens également à souligner le réseau de tribunaux se chevauchant qui pouvaient commencer à poursuivre en justice ces auteurs de crime. À tous les stades de l’histoire de la justice pénale internationale, les tribunaux internationaux se sont chevauchés avec les tribunaux nationaux. Le procès proposé du Kaiser coïncidait avec des procès nationaux en Allemagne, en France et en Belgique. Les procès de Nuremberg ont coïncidé avec des procès nationaux en Israël, en Pologne, au Canada, en Allemagne et au-delà. En fait, les anciens nazis sont toujours jugés en Allemagne après leurs 90 ans.[5]

Il existe souvent une mosaïque de tribunaux, nationaux et internationaux, capables d’entendre ces affaires. 

C. Buts

Après cette longue introduction, je passe au deuxième de mes thèmes, les objectifs du TPIR. 

Il ne fait aucun doute que ce tribunal a également été inspiré par nombre des objectifs évoqués lors de conférences précédentes sur la justice pénale internationale après les deux guerres mondiales. Selon toute vraisemblance, les gens étaient en partie motivés par des représailles fondées sur l’indignation morale, par le désir de dissuader les atrocités à venir et par un intérêt pour le changement de régime après la violence parrainé par l’État. Je mentionnerai un objectif rècurrent et en soulignerai un tout nouveau. 

Tout d’abord, comme nous l’avons vu dans toutes les conférences précédentes, l’absurdité morale est une technique d’argumentation fréquente dans cette histoire. C’était vrai après les deux guerres mondiales, où les avocats ont affirmé qu’il serait pervers que le Kaiser échappe à la justice parce qu’il a envoyé des millions d’hommes commettre un crime pour lequel il serait immédiatement arrêté s’il le faisait lui-même, et quand Robert Jackson a parlé des petits criminels poursuivis pendant que les plus gros s’enfuient. Pendant la période de la guerre froide, il existait un argument équivalent, basé sur l’absurdité morale, qui avait un pouvoir politique important. Je l’appelle l’Absurdité de Genève.

Cela ressemble à ceci: si vous tuez une seule personne, vous êtes jugé pour meurtre; si vous en tuez dix, vous êtes jugé pour meurtre et dans de nombreux pays passible de la peine de mort; mais si vous tuez 10 000 personnes, vous êtes invité à Genève pour des pourparlers de paix. Les avocats de la justice pénale internationale ont cherché à saper cette absurdité morale après la guerre froide. 

Néanmoins, cette itération du droit pénal international a fait apparaître un nouvel objectif important et ambitieux: la réconciliation. Lors de la création du TPIR en 1994, le Conseil de sécurité a explicitement déclaré que le Tribunal « contribuerait au processus de réconciliation nationale et au rétablissement et au maintien de la paix ». Ce changement est très important du point de vue historique, car il reflète un changement de cap résultant d’une modification de la structure constitutionnelle du droit pénal international. 

Tout d’abord, remarquez que nous n’avons pas discuté de cet objectif auparavant. Après la première et la deuxième guerre mondiale, la justice pénale internationale n’a guère eu besoin de promouvoir la réconciliation; s’il devait y avoir une réconciliation, ce serait aux conditions du vainqueur. Mais en faisant appel aux Nations Unies pour établir des tribunaux ad hoc en tant que partie apparemment neutre après le génocide rwandais, la justice pénale internationale pouvait chercher hardiment à utiliser la justice pénale internationale comme un moyen de surmonter les rivalités et la haine entre ethnies. 

Cette aspiration était très novatrice et plus qu’un peu ambitieuse. Que faudrait-il pour que vous fassiez la paix avec quelqu’un qui a torturé à mort vos proches ? Combien êtes-vous clément ? Quels que soient les sentiments que l’on a au sujet de la réconciliation, il est essentiel de reconnaître son émergence ici et comment elle est rendue possible par le rôle neutre joué ici par les Nations Unies. 

D.        Considérations politiques

Cela nous amène à mon troisième thème, les considérations politiques. À ce sujet, je voudrais faire trois remarques principales. 

Premièrement, la création de ces tribunaux ad hoc visait à résoudre certains des problèmes liés aux procès de Nuremberg. Comme nous l’avons vu, chaque grande époque du droit pénal international tentera de remédier aux faiblesses d’une période antérieure. Cela était également vrai pour le TPIR. Lors de la création de la Cour, la secrétaire d’État américaine, Madeline Albright, aurait déclaré: 

« Les principes de Nuremberg ont été réaffirmés » 

Cependant, elle a ajouté:

« Ce ne sera pas un tribunal des vainqueurs. Le seul vainqueur qui prévaudra dans cette entreprise est la vérité. »[6] 

Pourtant, cette déclaration est trompeuse pour deux raisons. Premièrement, bien que le Tribunal pour le Rwanda n’ait pas été formellement la justice du vainqueur, il impliquait toujours que des États étrangers créent un tribunal sans le consentement des pays hôtes. Par chance, le Rwanda était membre du Conseil de sécurité au moment de la création du Tribunal. Le Rwanda a voté contre sa création. 

Deuxièmement, il existe une littérature suggérant qu’au bout du compte, le TPIR constituait une forme de justice de vainqueur dans la pratique. Le journaliste Thierry Cruvellier, qui suivait de près le TPIR, a conclu que le gouvernement rwandais était en mesure de contrôler le Tribunal de manière assez efficace en menaçant d’interrompre sa coopération avec lui, soit en interdisant aux témoins rwandais de se rendre au Tribunal en Tanzanie pour témoigner, soit en refusant d’accorder aux enquêteurs de l’ONU la sécurité au Rwanda.[7] 

Comme le Professor Victor Peskin a conclu dans son excellente etude sur ce sujet: 

« Les tribunaux internationaux des crimes de guerre qui ont vu le jour au début des années 1990 ont cherché à se démarquer de la première génération de tribunaux créés par les puissances alliées victorieuses à Nuremberg et à Tokyo près d’un demi-siècle auparavant… [e]n réalité, le TPIY et le TPIR se sont retrouvés dépendants de ces États cibles pour s’acquitter de leur obligation de coopération. » [8] 

Selon Cruvellier, cette dynamique a influencé des cas concrets et a empêché d’enquêter sur les atrocités prétendument commises par les Tutsi pendant le génocide, car elles impliquaient des membres du personnel alors au pouvoir. Si cela est vrai, cela rend le TPIR semblable au tribunal de Nuremberg; les deux tribunaux ont joué un rôle déterminant dans la poursuite des pires auteurs d’infractions, mais d’autres responsabilités importantes n’ont pas été assumées en raison de l’interaction de la politique avec la moralité. 

Troisièmement, le tribunal pour le Rwanda n’a pas résolu le problème d’égalité politique qui était si clair à Leipzig, Nuremberg et Tokyo. Ma propre expérience m’a permis d’y voir clair. Lors de mon enquête sur le génocide au Rwanda en 2000, des massacres avaient lieu à moins de cent kilomètres de là, en République démocratique du Congo. À bien des égards, ces atrocités étaient une continuation directe du génocide rwandais, juste transposé de l’autre côté de la frontière. Et pourtant, le même aveuglement délibéré et la même indifférence morale qui avaient toléré le génocide rwandais se manifestaient encore au Congo. 

À l’époque, ces atrocités n’étaient même pas discutées à l’Ouest. Ayant travaillé si étroitement avec les auteurs du génocide et leurs victimes, cette incohérence n’était pas une anomalie politique que je pouvais traiter dans l’abstrait. C’est devenu un problème personnel qui servirait de base à une carrière. 

E.         Alternatives

Cela nous amène au quatrième thème que je voudrais aborder, à savoir les alternatives aux poursuites. Au Rwanda, il y avait deux alternatives aux poursuites présentant un intérêt particulier. 

Premièrement, le Tribunal rwandais a toujours existé dans l’ombre de la décision de la communauté internationale de ne pas mettre fin au génocide de manière militaire. Comme on le sait, l’appétit des États-Unis pour une intervention humanitaire était très faible après que les corps de soldats américains avaient été traînés dans les rues de Mogadiscio peu de temps auparavant. Après que les Nations Unies ont réduit substantiellement leurs troupes présentes pendant le génocide, le général canadien Romeo Dallaire a déclaré qu ‘« aucun gouvernement n’a jamais trahi ses soldats comme l’ONU nous l’a fait  ». Et le répresentant néo-zélandais auprès du Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies à l’époque a décrit sa décision de ne pas intervenir militairement comme « comme si c’était demander aux Juifs de parvenir à un cessez-le-feu avec Hitler ». 

Le Tribunal pour le Rwanda a été créé en remords pour cette inaction. Cette même culpabilité a conduit à la célèbre doctrine de Responsabilité de protéger, qui cherchait à établir des bases pour une intervention militaire dans des pays où le Conseil de sécurité ne le ferait pas, afin de prévenir des catastrophes humaines telles que le Rwanda. 

Pourtant, nombreux sont ceux qui craignent que la Responsabilité de protéger ne devienne un cheval de Troie pour l’agression. Comme le souligne Christine Gray, de nombreux recours à la force depuis 1945 ont été publiquement justifiés, du moins en partie, pour des raisons humanitaires. Si nous faisons une exception pour une intervention humanitaire, nous pourrions simplement permettre plus de violence. Néanmoins, une intervention militaire antérieure constituait une alternative essentielle aux poursuites post-hoc, que l’on pourrait juger trop tardive. 

Deuxièmement, une commission vérité et réconciliation inspirée de l’expérience de l’Afrique du Sud est apparue comme une autre alternative évidente aux poursuites engagées à l’issue du procès. Sur le plan conceptuel, beaucoup ont fait valoir que le droit pénal visait à remédier aux comportements déviants dans une société, et non à la responsabilité pour actes répréhensibles répandus parmi la majorité de la société. 

En pratique, le Rwanda ne peut tout simplement pas juger tous les responsables. À un moment donné, quelqu’un a calculé qu’il faudrait plus de 200 ans à tous les avocats des États-Unis pour juger tous ceux qui sont détenus dans les prisons rwandaises après le génocide. Compte tenu des exigences des procès internationaux, à la fois en temps et en argent, des processus collectifs plus rapides étaient une possibilité distincte. 

En fin de compte, le Rwanda a mis en place un processus interne basé sur le principe de la vérité appelé Gacaca, bien que ce processus vienne de ses propres complexités et crée un autre niveau dans une mosaïque complexe de justice.[9] 

Comme je l’ai mentionné précédemment, il y a finalement eu des processus Gacaca locaux au Rwanda, des affaires devant des tribunaux nationaux rwandais, des affaires de compétence universelle dans des pays étrangers et des procès devant le TPIR.
 

F.         Le droit

Cela nous amène au cinquième thème dont je parlerai aujourd’hui, la loi. À cet égard, le Tribunal pour le Rwanda présentait des points communs avec les précédentes manifestations de la justice pénale internationale, ainsi que des points de divergence. 

Premièrement, le problème du droit rétroactif n’a pas été réglé par le Tribunal pour le Rwanda. Lors de nos précédentes conférences, nous avons vu comment ce problème était devenu un enjeu politique majeur après la Première Guerre mondiale, lorsque les États-Unis et les Pays-Bas se sont opposés à un tribunal international pour juger le Kaiser, car il faudrait pour cela appliquer une loi rétroactive. À Nuremberg et à Tokyo, ces mêmes États ont complètement changé leur position, concluant que le droit prospectif n’était qu’un principe de justice à mettre en balance avec d’autres. Dans des tribunaux ad hoc, ces problèmes se sont également présentés une autre fois. Les tribunaux ad hoc ont formellement désapprouvé le raisonnement de Nuremberg, promettant le strict respect de l’interdiction du droit rétroactif. En pratique, les réalités n’étaient parfois pas si différentes. 

Les tribunaux ad hoc ont dû utiliser des définitions du droit pénal international dérivées du droit international coutumier, qui est la pratique générale des États et acceptée en tant que loi. La difficulté était que le litige soulevait toute une série de questions sans précédent dans la pratique des États, plaçant ces tribunaux dans une position similaire à celle des tribunaux de Nuremberg et de Tokyo. 

Deuxièmement, le crime d’agression a curieusement disparu du droit pénal international après la guerre froide. Il a été littéralement exclu du statut du TPIR. Comme nous l’avons vu lors de nos précédentes conférences, les tentatives de procès contre le Kaiser après la première guerre mondiale et les procès de Nuremberg et de Tokyo après la seconde guerre mondiale concernaient principalement la responsabilité de mener une guerre d’agression. L’agression a été déclarée le pire des maux, en grande partie parce que toutes les souffrances de la guerre en découlaient. 

Cependant, comme Samuel Moyn l’a démontré, après la guerre froide, le droit pénal international est devenu moins préoccupé par la responsabilité pénale de la guerre et plus préoccupé par le génocide, les crimes contre l’humanité et les crimes de guerre commis dans le cadre de conflits violents.[10] Moyn soutient que ce changement marque un changement politique important et potentiellement inquiétant. La montée de la justice pénale internationale depuis la guerre froide a peut-être éclipsé la pensée pacifiste qui a dominé les ères précédentes. 

Troisièmement, les procès contre des hommes d’affaires qui occupaient une place aussi importante après la Seconde Guerre mondiale n’ont pas réapparu devant les tribunaux du Rwanda ou de l’ex-Yougoslavie. Comme nous l’avons vu dans notre conférence précédente, la crainte que les grandes entreprises aient incité ou facilité l’expanisionnisme nazi a suscité un vif intérêt pour la responsabilisation des hommes d’affaires. L’ouverture relative de la justice pénale internationale à tous les acteurs de l’ex-Yougoslavie et du Rwanda dans des délais déterminés semble avoir eu un coût. Les hommes d’affaires ne feront pas l’objet d’enquêtes ni de poursuites, malgré de nombreuses preuves de leur rôle dans la perpétration de l’atrocité. 

Bien que la loi permette de tels cas, les tribunaux ad hoc se sont écartés d’eux, montrant à nouveau comment la justice pénale internationale moderne pouvait être régressive par rapport à ce qui existait auparavant.
 

G.        Consequénces

Enfin, nous arrivons au sixième thème principal, les conséquences de ces épreuves. Encore une fois, je vais essayer d’être objectif, en proposant un ensemble limité de conséquences positives ainsi qu’une perspective plus critique sans être trop spéculatif. 

Premièrement, le TPIR a jugé un nombre important de personnes responsables de crimes très graves qui n’auraient pas été tenus pour responsables sauf pour cette institution. Quand il a finalement fermé ses portes, le tribunal avait condamné 61 personnes, en avait acquitté 14, renvoyé 10 devant des juridictions nationales pour jugement, renvoyé les dossiers de 3 fugitifs à un organe de surveillance permanent et retiré des actes d’accusation à l’encontre de 2 personnes. Si l’on croit en un châtiment fondé sur l’indignation morale, qui a toujours animé une bonne partie de ce domaine, ce dossier fournira une certaine satisfaction. 

Deuxièmement, avec le Tribunal yougoslave, cette cour a contribué à ce que la politologue Kathryn Sikkink appelle une « cascade de la justice ».[11] Soudain, des cours et tribunaux internationaux ont émergé en Sierra Leone, au Timor oriental, au Kosovo, au Cambodge et au-delà. Les États ont également commencé à poursuivre les crimes internationaux au niveau national, en mettant en place des unités chargées des crimes de guerre au sein de leurs propres services de poursuite judiciaire à cette fin. 

Certains de ces procès devant les tribunaux nationaux étaient historiquement importants. Par exemple, les procureurs néerlandais ont engagé des poursuites contre leurs propres hommes d’affaires pour crimes internationaux en Iraq et au Libéria, ce qui a relancé un précédent important de Nuremberg et bouleversé le modèle de justice des vainqueurs dont nous avons discuté au cours de ces conférences.[12] En outre, en entreprenant des recherches empiriques, les travaux de Sikkink suggèrent que ces procès ont des effets positifs sur les droits de l’homme dans toute la région où ils se déroulent. 

Troisièmement, les lacunes apparentes du TPIR ont inspiré une nouvelle variété d’institutions pénales. Alors que des tribunaux ad hoc tels que le Tribunal pour le Rwanda ont été mis en place en dehors des zones de conflit pour préserver leur indépendance, leur travail a été perçu comme étant trop éloigné des populations locales. En outre, les tribunaux ad hoc ne transféraient pas les compétences aux avocats et aux juges de ces pays, manquant ainsi une occasion de renforcer leur capacité juridique et l’état de droit. Des tribunaux hybrides en Sierra Leone, au Cambodge, au Kosovo et au Timor oriental ont par la suite été mis en place en tant qu’institutions à moitié internationales et à moitié nationales au sein des systèmes juridiques locaux pour répondre à ces préoccupations. 

Quatrièmement, les tribunaux ad hoc ont soulevé une myriade d’autres difficultés dont nous avons discuté: Ils étaient excessivement coûteux en temps et en argent, ce qui suggère que les ressources auraient peut-être été mieux dépensées ailleurs. Ils ont parfois été minés par des menaces de non-coopération, qui ont eu une incidence sur leur fonctionnement, leur crédibilité et leur légitimité. Ils étaient légalement régressifs à des égards importants, notamment en ce qui concerne l’agression et la responsabilité des entreprises et il y a peu de preuves claires qu’ils ont finalement contribué à la réconciliation comme promis.[13] 

Mais peut-être, comme le suggère le travail important de Dianne Orentlicher, leur valeur à cet égard devrait être mesurée en générations et non en années.[14] Comme elle le montre bien, ce n’est qu’après qu’une jeune génération d’Allemands a assisté aux procès de Francfort-Auschwitz en Allemagne de 1963 à 1965, sur le modèle des procès de Nuremberg, que la contrition allemande en vue de la Shoah a finalement émergé.[15] Ce sera peut-être la même chose avec le travail du TPIR.
 

H.        Conclusion

Je terminerai par une courte histoire. Il y a de nombreuses années, j’ai entendu un discours public prononcé par l’un des principaux procureurs belges impliqués dans la poursuite des Rwandais pour génocide. Visiblement affecté par certains des dilemmes impossibles auxquels se heurtaient les personnes décidant de risquer la vie de leur famille en refusant de participer au génocide rwandais, cet homme normalement calme criait parfois très fort: « Que feriez-vous dans la même situation? »

Une autre façon de poser cette question est la suivante : combien de fois prenez-vous des risques pour défendre ce qui est évidemment humain? Après le génocide, décider quelles formes de justice devraient être imposées était également un choix très difficile, mais il n’avait pas fallu autant de courage.  Si vous avez des questions, je me ferai un plaisir d’y répondre du mieux possible. 


[1] Joseph E. Persico, Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial ix (1995).

[2] Kathryn Sikkink, The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics (1 ed. 2011).

[3] Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: a report on the banality of evil (1992).

[4] Devin O. Pendas & Pendas Pendas Devin Owen, The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial, 1963-1965: Genocide, History, and the Limits of the Law (2006).

[5] Agence France-Presse, Former SS guard, 94, weeps at testimony of Holocaust survivors, The Guardian, November 6, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/06/former-ss-guard-trial-holocaust-survivors-germany-stutthof (last visited Nov 30, 2019).

[6] Julia Preston, U.N. Security Council Establishes Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal, Washington Post, February 23, 1993, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1993/02/23/un-security-council-establishes-yugoslav-war-crimes-tribunal/9e8e74d1-18e4-4998-bb53-f96466dbf4b3/ (last visited Nov 30, 2019).

[7] Thierry Cruvellier, Court of Remorse: Inside the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (2010).

[8] Victor Peskin, International Justice in Rwanda and the Balkans: Virtual Trials and the Struggle for State Cooperation 235 (2008).

[9] Nicola Frances Palmer, Courts in Conflict: Interpreting the Layers of Justice in Post-genocide Rwanda (2015).

[10] Samuel Moyn, From Aggression to Atrocity: Rethinking the History of International Criminal Law (2016), https://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=2805952 (last visited Nov 30, 2019).

[11] Sikkink, supra note 2.

[12] Voir, par exemple, James G. Stewart, The Historical Importance of the Kouwenhoven Trial,

The Historical Importance of the Kouwenhoven Trial
(last visited Nov 30, 2019).

[13] Janine Natalya Clark, International Trials and Reconciliation: Assessing the Impact of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (2014).

[14] Diane Orentlicher, Some Kind of Justice: The ICTY’s Impact in Bosnia and Serbia 441–442 (2018).

[15] Id.

2. The Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals as a Volte-face

This is a translation of a lecture I gave at the Collège de France on 6 June 2019 as part of a series entitled The History and Future of International Criminal Justice. A video of the French-language original of this lecture is available online here.


A.         Overview

Members of the Collège de France, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the second lecture on the history of international criminal law. 

Following on from our discussion last week about trials after the First World War, we will today discuss trials carried out after the Second World War.  In particular, I will focus on the Nuremberg trials using the themes I identified in the last lecture, notably, a narrative about the trials, the purposes of the processes, the political dimensions behind the trials, the alternatives to criminal prosecutions, the law and the consequences of these prosecutions.  

I have also researched and written about the Tokyo Tribunals. Because of limits of time, I will not address Tokyo here, but I am happy to answer questions about it at the end.  I hope you emerge with an understanding of, first, how the end of a major global war again produced a desire for international criminal law, second, how the forms of justice at Nuremberg were strong reactions against the failures we discussed last time, and third, how Nuremberg too embodies a major tension between morality and politics.

B.         Narrative Introduction to Trials Post WWI

I begin, then, with my first theme, which is a narrative overview of the Nuremberg Trials and their relationship with other criminal prosecutions after the Second World War. 

On 20 April 1942, representatives from the nine countries occupied by Germany met in London to draft the “Inter-Allied Resolution on German War Crimes”.  Over the following years, the major wartime powers agreed on the format of punishment for those responsible for war crimes during World War II.  

The legal basis for the trial was established by the London Charter, which was agreed upon by the four so-called Great Powers on 8 August 1945. The Nuremberg Tribunal was restricted to “punishment of the major war criminals of the European Axis countries”. 

The London Charter gave the Nuremberg Tribunal jurisdiction over, first, crimes against peace – the act of starting the war, second, war crimes – violations of the laws and customs of war while carrying out the war, and third, crimes against humanity – systematic violations of human rights including of their own nationals.  

Held between 20 November 1945 and 1 October 1946, the Tribunal accused 24 high-ranking Nazi party members, leading to twenty-one convictions and three acquittals. In retrospect, it is hard to fully understand how significant the trial was immediately after the war. The British Judge at Nuremberg called it “the greatest trial in history.”[1] Others described it as “the Ten Commandments, Magna Carta, and the Gettysburg Address all rolled into one.”[2] 

As part of this overview, I want to make three points.  

First, the trial of twenty four senior Nazi’s at Nuremberg was really the tip of a much larger iceberg. The four occupying powers staged a much larger number of trials for international crimes in courts established within the portions of Germany they occupied. The Allied Control Council issued its famous Control Council Law No. 10, creating a uniform legal basis for the prosecution of war criminals and other similar offenders in Germany by these different occupying forces.  

In their occupied zones, the Americans prosecuted slightly less than 2,000 Germans for international crimes; the French military tribunals convicted slightly more than this number. The British tried approximately 1,000 crimes; and the Russians organised a large number of prosecutions in Russian-occupied Germany that historians cannot quantify. 

Second, there were an enormous number of trials in national courts throughout Europe also. One of the leading historians of the Second World War, the Hungarian István Deák, reports “up to 2 to 3 percent of the population formerly under German occupation… was charged by national courts for collaboration with the enemy, treason, and war crimes”.[3] The use of the criminal law after the Second World War was clearly very extensive.  

With this very brief overview complete, I will move to the next of my themes.
 

C.         Purposes of Trials Post WWII

The second theme I use to frame this series of lectures is the purposes for these trials. As we saw with the Leipzig trials, the purposes announced for the trials at Nuremberg were numerous and the relationship between them was sometimes unclear. The Allies also issued warnings from London and Moscow about their intentions to prosecute international crimes, as a basis for deterring the perpetration of further crimes during the war.  I will not say more about deterrence here, because there are three purposes I would like to raise in greater detail. 

First, retribution based on moral outrage was again a primary motivation. As early as 1941, Churchill announced that retribution had become a core motivation for the war. He said “retribution for these crimes must henceforward take its place among the main purposes of the war.”[4] It was clear that moral outrage was the basis for this retributive spirit. In the Moscow Declaration of 1 November 1943, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin promised that those responsibility for atrocities would be brought to trial. Whereas high ranking Nazi’s would be tried in an international tribunal, they promised that others “will be brought back to the scene of their crimes and judged on the spot by the peoples whom they have outraged.”[5]  

As I argued in my previous lecture, many intuitively think of these motivations as base, but there are major philosophical defenses of retribution as measured, proportionate response to moral outrage.  In addition, whatever one thinks about retribution as a basis for punishment, historically speaking, it has always been a one of the primary purposes for international trials. 

The idea of moral absurdity was also employed after the Second War War. In the American Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson’s opening statement at Nuremberg, he said: “The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people.”  In other words, it would be morally absurd for only petty criminals to be punished by the criminal law if the very worst offending escaped justice.  

Citing morality again, Jackson’s opening speech argued that “the refuge of the defendants can be only their hope that international law will lag so far behind the moral sense of mankind that conduct which is crime in the moral sense must be regarded as innocent in law.”[6] As we saw at Leipzig, these moral absurdities are consistently used in attempts to advance the system of world governance. 

The last and new purpose I want to introduce here is regime change. It is important to note that the Nuremberg process was viewed as a key ingredient in denazifying Germany. There was a consensus that Germany needed to be reformed.  Robert Jackson believed that establishing a credible empirical record of Nazi atrocities would assist that process of Denazification.  He and others also believed that by providing an example of a fair trial, Nuremberg could demonstrate the value of the rule of law. This was important because criminal justice had been such a major part of Nazi oppression. Jackson’s opening speech started with a famous expression of this idea. He said:

“That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.”[7] 

Moreover, if Nuremberg could emphasize Rule of Law at a very high level, other laws could also be used to promote denazification.  As Maguire concludes “although the Nuremberg trials were the highest-profile legal proceedings, the vast majority of cases were tried by Allied denazification courts.”[8] 

One of the greatest purposes, however, was to avoid the terrible failure of trials after World War One.  As I mentioned during the last lecture, when the United Nations War Crimes Commission was established in 1943 to begin preparations for trials of Nazi’s, it’s Chairman announced that he was determined not to repeat “the fiasco of Leipzig.” As I will show momentarily, in many respects, Nuremberg would be the very opposite to Leipzig.

D.        Political Considerations

This brings us to my third theme, the political considerations with these trials. Here, we see the inverse of the failures of vanquished justice. Whatever good it did for the world, Nuremberg will forever remain known for the title Victor’s Justice.  In an abstract sense, this label just means that the victors used their power to impose criminal responsibility on their defeated enemy.  Morally and conceptually, this is objectionable because of the competing value of equality. As we will see in subsequent lectures, those pushing for accountability after Nuremberg would try to cure this one-sidedness. For now, I want to highlight three examples of what victor’s justice meant politically at the time. 

First, it is clear that the Allies were responsible for moral outrages too. Britain, for example, had carried out a sustained campaign of fire bombing of both Germany and Japan, killing hundreds of thousands of people.[9] They called this “morale bombing,” assuming that if you terrorized local populations, they would stop supporting the war. This assumption proved false. 

I will come back to Stalin’s responsibility for international crimes within Russia at the end of this lecture, but Russia’s responsibility for international crimes even arose within the Nuremberg Judgment. Russia had executed 11,000 Polish officers in the Katyn Forest.  Initially, this massacre was charged to Germans at Nuremberg, but the event did not feature in the judgement because it became evident that Russia and not Germany was responsible for the massacre.  Similarly, the historian Tony Judt reports that approximately 90,000 women sought medical assistance for rape in Berlin after Russian forces captured the city in 1945.[10] 

Uncomfortable parallels with colonialism also emerged throughout WWII trials. For instance, when Allied prosecutors quizzed Hermann Göring about lebensraum, the political concept that served as a pretext for Nazi expansionism, Göring remarked: “I fully understand that the four signatory powers [to the Charter] who call three quarters of the world their own explain the idea differently.”[11] Likewise, even Robert Jackson could not ignore the parallel between his cases against German industrialists for pillaging natural resources like coal, oil, and manganese from Occupied Europe and colonial practices. In a letter to President Truman written during the Nuremberg process, Jackson remarked cynically, “we are prosecuting pillage and our allies are practicing it.”[12]  

In other terms, Victor’s justice means that only part of the justice takes place, and that power decides which half.

E.         Alternatives to Prosecutions

This brings us to the fourth theme I hoped to discuss, that is alternatives to prosecution. At Nuremberg, the major alternative was summary executions.  

Apparently, during negotiations between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt at Yalta, Stalin suggested that the Allies should summarily execute 50,000 German officers.  Churchill had an associate named Lord Simon prepare a memorandum to this effect.  

On 15 September 1944, Churchill met with Roosevelt in Quebec where President Roosevelt approved a memorandum stating that “The President [of the United States] and Prime Minister [of Great Britain] have agreed to put to marshal Stalin Lord Simon’s proposal for dealing with the major war criminals.”[13]

In an example of the volte face, whereas Churchill was opposed to mass executions after the First World War, he actively endorsed them after The Second World War.  

On the same day as Churchill and Roosevelt agreed to the Simon Plan, the two leaders also approved another plan written by the American Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau.  The Morgenthau plan proposed removing all industry from Germany, reducing Germany to an agrarian society.  The Morgenthau Plan also proposed the summary execution of “arc-criminals” in occupied Germany. 

In fact, according to Robert Jackson, individuals within the US government even suggested turning over as many as half a million young Germans to the Soviet Union for ‘labour reparations.”[14]  Interestingly, a version of the Morgenthau Plan was leaked to the press in the United States, and a mass public outcry there led to the abandonment of the plan.[15]  

In all likelihood, the fact that Germans heard of the plan played a major role in its abandonment too. The Nazi government used the Morgenthau Plan for propaganda in the final months of the war to convince Germans to continue fighting. Goebels published an article in a German paper entitled “Roosevelt and Churchill Agree to Jewish Murder Plan!”[16]  

Faced with indiscriminate killing, the Germans fought far more fiercely. Apparently, the idea of trials based on wartime responsibility allowed Germans who were against Hitler to support the Allies, but mass executions did not. Perhaps here, international criminal justice had a pacifying influence.

F.         The Law

We come to the fifth principal theme I use to explore these histories, the law.  

Here, we again see a major volte-face by the same personalities involved in discussions about international criminal justice after the First World War.  As an initial observation, Churchill was very reluctant about criminal prosecutions after the Second World War, preferring executions until the very last moment.  He preferred these executions even after Stalin and Roosevelt were against them. So while Churchill was a strong supporter of international criminal trials after the First World War, his opinion had changed quite drastically by the time the end of the Second World War was approaching. 

Another major change came in discussions about whether Nuremberg would involve retroactive law. Recall that after the First World War, it was the Americans and Dutch who were strongly opposed to creating an international criminal tribunal to try the Kaiser.[17]  Recall also that the fact that this tribunal would create retroactive law was a crucial reason why they adopted these positions.  I cited Woodrow Wilson and others, who were opposed to retroactive law as a matter of principal.  And yet, after Nuremberg, the roles are reversed and exactly the same legal principles are declared law by those who had opposed them earlier. 

This is surprising because almost nothing had happened in the inter-war years to change the legality of aggression, crimes against humanity and war crimes to justify this change of position.  

The Nuremberg court concluded that the prohibition on retroactive law is a principle of justice to be weighed against others. Most importantly, “it would be unjust if this wrong were allowed to go unpunished.”[18] This reasoning had very important consequences. 

First, the transformation of treaties between governments into criminal law codes was important and very controversial. Let me focus on the crime of aggression, which is also known as a crime against peace, since it is relevant to our latter lectures.  

In 1928, sixty-three nations signed the so-called Kellogg-Briand Pact, which made going to war illegal. But the Pact said nothing about criminal responsibility for violating the pact, nor about making soldiers, politicians or businesspeople personally responsible for the violations.  Up until that time, all international law was relationships between states, not the criminal responsibility of individuals. 

In an exceptionally bold move, the Nuremberg Tribunal swept this all away in a single sentence. The Tribunal famously stated “crimes against international law are committed by men, not abstract entities.”[19]  Aggression became an international crime, even though there was no precedent for this apart from discussions after the First World War.  As we will see, this legal creativity would have an enormous effect on the world for decades to come. 

Second, the law was applied to businesspeople also. Originally, there were plans to hold two Nuremberg trials. After the first Nuremberg trial, the Allies wanted to stage a second focusing on the industrialists who had assisted or instigated Nazi expansionism by providing weapons, financing war, or pillaging natural resources from occupied Europe.[20]  This second trial never took place, largely because the Allies came to see German businesses as an important friend in the Cold War.  

Nevertheless, the main Nuremberg trial found Walter Funk responsible for pillaging natural resources in his capacity as President of the Continental Oil Company.[21]  Similarly, military courts set up by both the United States, France and Russia in Occupied Germany tried a number of other businesspeople from companies like IG Farben, Flick, Krupp and the producers of the chemical Zyklon B. [22] These cases were significant for several reasons. As we will see in our next two lectures, subsequent international courts would not replicate cases against businesspeople afterwards.

G.        Consequences of Trials

Finally, we come to the sixth principal theme, the consequences of these trials. Again, I will attempt to be balanced, offering positive consequences as well as a more critical perspective.  

First, the Nuremberg trial is literally a monument. If you ever go to Nuremberg, I highly recommend that you go to the Nuremberg Colloseum, which was the Nazi party rally grounds.  In my view, seeing this colloseum alone is worth the trip.  I will not ruin the surprise for you by sharing why, except to say that the colloseum is preserved as a monument to shame. When I was there, I asked myself how many other countries have these.  The Nuremberg trials are also a monument to shame. They were a history lesson that really defined Germany and the world. 

Second, the Nuremberg trials had a major effect on morality. The Medical Case, for example, radically changed medical ethics. The medical case was one of the first trials brought by the United States within its occupied zone pursuant to Control Council Law No. 10.  The trial of twenty-three Nazi doctors took place in the same courtroom at Nuremberg.  The allegations involved twelve different sorts of medical experiments on individuals held in concentration camps. 

Reading through just the list of accusations is extremely frightening experience. To do so produces feelings of moral shock and outrage that are such a key part of international criminal justice.  It is, quite literally, disgusting. In fact, many, I suspect, will read these allegations and argue that the defendants should be punished for moral reasons, regardless of the political considerations.  My main point with this illustration, however, is that the case led to major changes in the medical profession around the world, particularly the rise of informed consent as a basis for all medical procedures. 

Third, the Nuremberg trials affected our sense of responsibility. As the legal philosopher David Luban has argued, Nuremberg was a moral revolution.[23]  Luban points to a combination of several legal rules, including the idea of individual responsibility, the rule that superior offenses are no defense and the inability to cite national law to excuse oneself.  As Luban points out, this combination of rules set us all against our own superiors, societies and governments. It makes us answerable to our own consciences. It asks us to decide for ourselves, and demands far greater courage of us.  When the American Edward Snowden justified his disclosure of mass surveillance, he cited the Nuremberg trials.  

But what of the negative consequences? If the Nuremberg trials are a monument that ask us to remember, what do they ask us to forget?  Is it possible that the Nuremberg Trials are partly responsible for the denial we experience in our societies about Allied Atrocities during the Second World War?[24] How is it, for instance, that the deliberate campaign of firebombing both Germany and Japan, that killed hundreds of thousands of people, is reduced to a single incident in Dresden? Even the Dresden incident does not feature much in these discussions.  And what of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the ways our own societies were either complicit in or indifferent to the Holocaust. 

Perhaps Nuremberg helped us avoid that sense of responsibility, which underscores why it was Victor’s Justice.

H.        Conclusion

In conclusion, I hope you see how this history supports the theses I announced at the beginning of the first lecture.  I argued that the history of international criminal justice is often a reaction to the failures of a previous iteration of itself.  After the Second World War, we saw Churchill changing his mind completely about the benefits of trials as compared with executions.  After the First World War, he was for trials and against executions. Both changed. Likewise, the American and Dutch concerns about retroactive law, that prevented the trial of the Kaiser after the First World War were inversed after the Second. All of this is mere repetition. 

But I will finish with an illustration of another of my theses, the idea that international criminal justice is characterized by an inescapable tension between morality and politics.  In his famous book the Gulag Archepelago, the Russian author and dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn writes the following: 

“we will not do any of the things they did! But for the sake of our country and our children we have the duty to seek them all out and bring them all to trial!”[25]  

Much later, he also wrote the following: 

“no sooner did the first war crimes trial take place – the Nazis at Nuremberg – then we saw, elevated high upon the judges’ bench, the unblemished administrators of a justice system that during those same years handed over to torture, execution and untimely death tens of millions of innocent lives in its own country.”[26] 

At first, one is tempted to conclude that Solzhenitsyn became disillusioned with international criminal justice just like Churchill.  Personally, I prefer to read him as capturing the essence of this field.  That essence is the ability to hold together the crucial moral importance of accountability with the obvious evidence of political inequality.   In our next lecture, we will explore modern attempts to address this tension after the Cold War.


[1] James Owen, Nuremberg: Evil on Trial 98 (2007).

[2] Michael Biddiss, The Nuremberg Trial: Two Exercises in Judgment, 16 J. Contemp. Hist. 597–615, 611 (1981).

[3] István Deák, Intorduction, in The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and its Aftermath 3–14, 4 (István Deák, Jan Tomasz Gross, & Tony Judt eds., 2000).

[4] See Sheldon Glueck, The Nuernberg Trial and Aggressive War, in Perspectives on the Nuremberg Trial , 90 (Guénaël Mettraux ed., 2008).

[5] Declaration of German Atrocities, Nov. I, 1943, reprinted in 38 AJIL (Supp.) 3, 7-8 (1944). 

[6] Jackson Robert, Report of Robert H. Jackson, United States Representative to the International Conference on Military Trials, 1945 (1949), www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/pdf/jackson-rpt-military-trials.pdf.

[7] Id.

[8] Peter Maguire, Law and War: International Law and American History 114 (revised edition edition ed. 2010).

[9] See, for example, Freeman J. Dyson, Weapons and hope (1984).

[10] Tony Judt, The Past is Another Country: Myth and Memory in Postwar Europe, in The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and its Aftermath 293–324, 294 (István Deák, Jan Tomasz Gross, & Tony Judt eds., 2000).

[11] Gerry Simpson, Law, War and Crime : War Crimes Trials and the Reinvention of International Law 95 (2007).

[12] See David Bosco, Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics 29 (2014).

[13] See Telford Taylor, The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials: A Personal Memoir 31 (2013).

[14] Bradley F. Smith, The Road to Nuremberg 23 (1981).

[15] Taylor, supra note 13 at 34.

[16] Oona A. Hathaway & Scott J. Shapiro, The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World 256 (2017).

[17] William A. Schabas, The Trial of the Kaiser (2018).

[18] Judgment of October 1, 1946, International Military Tribunal Judgment and Sentence, 1 Trial Of Major War Criminals Before The International Military Tribunal (1947), at 219

[19] Id., at 223.

[20] See James G. Stewart, Corporate War Crimes: Prosecuting Pillage of Natural Resources (2010), http://ssrn.com/abstract=1875053.

[21] See Id.

[22] See Id.

[23] David Luban, The Legacies of Nuremberg, 54 Soc. Res. 779–829 (1987).

[24] See generally, Stanley Cohen, States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering (2013).

[25] Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: Volume One 177 (1997).

[26] Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The March of the Hypocrites, The London Times, August 21, 1997.

2. Les tribunaux de Nuremberg and Tokyo comme volte-face

J’ai prononcé cette conférence au Collège de France le 6 juin 2019 dans le cadre d’une série intitulée « L’histoire et avenir de la justice pénale internationale. » Une vidéo de cette conférence est disponible en ligne ici.


A. Introduction

Membres du Collège de France, invités distingués, mesdames et messieurs. Bienvenue à la deuxième conférence sur l’histoire du droit pénal international. Dans le prolongement de notre discussion de la semaine dernière sur les procès après la Première Guerre mondiale, nous discuterons aujourd’hui des procès menés après la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

Je me concentrerai en particulier sur les procès de Nuremberg en utilisant les thèmes que j’ai identifiés lors de la dernière conférence, notamment une narration au sujet des procès, des objectifs des processus, des dimensions politiques des procès, des alternatives aux poursuites pénales, du droit et des conséquences de ces poursuites.

J’ai également effectué des recherches et rédigé des articles sur les tribunaux de Tokyo. En raison des contraintes de temps, je ne parlerai pas de Tokyo ici, mais je suis heureux de répondre aux questions à ce sujet à la fin.

J’espère que vous comprendrez, tout d’abord, comment la fin d’une guerre mondiale majeure a suscité à nouveau un désir de droit pénal international, deuxièmement, en quoi les formes de justice à Nuremberg ont été des réactions fortes face aux échecs dont nous avons parlé la dernière fois, et troisièmement, en quoi Nuremberg incarne aussi une tension majeure entre la morale et la politique.

B. Narrative

Je commence donc par mon premier thème, un aperçu narratif des procès de Nuremberg et de leurs relations avec d’autres poursuites pénales engagées après la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

Le 20 avril 1942, des représentants des neuf pays occupés par l’Allemagne se sont réunis à Londres pour rédiger la « Résolution interalliée sur les crimes de guerre allemands ». Au cours des années suivantes, les principales puissances de la guerre se sont mises d’accord sur le format de sanction à imposer aux auteurs de crimes de guerre commis pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

Le fondement juridique du procès a été établi par la Charte de Londres, adoptée par les quatre grandes puissances le 8 août 1945. Le tribunal de Nuremberg était limité à « la punition des principaux criminels de guerre des pays de l’axe européen ».

La Charte de Londres donnait au tribunal de Nuremberg jusridicton pour, premièrement, les crimes contre la paix – le déclenchement de la guerre, deuxièmement, les crimes de guerre – les violations des lois et coutumes de la guerre pendant la guerre, et troisièmement, les crimes contre l’humanité – violations systématiques des droits de l’homme, y compris de leurs propres ressortissants.

Tenu du 20 novembre 1945 au 1er octobre 1946, le Tribunal a accusé vingt-quatre membres de haut rang du parti nazi, entraînant vingt et une condamnations et trois acquittements.

Rétrospectivement, il est difficile de bien comprendre l’importance du procès immédiatement après la guerre. Le juge britannique à Nuremberg l’a qualifié de « plus grand procès de l’histoire ».[1] D’autres l’ont décrit comme «les dix commandements, la Magna Carta et le discours de Gettysburg réunis dans un seul et même produit ».[2]

Dans le cadre de cet aperçu, je souhaite faire trois remarques.

Premièrement, le procès de vingt-quatre nazis de haut rang à Nuremberg était vraiment la partie visible d’un iceberg beaucoup plus grand. Les quatre puissances occupantes ont organisé un nombre beaucoup plus important de procès pour crimes internationaux devant des tribunaux établis dans les parties de l’Allemagne qu’elles occupaient. Le Conseil de contrôle allié a publié sa célèbre loi n ° (numéro) 10 sur le Conseil de contrôle, créant une base juridique uniforme pour la poursuite des criminels de guerre et d’ autres auteurs d’infractions similaires en Allemagne par ces différentes forces d’occupation.

Dans leurs zones occupées, les Américains ont poursuivi un peu moins de 2 000 (deux milles) Allemands pour crimes internationaux ; les tribunaux militaires français ont condamné un peu plus que ce nombre. Les Britanniques ont jugé environ 1 000 crimes ; et les Russes ont organisé un grand nombre de poursuites dans l’Allemagne occupée par la Russie que les historiens ne peuvent pas quantifier.

Deuxièmement, un très grand nombre de procès ont également eu lieu devant des tribunaux nationaux partout en Europe. Le hongrois István Deak, l’un des plus grands historiens de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, a rapporté que « jusqu’à 2 à 3% de la population anciennement sous occupation allemande […] a été accusée de collaboration avec l’ennemi, de trahison et de crimes de guerre ».[3] L’utilisation du droit pénal après la Seconde Guerre mondiale était manifestement très répandue.

Maintenant que j’ai terminé ce très bref aperçu, je passerai au prochain de mes thèmes.

C. Objectives

Le deuxième thème que j’utilise pour encadrer cette série de conférences est le but de ces procès. Comme nous l’avons vu avec les procès de Leipzig, les objectifs annoncés pour les procès de Nuremberg étaient nombreux et les relations entre eux étaient parfois peu claires. Les alliés ont également lancé des avertissements de Londres et de Moscou quant à leurs intentions de poursuivre les auteurs de crimes internationaux, afin de dissuader de nouveaux crimes pendant la guerre. Je n’en dirai pas plus sur la dissuasion, car j’aimerais aborder plus en détail trois objectifs.

Premièrement, le châtiment basé sur l’indignation morale était à nouveau une motivation première. Dès 1941, Churchill annonçait que le châtiment était devenu une motivation essentielle de la guerre. Il a déclaré que «le châtiment pour ces crimes devait désormais prendre sa place parmi les principaux objectifs de la guerre».[4]

Il était clair que cet outrage était à la base de cet esprit punitif. Dans la déclaration de Moscou du 1er novembre 1943, Churchill, Roosevelt et Staline ont promis que les responsables d’atrocités seraient traduits en justice. Alors que les nazis de haut rang seraient jugés par un tribunal international, ils ont promis que d’autres « seraient ramenés sur les lieux de leurs crimes et jugés sur place par les peuples qu’ils ont outragés ». [5]

Comme je l’ai expliqué lors de ma précédente conférence, beaucoup pensent intuitivement que ces motivations sont la base, mais il existe d’importantes défenses philosophiques des représailles en tant que réponse mesurée et proportionnée à l’indignation morale. En outre, peu importe ce que l’on pense de châtiment en tant que fondement de la peine, historiquement, c’est toujours l’un des objectifs principaux des procès internationaux.

L’idée d’absurdité morale a également été utilisée après la seconde guerre mondiale. Dans son discours d’ouverture à Nuremberg, le procureur général américain Robert Jackson a déclaré: « Le bon sens de l’humanité exige que la loi ne se limite pas à punir les petits crimes par les petites gens ». En d’autres termes, il serait moralement absurde que seuls les petits délinquants soient punis par le droit pénal si les pires infractions se soustraient à la justice.

Invoquant à nouveau la morale, le discours d’ouverture de Jackson affirmait que « le refuge des accusés ne peut être que leur espoir que le droit international sera tellement en retard par rapport au sens moral de l’humanité que le comportement constituant un crime au sens moral doit être considéré comme innocent par la loi. »[6] Comme nous l’avons vu à Leipzig, ces absurdités morales sont constamment utilisées pour tenter de faire progresser le système de gouvernance mondiale.

Le dernier et nouveau but que je veux présenter ici est le changement de régime. Il est important de noter que le processus de Nuremberg était considéré comme un élément clé de la dénazification de l’Allemagne. Il y avait un consensus sur le fait que l’Allemagne devait être réformée. Robert Jackson pensait qu’établir un registre empirique crédible des atrocités nazies faciliterait ce processus de dénazification. Avec d’autres, il estimait également qu’en fournissant un exemple de procès équitable, Nuremberg pourrait démontrer la valeur de la règle de droit. Cela était important car la justice pénale avait été un élément majeur de l’oppression nazie. Le discours d’ouverture de Jackson a commencé par une expression célèbre de cette idée. Il a dit :

« Que quatre grandes nations, exaltées par leurs victoires et profondément blessées, arrêtent les mains vengeresses et livrent volontairement leurs ennemis captifs au jugement de la Loi est l’un des plus grands tributs que le pouvoir n’ait jamais rendu à la Raison ».[7]

De plus, si Nuremberg pouvait insister sur l’état de droit à un niveau très élevé, d’autres lois pouvaient également être utilisées pour promouvoir la dénazification. Tandis que Maguire conclut, « bien que les procès de Nuremberg aient été la procédure judiciaire la plus médiatisée, la grande majorité des dossiers ont été jugés par des tribunaux de dénazification alliés ».[8]

L’un des principaux objectifs était toutefois d’éviter le terrible échec des procès après la Première Guerre mondiale. Comme je l’ai mentionné lors de la dernière conférence, lorsque la Commission des crimes de guerre des Nations Unies a été créée en 1943 pour commencer les préparatifs en vue des procès des nazis, son président a annoncé sa détermination à ne pas répéter « le fiasco de Leipzig ». Comme je le montrerai tout à l’heure, à bien des égards, Nuremberg allait être l’opposé de Leipzig.

D. Considérations politiques

Ceci nous amène à mon troisième thème, les considérations politiques de ces procès.

Nous voyons ici l’inverse des échecs de la justice vaincue. Quel que soit le bien qu’il a fait pour le monde, Nuremberg restera à jamais connu pour le titre de la Justice du vainqueur. Dans un sens abstrait, cet intitulé signifie simplement que le vainqueur a utilisé son pouvoir pour imposer une responsabilité pénale à son ennemi vaincu. Moralement et conceptuellement, cela est inacceptable en raison de la valeur concurrentielle de l’égalité. Comme nous le verrons lors de conférences ultérieures, ceux qui préconisent la responsabilité après Nuremberg essaieront de remédier à cette partialité. Pour l’instant, je tiens à souligner trois exemples de ce que la justice du vainqueur signifiait politiquement à l’époque.

Premièrement, il est clair que les alliés étaient également responsables d’outrages moraux. La Grande-Bretagne, par exemple, a mené une campagne soutenue d’attaques à la bombe contre l’Allemagne et le Japon, tuant des centaines de milliers de personnes.[9] Ils ont appelé cela « le bombardement moral », en supposant que si vous terrorisiez les populations locales, elles cesseraient de soutenir la guerre. Cette hypothèse s’est avérée fausse.

Je reviendrai sur la responsabilité de Staline à l’égard des crimes internationaux en Russie à la fin de cette conférence, mais la responsabilité de la Russie pour les crimes internationaux a même été soulevée dans le jugement de Nuremberg. La Russie avait exécuté 11 000 (onze milles) officiers polonais dans la forêt de Katyn. Initialement, ce massacre avait été reproché aux Allemands à Nuremberg, mais l’événement ne figurait pas dans le jugement, car il était devenu évident que c’était la Russie et non l’Allemagne qui était responsable. De même, l’historien Tony Judt rapporte qu’environ 90 000 femmes ont demandé une assistance médicale pour viol à Berlin après la prise de la ville par les forces russes en 1945.[10]

Des parallèles inconfortables avec le colonialisme sont également apparus lors des procès de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Par exemple, lorsque les procureurs alliés ont interrogé Hermann Göring sur le lebensraum, concept politique ayant servi de prétexte à l’expansionnisme nazi, Göring a déclaré: « Je comprends parfaitement que les quatre puissances signataires [de la Charte] qui appellent les trois quarts du monde les leurs expliquent le concept différemment.”[11] De même, même Robert Jackson ne pouvait ignorer le parallèle entre ses poursuites contre des industriels allemands pour pillage de ressources naturelles telles que le charbon, le pétrole et le manganèse de l’Europe occupée et les pratiques coloniales. Dans une lettre au président Truman écrite au cours du processus de Nuremberg, Jackson a déclaré avec cynisme: « Nous poursuivons en justice le pillage et nos alliés le pratiquent ».[12]

En d’autres termes, la justice du vainqueur signifie qu’une partie seulement de la justice a lieu et que ce pouvoir décide de quelle moitié.

E. Alternatives

Cela nous amène au quatrième thème que j’espérais aborder, à savoir les alternatives aux poursuites.

À Nuremberg, la principale alternative était les exécutions sommaires. Apparemment, lors des négociations entre Staline, Churchill et Roosevelt à Yalta, Staline a suggéré que les Alliés exécutent sommairement 50 000 officiers allemands. Churchill a demandé à un associé nommé Lord Simon de préparer un mémorandum à cet effet. Le 15 septembre 1944, Churchill a rencontré Roosevelt à Québec. Le président Roosevelt approuva un mémorandum indiquant que « le président [des États-Unis] et le premier ministre [de la Grande-Bretagne] ont convenu de soumettre au maréchal la proposition du président St Simon de traiter les grands criminels de guerre.”[13]

Comme exemple de volte face, alors que Churchill était opposé aux exécutions massives après la Première Guerre mondiale, il les a activement endossées après la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

Le même jour, lorsque Churchill et Roosevelt se sont mis d’accord sur le plan Simon, les deux dirigeants ont également approuvé un autre plan rédigé par le secrétaire américain au Trésor, Henry Morgenthau. Le plan Morgenthau proposait de supprimer toute industrie de l’Allemagne, réduisant l’Allemagne à une société agraire.  Le plan Morgenthau a également proposé l’exécution sommaire de « criminels de l’arc » en Allemagne occupée. En fait, selon Robert Jackson, des membres du gouvernement américain auraient même suggéré de renvoyer un demi-million de jeunes Allemands à l’Union soviétique pour obtenir des « réparations de main-d’œuvre ».[14]  Il est intéressant de noter qu’une version du plan Morgenthau a été divulguée à la presse aux États-Unis et qu’un tollé général a provoqué l’abandon du plan.[15]

Selon toute vraisemblance, le fait que les Allemands aient entendu parler de ce plan a également joué un rôle majeur dans son abandon. Le gouvernement nazi a utilisé le plan Morgenthau à des fins de propagande au cours des derniers mois de la guerre pour convaincre les Allemands de continuer à se battre. Goebels a publié un article dans un journal allemand intitulé “Roosevelt et Churchill acceptent le plan de meurtre juif!”[16] Confrontés à des assassinats aveugles, les Allemands se sont battus beaucoup plus violemment. Apparemment, l’idée de procès fondés sur la responsabilité en temps de guerre permettait aux Allemands opposés à Hitler de soutenir les Alliés, mais pas les exécutions massives. Peut-être qu’ici la justice pénale internationale a eu une influence pacificatrice.

F. Le droit

Nous arrivons au cinquième thème principal que j’utilise pour explorer ces histoires, la loi. Ici encore, nous voyons une volte face majeure des mêmes personnalités engagées dans des discussions sur la justice pénale internationale après la Première Guerre mondiale. À titre d’observation initiale, Churchill était très réticent à l’égard des poursuites pénales engagées après la Seconde Guerre mondiale, préférant les exécutions jusqu’au tout dernier moment. Il préférait ces exécutions même après que Staline et Roosevelt se sont opposés à elles. Ainsi, alors que Churchill était un fervent partisan des procès pénaux internationaux après la Première Guerre mondiale, son opinion avait radicalement changé à l’approche de la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

Un autre changement majeur est intervenu dans les discussions sur la question de savoir si Nuremberg impliquerait une loi rétroactive. Rappelons qu’après la Première Guerre mondiale, les Américains et les Néerlandais étaient ceux qui s’opposaient fermement à la création d’un tribunal pénal international pour juger le Kaiser.[17]  Rappelons également que le fait que ce tribunal créerait une loi rétroactive était une raison essentielle pour adopter ces positions.  J’ai cité Woodrow Wilson et d’autres qui s’opposaient au principe du droit rétroactif.  Et pourtant, après Nuremberg, les rôles se sont inversés et ce sont exactement les mêmes principes juridiques qui sont déclarés loi par ceux qui s’y étaient opposés auparavant.

Cela est surprenant car presque rien ne s’était passé dans l’entre-deux-guerres pour changer la légalité de l’agression, des crimes contre l’humanité et des crimes de guerre afin de justifier ce changement de position. Le tribunal de Nuremberg a conclu que l’interdiction du droit rétroactif constituait un principe de justice à mettre en balance avec d’autres. Plus important encore, “il serait injuste de laisser ce mal impuni.”[18] Ce raisonnement a eu des conséquences très importantes.

Premièrement, la transformation des traités entre gouvernements en codes de droit pénal était importante et très controversée. Permettez-moi de me concentrer sur le crime d’agression, également qualifié de crime contre la paix, dans la mesure où il est pertinent pour nos dernières conférences. En 1928, soixante-trois nations ont signé le soi-disant pacte Kellogg-Briand, qui rendait illégale la participation à la guerre. Mais le pacte ne dit rien sur la responsabilité pénale pour avoir violé le pacte, ni sur la responsabilité personnelle des soldats, des hommes politiques ou des hommes d’affaires. Jusque-là, tout le droit international était fondé sur les relations entre États et non sur la responsabilité pénale des individus.

Dans un geste exceptionnellement audacieux, le tribunal de Nuremberg a tout balayé en une seule phrase. Le tribunal a déclaré que « les crimes contre le droit international sont commis par des hommes et non par des entités abstraites ».[19] L’agression est devenue un crime international, même s’il n’y avait pas de précédents en dehors de discussions après la Première Guerre mondiale. Comme nous le verrons, cette créativité juridique aura un impact énorme sur le monde pendant des décennies.

Deuxièmement, la loi s’appliquait également aux hommes d’affaires. À l’origine, il était prévu d’organiser deux procès à Nuremberg. Après le premier procès à Nuremberg, les Alliés souhaitaient en organiser un second visant les industriels qui avaient aidé ou incité l’expansionnisme nazi en fournissant des armes, en finançant une guerre ou en pillant les ressources naturelles de l’Europe occupée.[20]  Ce deuxième procès n’a jamais eu lieu, en grande partie parce que les Alliés avaient compris que les entreprises allemandes étaient un ami important de la guerre froide.

Néanmoins, le principal procès de Nuremberg a conclu que Walter Funk était responsable du pillage de ressources naturelles en sa qualité de président de la Continental Oil Company.[21] De même, les tribunaux militaires établis par les États-Unis, la France et la Russie dans l’Allemagne occupée ont jugé plusieurs autres hommes d’affaires d’entreprises telles que IG Farben, Flick, Krupp et les producteurs du produit chimique Zyklon B.[22] Ces affaires étaient significatives pour plusieurs raisons. Comme nous le verrons lors de nos deux prochaines conférences, les tribunaux internationaux ne reproduiront pas par la suite les affaires contre des hommes d’affaires.

G. Conséquences

Enfin, nous arrivons au sixième thème principal, les conséquences de ces épreuves. Encore une fois, je vais essayer d’être objectif, et d’offrir des conséquences positives ainsi qu’une perspective plus critique.

Premièrement, le procès de Nuremberg est littéralement un monument. Si vous vous rendez un jour à Nuremberg, je vous recommande vivement de vous rendre au Colisée de Nuremberg, qui était le lieu de rassemblement du parti nazi. À mon avis, le seul fait de voir ce colisée vaut le détour. Je ne vous gâcherai pas la surprise en vous expliquant pourquoi, sauf pour dire que le colisée est préservé en tant que monument de la honte. Quand j’étais là-bas, je me suis demandé combien de pays en avaient. Les procès de Nuremberg sont aussi un monument de la honte. C’était une leçon d’histoire qui définissait vraiment l’Allemagne et le monde. Et, ces procès ont très probablement joué un role important dans la préservation du colisée tant que monument de la honte.

Deuxièmement, les procès de Nuremberg ont eu un effet majeur sur la moralité. L’affaire médicale, par exemple, a radicalement changé l’éthique médicale. L’affaire était l’un des premiers procès intentés par les États-Unis dans leur zone occupée en vertu de la loi n ° 10 du Conseil de contrôle. Le procès de vingt-trois médecins nazis s’est déroulé dans la même salle d’audience à Nuremberg. Les allégations portaient sur douze types d’expériences médicales sur des individus détenus dans des camps de concentration. Juste lire la liste des accusations est une expérience extrêmement effrayante. Agir de la sorte suscite un sentiment de choc moral et d’indignation qui fait partie intégrante de la justice pénale internationale.  It est, très literallement, dégoutant.

En fait, beaucoup, je suppose, liront ces allégations et soutiendront que les accusés devraient être punis pour des raisons morales, quelles que soient les considérations politiques. Ce que je veux surtout dire avec cette illustration, c’est que l’affaire a conduit à des changements majeurs dans la profession médicale dans le monde, en particulier à la montée du consentement éclairé en tant que base pour toutes les procédures médicales.

Troisièmement, les procès de Nuremberg ont affecté notre sens des responsabilités. Comme l’a expliqué le philosophe juridique David Luban, Nuremberg était une révolution morale.[23] Luban fait allusion à une combinaison de plusieurs règles juridiques, y compris l’idée de responsabilité individuelle, la règle selon laquelle les infractions supérieures ne constituent pas un moyen de défense et l’impossibilité d’invoquer le droit national pour s’excuser. Comme le souligne Luban, cette combinaison de règles nous oppose tous à nos propres supérieurs, sociétés et gouvernements. Cela nous rend responsables devant nos propres consciences. Cela nous demande de décider par nous-mêmes et exige beaucoup plus de courage de notre part. Lorsque l’Américain Edward Snowden a justifié sa divulgation de surveillance de masse, il a cité les procès de Nuremberg.

Mais qu’en est-il des conséquences négatives ? Si les procès de Nuremberg sont un monument qui nous demande de nous souvenir, qu’est-ce qu’ils nous demandent d’oublier ? Est-il possible que les procès de Nuremberg soient en partie responsables du déni que nous ressentons dans nos sociétés au sujet des atrocités commises par les Alliés pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale ?[24]  Comment se fait-il, par exemple, que la campagne délibérée de bombardement par le feu entre l’Allemagne et le Japon, qui a tué des centaines de milliers de personnes, soit réduite à un seul incident à Dresde? Même l’incident de Dresde ne figure pas beaucoup dans ces discussions. Et que dire de Hiroshima, Nagasake et de la manière dont nos propres sociétés ont été soit complices, soit indifférentes à l’Holocauste.

Peut-être que Nuremberg nous a aidé à éviter ce sens des responsabilités, ce qui explique pourquoi il s’agissait de la justice du vainqueur.

H. Conclusion

En conclusion, j’espère que vous voyez comment cette partie der l’Histoire soutient les thèses que j’ai annoncées au début de la première conférence. J’ai fait valoir que l’histoire de la justice pénale internationale est souvent une réaction aux échecs d’une précédente itération de celle-ci. Après la Seconde Guerre mondiale, nous avons vu Churchill changer complètement d’avis quant aux avantages des procès par rapport aux exécutions. Après la Première Guerre mondiale, il était pour les procès et contre les exécutions. Les deux ont changé. De même, les préoccupations des États-Unis et des Pays-Bas concernant le droit rétroactif, qui empêchait le procès du Kaiser après la Première Guerre mondiale, ont été inversées après la Deuxième guerre. Tout cela n’est que répétition.

Mais je terminerai avec l’illustration d’une autre de mes thèses, l’idée que la justice pénale internationale se caractérise par une tension inévitable entre la morale et la politique. L’auteur et dissident russe Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn écrivait dans son célèbre livre, le Goulag Archepelog :

« Nous ne ferons rien de ce qu’ils ont fait ! Mais pour le bien de notre pays et de nos enfants, nous avons le devoir de les rechercher et de les traduire en justice ! »[25]

Beaucoup plus tard, il a également écrit ce qui suit :

« À peine le premier procès pour crimes de guerre a-t-il eu lieu – les nazis à Nuremberg – que nous avons vu, élevés au-dessus du banc des juges, les administrateurs sans tache d’un système judiciaire qui, au cours de ces mêmes années, ont été soumis à la torture, à l’exécution et à la mort prématurée, des dizaines de millions de vies innocentes dans son propre pays. »[26]

Au début, on est tenté de conclure que Solzhenitsyn avait été désillusionnée par la justice pénale internationale, tout comme Churchill. Personnellement, je préfère le lire comme capturant l’essence de ce domaine. Cette essence est la capacité de maintenir l’importance morale cruciale de la responsabilité avec les preuves évidentes de l’inégalité politique. Lors de notre prochaine conférence, nous explorerons les tentatives modernes pour remédier à cette tension après la guerre froide.


[1] James Owen, Nuremberg: Evil on Trial 98 (2007).

[2] Michael Biddiss, The Nuremberg Trial: Two Exercises in Judgment, 16 J. Contemp. Hist. 597–615, 611 (1981).

[3] István Deák, Intorduction, in The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and its Aftermath 3–14, 4 (István Deák, Jan Tomasz Gross, & Tony Judt eds., 2000).

[4] See Sheldon Glueck, The Nuernberg Trial and Aggressive War, in Perspectives on the Nuremberg Trial , 90 (Guénaël Mettraux ed., 2008).

[5] Declaration of German Atrocities, Nov. I, 1943, reprinted in 38 AJIL (Supp.) 3, 7-8 (1944).

[6] Jackson Robert, Report of Robert H. Jackson, United States Representative to the International Conference on Military Trials, 1945 (1949), www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/pdf/jackson-rpt-military-trials.pdf.

[7] Id.

[8] Peter Maguire, Law and War: International Law and American History 114 (revised edition edition ed. 2010).

[9] Par example, Freeman J. Dyson, Weapons and hope (1984).

[10] Tony Judt, The Past is Another Country: Myth and Memory in Postwar Europe, in The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and its Aftermath 293–324, 294 (István Deák, Jan Tomasz Gross, & Tony Judt eds., 2000).

[11] Gerry Simpson, Law, War and Crime : War Crimes Trials and the Reinvention of International Law 95 (2007).

[12] See David Bosco, Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics 29 (2014).

[13] See Telford Taylor, The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials: A Personal Memoir 31 (2013).

[14] Bradley F. Smith, The Road to Nuremberg 23 (1981).

[15] Taylor, supra note 13 at 34.

[16] Oona A. Hathaway & Scott J. Shapiro, The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World 256 (2017).

[17] William A. Schabas, The Trial of the Kaiser (2018).

[18] Judgment of October 1, 1946, International Military Tribunal Judgment and Sentence, 1 Trial Of Major War Criminals Before The International Military Tribunal (1947), at 219.

[19] Id., at 223.

[20] See James G. Stewart, Corporate War Crimes: Prosecuting Pillage of Natural Resources (2010), http://ssrn.com/abstract=1875053.

[21] See Id.

[22] See Id.

[23] David Luban, The Legacies of Nuremberg, 54 Soc. Res. 779–829 (1987).

[24] See generally, Stanley Cohen, States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering (2013).

[25] Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: Volume One 177 (1997).

[26] Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The March of the Hypocrites, The London Times, August 21, 1997.

1. Vanquished’s Justice: International Criminal Trials Post WWI

This is a translation of a lecture I gave at the Collège de France on 31 may 2019 as part of a series entitled The History and Future of International Criminal Justice. A video of the French-language original of this lecture is available online here.


Welcome

Members of the Collège de France, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour for me to be here today to begin this series of four lectures on the history of international criminal Law at the Collège de France. Although I am not a trained historian, I have worked in this field for the last twenty years, first as a war crimes prosecutor in Rwanda and the Hague, then as an academic for the vast majority of that period. As an academic, I have spent much time and energy researching the history of the field over the past years. I hope that this combination of practical experience, scholarly research and engagement with history will provide a series of lectures that offer something of an orientation around this field that informs your views of its potential and shortcomings.

Overview of this Series of Lectures

Before I begin with the first period I hoped to discuss, I thought it might be useful to provide a short overview of the series of lectures.As you will note from the poster advertising this series of four lectures over the coming month, I address each of the main stages in the history of international criminal justice, starting today with trials post World War I and culminating in the establishment of the permanent International Criminal Court in the Hague sixteen years ago.

There is an interesting and brilliant new literature in international criminal justice criticizing this type a linear history because of everything it leaves out between these four major steps and because of the ways it falsely promises an inevitable degree of progress in this field.[1] My purpose, however, is not to suggest that whatever progress we might discern from this history suggests a system without flaws that flourish eternally. On the contrary, I have four theses about this history that I will return to consistently over the next four lectures:

First, for over a century now, the end of each major global war has resulted in the championing of international criminal justice to pursue a wide range of objectives that are not coherently defined or prioritized.

Second, I argue that international criminal justice is constituted by a tension between the very intense moral sentiments about responsibility for atrocity and the politics that tend to instrumentalize those sentiments on the other.

Third, the history of international criminal justice is often a reactionary attempt to reconstitute the balance between these poles, morality and power, in light of the shortcomings of an earlier period.

Fourth, it is unlikely that moral sentiment or power will ever claim final victory over the other in our thinking about accountability for atrocities. Consequently, the history of international trials reveal something significant about the potential and limitations of international criminal justice in the current global legal order.

I will not say more about these thesis now, but I will return to them within the four lectures and at the end to explain how the various histories we explore support them.

In terms of form, I use five themes to explain the history of international criminal justice during each period, hoping that the framework I adopt helps identify the conclusions I mention. The five themes I use as a framework in all of my four lectures include the following.

First, I begin this and subsequent talks with a narrative introduction to the trials in question, namely, trials post WWI, the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after WWII, the ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda after the Cold War, and the permanent International Criminal Court thereafter.

Second, I will explore the objectivesof trials for aggression, war, crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity as articulated in the establishment of each of these criminal justice systems. Because objectives are numerous and poorly reconciled with one another, I will identify one or two per period that are especially germane.

Third, I will discuss the political dimensions of these trials, particularly the relationship between the trials and the distribution of power within the global legal order. I argue that a core tension in the field of international criminal justice is between the instrumentalization of trials by the powerful and moral demands for both accountability and equality.

Fourth, I will assess alternatives to criminal prosecutions in each of the historical periods I discuss. As we will see, those alternatives include everything from mass executions to military intervention and truth and reconciliation commissions. By plotting different alternatives for each period, I hope to isolate the contingencies of each moment, which should reveal something about the identity of the field.

Fifth, I will talk about law. Law is important to this history because it functions as an crucial, sometimes decisive, political consideration in these histories. None of the law I mention is a minor technicality. Also, the same legal problems resurface time and again in all these periods, with some actors adopting inverse positions from one to the next. These volte face are also revealing of the field’s identity.

Sixth, I intend to speak about the consequences of these trials. Any assessment of the consequences of war crimes trials will struggle with proof of causation and risk an unjustifiable degree of speculation, but I hope to speak about ways in which these trials likely met their objectives in certain circumstances, as well the sometimes very negative repercussions that seem to have flowed from them in others.

A.         An Introduction to Trials After WWI

Let me start then, with trials post WWI. To my mind, the history of international criminal justice during and after WWI is best understood as involving at least three interconnected parts: first, unsuccessful attempts on the part of the victorious Entente governments to try the German Kaiser Wilhelm II before an international tribunal; second, a set of approximately 1,600 trials of Germany military in absentia (par contumace) in France and Belgium very soon after the war; and third, a largely farcical set of cases in the District Court of Leipzig that the Entente reluctantly agreed to after Germany refused to extradite its nationals to victorious nations.

To get you to the end before we begin with the details, the Kaiser lived out his days merrily in a Dutch castle without ever being tried anywhere; and the combination of the trials in absentia in France and Belgium on the one hand and in person by the courts of the defeated power in Leipzig on the other amounted to little more than a continuation of the war through litigation. Of the 1,600 individuals tried in absentia, it is unclear that any were ever apprehended. And at Leipzig, 861 out of 901 allegations were disposed of by a public declaration by the prosecutor that there was no case to answer, often in terms that deliberately defied contrary reasoning from a French or Belgian court.

B.         Objectives of the Trials

Having provided you with something of an overview, let me move to my first theme, the objectives of these post war trials. Many scholars have pointed out that the objectives of international criminal justice are multiple, largely implicit, and often contradictory.[2] I here introduce some of the objectives apparent from a reading of the WWI literature, leaving others for my subsequent lectures.

The first motivating factor for trials post WWI is retribution based on moral outrage. Europe had lost a large portion of the male population, leaving widows, orphans and scars. Thus, evidence of moral outrage and the retributive desires it produces are not difficult to find. Italy’s Prime Minister, Vittorio Emanuele Orlando,  for example, reported “a state of anger and grudge that exploded immediately after the armistice.[3] Similarly, French and Belgian witnesses who testified at Leipzig apparently “breathed hatred.”[4] Retribution transformed part of this strong sentiment into prosecutions. French President Clemenenceau, for example, called the proposed trial of the Kaiser “an act of international justice, of world retribution”.[5]

To be sure, a good part of the moral outrage after WWI was politically constructed through the use of Atrocity Propaganda.[6] Moreover, that rage was highly selective, very local, and harnessed for very particular political ends. Nonetheless, moral outrage was and remains omnipresent in all aspects of this field’s history. Moreover, while some scholars like Gerry Simpson view international criminal trials as “human rights with a vengeance,”[7] there is much philosophical literature defending retribution as an appropriate, proportional response to wrongdoing.[8] Regardless, as I will show, moral outrage has provided a major impetus for international trials.

One aspect of this moral outrage has proved to be especially successful in the history of the field, namely, public expressions of moral absurdity at the lack of accountability for atrocity. For instance, William Schabas’ excellent new history of attempts to try the Kaiser reveals a conversation between an American Colonel Luke Lea and the English Duke who was related to Wilhelm II. Arguing that Wilhelm should be tried, Lea argued as follows:

“Why should those not responsible for the war and against whom we had waged war— the German people— be killed, wounded and imprisoned, and the only person against who we had really waged war, the Kaiser, escape punishment, not ever being brought to trial but permitted to live in luxurious pomp and glory with all of his fabulous fortune untouched?”[9]

Similarly, the British Prime Minister Lloyd George shared his own moral absurdity in the following way. He said:

“Suppose that in peacetime, the Kaiser, acting alone had cross the Belgian border with a rifle and had fired on the inhabitants. The first Belgian policemen on the spot would have had the right to arrest him and to have him hanged. Should he go unpunished because instead of doing this himself, he sent a million men into Belgium?”[10]

I will return to these types of arguments regularly throughout these lectures because they are common features of the field. 

The arguments about moral absurdity are especially important in the ways they attempt to transform the global legal order. The major structural shift after the Peace of Westaphalia, following the thirty year war, was a system of global governance that made states sovereign and formally equal within the global legal order. After the Great War, many saw international criminal justice as a means of addressing moral absurdities within this global legal order.

For instance, referring to the public expectations these trials would produce, Clemenceau proclaimed that “justice will in future be done in the case of Kaisers and Kings just as much as in the case of common men. If this could be achieved,” calling international criminal law “a magnificent advance and a moral revolution.”[11] Likewise, Professor Larnaude observed triumphantly that “a new law of nations has been born,”[12] while Professor Hersch Lauterpacht described the prospect of criminal responsibility after WWI as a “solemn warning to any future aggressor.”[13]

Ideas like these conceived of this new justice as a tool to transform the global legal order after a colossal social upheaval, not merely as a mechanism for delegitimazing a vanquished enemy.

Of course, deterrence was also a major ambition. Paralleling wartime warnings the Allies issued from London during WWII, the French government declared on 5 October 1918 that “acts so contrary to International law, and to the very principles of human civilization, should not go unpunished.”[14] Presumably, the desire was to deter further crimes. This deterrence was also important to a British committee appointed to consider the the criminalization of international law. The commission concluded that an International Tribunal would “provide a deterrent and warning to highly placed officials.”[15]

Finally, incapacitation was a key rationale for trials post-WWI. The importance of incapacitation became especially apparent in the oftentimes heated debates between the Entente powers and the neutral Dutch government, which refused to violate principles governing neutrality by handing the Kaiser over for trial. After it was clear that the Dutch would not agree to a trial before an international tribunal, the Entente worked hard to have the Kaiser exiled, à la Napolean as they said, to a distant colony where he could not recommence war.[16]

When the Dutch disagreed to this also, Lloyd George wrote a strong letter arguing that, “What would have happened supposing Napoleon, instead of being captured and interned overseas, had managed to escape to Switzerland?”[17] Clearly, incapacitation was also a primary concern.

C. Political Dimensions of Trials Post-WWI

So what about the political dimensions of these trials? After WWI, the one-sidedness of the enforcement of international criminal law was apparent on many levels. For one, the copious evidence of German offending outside Europe was documented but ignored. The South African scholar Christopher Gevers has written an excellent article showing how the German Genocide of the Herero and Namaqua people in modern day Namibia was documented by the Entente, largely as a basis for stripping Germany of her colonies, but that this episode never featured in their thinking about international criminal justice after the war.[18] Likewise, historian Mark Lewis shows how both the Armenian Genocide and crimes by Bulgarian forces against its Balkan neighbours were largely overlooked in the very selective moral outrage that called for trials after WWI.[19]

But the way the Entente presumed that only enemy soldiers could be tried was the most striking aspect of this political one-sidedness. This one-sidedness was made very clear in negotiations with German officials about the “war guilt” provisions of the Treaty of Versailles when a German official promised that his country would submit its citizens to be tried before an international court that was populated by judges from neutral countries who had the power to indict military and political leaders from Entente powers as well as Germans. That this suggestion was quickly discarded raises the concern that these were “show trials.”[20]

Importantly, Germany was able to resist the Entente’s imposition of “victor’s justice” to an important degree. When Germany accepted the Treaty of Versailles, its major reservation was the “war guilt” provisions, which it flatly refused to comply with. Remarkably, the German government was prepared to risk everything. As Horne and Kramer observe:

“it is remarkable that a democratic government of the Republic [of Germany], which was prepared to accept a treaty that imposed severe territorial and economic restrictions, limited the army to 100,000 men, and banned conscription, should run the risk of collapse of the peace and invasion over accusations of criminal acts against the old regime.”[21]

But this is what transpired. As a consequence, Germany was able to negotiate what I call vanquished’s justice, where the country responsible for the atrocities agrees to try its own nationals for international crimes. WWI is the paradigm for problems this approach poses.

Overall, the post WWI trials are a story of power and resistance, all in the shadows of an intensive but selective moral outrage.

D. Alternatives to Prosecutions

This brings us to the fourth major theme, the alternatives to prosecutions. I focus on this theme here and throughout this series of lectures because it helps isolate the historical contingency of international criminal justice. Here again, I do not intend to be comprehensive in my treatment of the alternatives to prosecutions for international crimes. Instead, I will highlight what I perceive as an especially significant alternative in each epoch.

After WWII, a simple summary execution was the most obvious alternative to prosecution, but I raise it here only briefly because much more can be said about this in my next lecture on international criminal justice after WWII. Nevertheless, it is important for our later lectures to note discussions about subjecting the Kaiser to summary execution. After all, it is a point of great historical interest how the idea of a criminal trial emerged at all when “Hang the Kaiser” was a popular political slogan in Britain and likely throughout much of Europe at the time.[22] Certainly there was no shortage of precedent for the extra-judicial killing of a deposed leader at the time.

For now, it is sufficient to note how the possibility of a summary execution of the Kaiser registered at the highest levels of government after the Great War. William Schabas’s outstanding history quotes a British official’s written records as stating that the British Prime Minister Lloyd George, I quote “wants to shoot the Kaiser. Winston does not.”[23] As we will later see, that Winston Churchill disagreed with executions after WWI would later contrast with his thinking about Nazis after WWII. Winston Churchill was a staunch advocate of criminal prosecutions in the aftermath of WWI but he learned his lesson from Leipzig. In a dramatic example of the reactive changes of position I highlight at the beginning of this lecture, Churchill would advocate for mass executions of Nazis after the end of WWII.

Instead of focusing on execution, however, I here address the alternative of exile. At the time, Napolean Bonaparte’s exile to the isle of St Helena offered the obvious precedent for the Kaiser’s situation, not a trial before some newly established international tribunal.[24] Legal academics and politicians discussed the Napoleon precedent on many occasions leading up to and after the Treaty of Versailles. Napoleon too was only saved from execution by the British, who treated him as a prisoner of war. At the time, there was no substantial desire to try Napoleon for international crimes, even though his incapacitation was a major priority for the stabilization of Europe. After WWI, various committees, scholars and statesmen worked hard to differentiate Napoleon from the Kaiser in order to make space for the new justice, although there was broad recognition that both options were viable.[25]

Clemenceau, apparently, was strongly in favour of a trial because “he considered it would be very much more impressive.”[26] In a way, his hopes were largely dashed in the end, since the Kaiser lived out his days in the lap of luxury in a Dutch castle rather than facing any sort of judicial process. Yet, unlike in earlier periods, exile’s victory was only partial; the Kaiser’s subordinates were tried in criminal trials in absentia in France, Belgium and in person at Leizpig.[27] Nonetheless, much of the long, passionate and sometimes hostile negotiations about the Kaiser’s criminal responsibility set the stage for the rise of modern international criminal justice in subsequent years. As we will see, as examples of reactionary attempts to cure one iteration of international criminal justice of its earlier ills, many of the same actors adopted inverse positions when they came to consider exactly these same questions after WWII.

E.         The Law

This brings us to the fourth theme I want to use to explore the history of international criminal justice in all of the lectures I will give here. This fourth theme is the law. Like many facets of this history, the legal difficulties involved in prosecutions after WWI reappear many times at every stage of this history. Here, I will limit myself to two areas of law, notably, difficulties in deciding whether to apply international law or national law to these prosecutions, and the problem of retroactive law. Both these issues had enormous political significance after WWI.

First of all, the question whether to apply international law or national law to these prosecutions. In the end, post WWI justice applied both, but this dual application highlighted a major tension between these sources of law. This tension persists to this day. With respect to the Kaiser, an important question posed itself. Why not try him in regular military courts within France, Belgium or Britain?[28] Initial investigations suggested that national law would not be adequate to cover allegations of this sort, which was unsurprising given that much if not all of what the Kaiser was reproached for had no precedent. Apparently, an international tribunal could better find the law necessary.

In addition, the credibility of the condemnation was perceived to depend on the impartiality of the process as well as the prestige of the institution issuing the verdict, such that a unified tribunal would be best for a trial of this global significance. As the two leading French law professors Ferdinand Larnaude and Albert Geouffre de Lapradelle argued, “il faut une juridiction plus élevée, des débats plus retentissants, une scène plus grande.”[29] A national court would not be adequately powerful rhetorically.

Thus, by a process of elimination, the case for internationalising criminal prosecutions was made. National courts were politically controlled by the perpetrators, legally unprepared to deal with the issues, and structurally insufficient to condemn the offending with sufficient rhetorical force. Yet, the debate about whether national courts are preferable to an international one is still a central dilemma for modern international criminal justice. And as a leading British scholar of the period observed in 1929, in an article entitled Do We Need an International Criminal Court, “it does not follow that, because a process of elimination seems to drive us back on the idea of an international tribunal, a solution of the problem will be found there. It may be that there is no solution.”[30] This, apparently, was the case post WWI.

Taken as a whole, the system of accountability that resulted from the process I discuss here led to an overlapping network of national courts in France, Belgium and Germany, plus a rich public debate about an international tribunal for the Kaiser in particular. The law these institutions would apply varied substantially from one jurisdiction to the next.

For example, the Leipzig court applied German criminal law procedure but this did not satisfy all audiences. Claud Mullins, a bilingual Englishman sent to cover the Leipzig trials for the British observed that “[t]he system of judicial procedure prevailing on the continent differs in many essential points from that obtaining in England.”[31] As a harbinger for what would later emerge as a recurrent problem for ICL, he concluded his legal comparison by observing that “[t]his procedure will strike every English lawyer as strange and dangerous.”[32] As we will see, this socio-legal difference would mark a concern that would repeat itself in later iterations of international criminal justice too.

Retroactive law is a second recurring legal issue in the history of trials post WWI, which like the other topics I discuss here, had major political significance. Misgivings about retroactive law were crucial factors in the unwillingness of the United States government to support the creation of an international tribunal to try the Kaiser. In 1918, for instance, US President Woodrow Wilson stated plainly that “It is not right to make such an act a crime retroactively, to make an act of this type a personal crime after it has been committed.”[33] Others, like US Secretary of State Robert Lansing mounted something of a campaign against the tribunal, often citing retroactive law as the basis for his views. [34] Similarly, the dangers of retroactive law were also a basis for German protest against the idea of a new tribunal and a primary reason for the Dutch refusal to extradite the Kaiser. [35] All of this is especially intriguing, of course, since less than three decades later, exactly these same governments were active players in the establishment of a new set of international tribunals to prosecute the very same body of law whose existence they denied so vigorously after WWI. This again is evidence of reactivity to overcoming shortcomings of an earlier era.

F.         Consequences of the Trials

This brings us to our final theme, the consequences of these prosecutions. The consequences of criminal prosecutions are especially difficult to define with any degree of certainty at the best of times, so I will select some that seem particularly apparent to me from my reading of this history.

First, it is clear that vanquished justice failed as a project. After one of the first trials at Leipzig, the Belgians withdrew, calling the process “a travesty of justice.”[36] Moreover, after two days of discussion here in Paris in 1922, an Inter-Allied Commission called the trials “highly unsatisfactory” and “subjective, biased justice.”[37] For the Entente powers, the fact that the Leipzig court was an instrument for the perpetrators reduced many of the trials into exercises in propaganda that probably exacerbated hatred.  As the historian James Willis remarked “far from resolving the issue of war crimes punishment, the Leipzig trials created additional resentment between Germany and Belgium and France.”[38]

To provide two illustrations, while in Northern France in August 1914, Lieutenant General Karl Stenger was alleged to have ordered that “[a]ll the prisoners are to be massacred; the wounded, armed or not, are to be massacred; even men captured in large organised units are to be massacred. No enemy must remain alive behind us.”[39] Because many Frenchmen were killed as a result of this order, the French government listed Stenger at the top of its list of “war accused” it wanted extradited to France to stand trial pursuant to the Treaty of Versailles.[40] Within his trial in Leipzig, Stenger denied having issued the order despite evidence from his own subordinate to the contrary. Nonetheless, the Chief Reich’s Prosecutor, that is to say Stenger’s formal accuser, declared that “I believe him, as I said, completely.”[41] The purpose of his trial, therefore, and I cite the Prosecutor again was “merely to confirm this, especially to a foreign audience.”[42] After Stenger’s acquittal, a large crowd assembled outside the courthouse in Leipzig to present him with flowers and spit at the departing French delegation.[43]

In a second example that the leading historian of these trials Gerd Hankel explores, the relationship between the trials in absentia in France and Belgium and those at Leipzig is revealed. According to Hankel, in 1922, the German government wrote to the Leipzig Court about a Colonel von Giese, who had been sentenced to death in a trial in absentia that was held in Belgium. The German government’s letter explained that the Colonel “wishes that his case be completed in Leipzig as soon as possible,”[44] and that he “wishes to use the Reich Court decision for his further vindication domestically and abroad.”[45] The letter concludes that “[b]ecause the case is very beneficial to our propaganda purposes, I would be especially grateful if you could accommodate Colonel von Giese’s desire for rapid conclusion of his case.”[46] Apparently, the case was dismissed less than a month later as requested.

Apart from these concrete illustrations, there were undoubtedly a series of factors that might lead one to conclude that these trials exacerbated violence in addition to contributing to resentment. Several scholars suggest that the Entente was so motivated to stage these criminal procedures because they were important for justifying the colossal human and economic costs of the Great War in Britain, France and Belgium. If this is true, it would suggest that international criminal justice can contribute to war by helping justify it post hoc. In addition, as part of an exceptionally harsh peace deal that so thoroughly humiliated Germany, these trials may also have contributed to a resurgence of war decades later. Remember, war guilt was by far the most sensitive aspect of the Treaty of Versailles, and Germans risked war externally and revolution internally in order to avoid complying with these demands within a peace agreement that scholars agree was crippling. There were also accidents of circumstance with the Leipzig trials. Adolf Hitler, for example, first met Hermann Göering at a rally protesting the Leipzig trials in 1922.[47]

Of course, this history was ground-breaking for the notion of individual criminal responsibility for international crimes, which was based on moral outrage. As I say, having worked on atrocities personally, I take this moral outrage seriously, consider that it is often legitimate, and view it as embued with important political influence. But how we view trials brought about in its name will have to wait until we complete this series of lectures so that we can see where the central ideas announced after WWI have led us, and where they may go from here. It goes without saying, however, that the ideas about deterrence proved incapable of preventing a second global conflagration only decades later.

G.         Conclusion

In sum, much of the literature on international criminal law unjustifiably fixates on Nuremberg as the field’s genesis, but the history of international criminal law starts most clearly several decades earlier. After the Great War, there were multiple inconsistent objectives announced for this new notion of international criminal justice, but these were very closely linked to power. The idea of international criminal law was successful at forestalling executions, but only partially successful at overcoming exile as an alternative. The notion of vanquished justice resulting from Germany’s fierce resistance to assuming responsibility for the war was at best unhelpful and probably counterproductive. Still, it certainly created a body of experience the Allies would work very hard not to repeat after WWII. When the United Nations War Crimes Commission was established in 1943 to begin preparations for trials of Nazi’s, it’s Chairman announced that he was determined not to repeat “the fiasco of Leipzig.”[48] So the great reaction began. In the next lecture, I will address Nuremberg and Tokyo after WWII.


[1] See, for instance, Linear Law: The History of International Criminal Law, , in Critical Approaches to International Criminal Law: An Introduction 159–179 (Christine Schwöbel ed., 1 ed. 2014), https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781317929215 (last visited Nov 29, 2019).

[2] Mirjan Damaska, What is the Point of International Criminal Justice?, 83 Chic.-Kent Law Rev. 329 (2008).

[3] William A. Schabas, The Trial of the Kaiser 17 (2018).

[4] Claud Mullins, “Notes of a Conversation with Herr von Tippelskirch at Leipzig on Belgian & French War Trials,” Hanworth Papers, cited in James F. Willis, Prologue to Nuremberg: The Politics and Diplomacy of Punishing War Criminals of the First World War 134 (1st edition ed. 1982).

[5] Gary Bass, Stay the Hand of Vengeance : The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals 84 (2002).

[6] See, for instance, James Morgan Read, Atrocity Propaganda, 1914-1919 (1941).

[7] Gerry Simpson, Human Rights with a Vengeance: One Hundred Years of Retributive Humanitarianism Kirby Lecture in International Law 2015, 33 Aust. Year b. Int. Law 1–14 (2015).

[8] For a defense by one of the leading theorists in the English language, see Michael Moore, Placing Blame: A Theory of the Criminal Law (2010); For a literary critique of non-retributive theories of punishment, see C.S. Lewis, The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment, 3 Twent. Century Aust. Q. Rev. 5–12 (1949).

[9] Schabas, supra note 3 at 81.

[10] Id. at 187.

[11] Bass, supra note 5 at 85–86.

[12] Schabas, supra note 3 at 133; See generally, Ferdinand Larnaude & Albert Geouffre de Lapradelle, Examen de la responsabilité pénale de l’empereur Guillaume II d’Allemagne, 46 J. Droit Int. 131–238 (1919).

[13] Schabas, supra note 3 at 304.

[14] Claud Mullins, The Leipzig trials: an Account of the War Criminals’ Trials and a Study of German Mentality 5 (1921).

[15] Schabas, supra note 3 at 51.

[16] Id. at 56.

[17] Id. at 278.

[18] Christopher Gevers, The “Africa Blue Books” at Versailles: The First World War, Narrative, and Unthinkable Histories of International Criminal Law, in The New Histories of International Criminal Law: Retrials 145–166 (Immi Tallgren & Thomas Skouteris eds., 2019).

[19] Mark Lewis, The Birth of the New Justice: The Internationalization of Crime and Punishment, 1919-1950 (1 edition ed. 2014).

[20] Martti Koskenniemi, Between Impunity and Show Trials, 6 Max Planck Yearb. U. N. Law (2002).

[21] John Horne & Alan Kramer, German Atrocities 1914: A History of Denial 85 (1st edition ed. 2001).

[22] See Chapter 2, Schabas, supra note 3.

[23] Id. at 16.

[24] Id. at 38.

[25] Id. at 38.

[26] Id. at 65.

[27] See Gerd Hankel, The Leipzig Trials: German War Crimes and Their Legal Consequences after World War I (2014).

[28] Schabas, supra note 3 at 51.

[29] Larnaude and de Lapradelle, supra note 12 at 143.

[30] J. L. Brierly, Do We Need an International Criminal Court, 8 Br. Year b. Int. Law 81–88, 83 (1927).

[31] Mullins, supra note 14 at 88.

[32] Id. at 39.

[33] Schabas, supra note 3 at 178.

[34] Id. at 178.

[35] Id. at 178.

[36] Willis, supra note 4 at 135.

[37] Id. at 140.

[38] Id. at 134.

[39] Mullins, supra note 14 at 152.

[40] Liste des personnes désignées par les Puissances Alliées pour être livrées par l’Allemagne en execution des article 228 à 230 du traité de Versailles et du Protocole du 28 juin 1919, at 40.

[41] Hankel, supra note 27 at 101.

[42] Id. at 101.

[43] Willis, supra note 4 at 136.

[44] Hankel, supra note 27 at 360.

[45] Id. at 360.

[46] Id. at 360.

[47] Willis, supra note 4 at 141.

[48] History of the United Nations War Crimes Commission and the Development of the Laws of War, 111 (1948).

1. La justice des vaincus : les procès pour crimes de guerre après la Première Guerre mondiale

J’ai prononcé cette conférence au Collège de France le 31 mai 2019 dans le cadre d’une série intitulée « L’histoire et avenir de la justice pénale internationale. » Une vidéo de cette conférence est disponible en ligne ici


Bienvenue

Membres du Collège de France, distingués invités, Mesdames et Messieurs, c’est un grand honneur pour moi d’être ici aujourd’hui pour commencer cette série de quatre conférences sur l’histoire du droit pénal international au Collège de France. Bien que je ne sois pas historien de formation, je travaille dans ce domaine depuis vingt ans, d’abord comme procureur pour crimes de guerre au Rwanda et à La Haye, puis comme universitaire pendant la grande majorité de cette période. En tant qu’universitaire, j’ai consacré beaucoup de temps et d’énergie à la recherche sur l’histoire du domaine au cours des dernières années. J’espère que cette combinaison d’expérience pratique, de recherche scientifique et d’engagement dans l’histoire fournira une série de conférences offrant une orientation sur ce domaine qui vous permettra de mieux comprendre son potentiel et ses faiblesses.

Vue d’ensemble

Avant de commencer avec la première période que je souhaitais aborder, j’ai pensé qu’il serait peut-être utile de donner un bref aperçu de la série de conférences. Comme vous le constaterez sur l’affiche annonçant cette série de quatre conférences au cours du mois à venir, je m’adresse à chacune des principales étapes de l’histoire de la justice pénale internationale, à commencer aujourd’hui par les procès postérieurs à la Première Guerre mondiale et aboutissant à la création de la Cour Pénale Internationale permanente à La Haye il y a seize ans. Il existe une nouvelle littérature intéressante et brillante dans la justice pénale internationale qui critique ce type d’histoire linéaire en raison de tout ce qu’elle omet entre ces quatre étapes majeures et de la manière dont elle promet faussement un degré inévitable de progrès dans ce domaine. Mon but, cependant, n’est pas de suggérer que tout progrès que nous puissions discerner de cette histoire suggère un système sans défauts qui prospéreront éternellement.[1]

Au contraire, j’ai quatre thèses sur cette histoire sur lesquelles je reviendrai systématiquement au cours des quatre prochaines conférences:

Premièrement, depuis plus d’un siècle, la fin de chaque grande guerre mondiale a incité la justice pénale internationale à défendre un large éventail d’objectifs qui ne sont ni définis ni hiérarchisés de manière cohérente.

Deuxièmement, je soutiens que la justice pénale internationale est constituée par une tension entre les sentiments moraux très intenses à propos de la responsabilité pour des atrocités et les politiques qui tendent à les instrumentaliser de l’autre.

Troisièmement, l’histoire de la justice pénale internationale est souvent une tentative réactionnaire de reconstituer l’équilibre entre ces pôles, la moralité et le pouvoir, à la lumière des lacunes d’une période antérieure.

Quatrièmement, il est peu probable que le sentiment moral ou le pouvoir revendique la victoire finale sur l’autre dans notre réflexion sur la responsabilité pour les atrocités. En conséquence, l’histoire des procès internationaux révèle quelque chose de significatif sur le potentiel et les limites de la justice pénale internationale dans l’ordre juridique mondial actuel.

Je n’en dirai pas plus long sur cette thèse maintenant, mais j’y reviendrai dans le cadre des quatre conférences et à la fin pour expliquer comment les diverses histoires que nous explorons les soutiennent.

Sur le plan de la forme, j’utilise cinq thèmes pour expliquer l’histoire de la justice pénale internationale au cours de chaque période, en espérant que le cadre que j’adopterai aidera à identifier les conclusions que je mentionne. Les cinq thèmes que j’utilise comme cadre dans l’ensemble de mes quatre conférences sont les suivants.

Premièrement, je commence cette discussion et les suivantes par une introduction narrative aux procès en question, à savoir les procès postérieurs à la Première Guerre mondiale, les procès de Nuremberg et de Tokyo après la Seconde Guerre mondiale, les tribunaux ad hoc pour l’ex-Yougoslavie et le Rwanda après la guerre froide, et le tribunal permanent. Cour pénale internationale par la suite.

Deuxièmement, je vais explorer les objectifs des procès pour agression, guerre, crimes, génocide et crimes contre l’humanité tels qu’exprimés dans la mise en place de chacun de ces systèmes de justice pénale. Les objectifs étant nombreux et mal conciliés, je vais en identifier un ou deux par période particulièrement propices.

Troisièmement, je discuterai des dimensions politiques de ces procès, en particulier de la relation entre les procès et la répartition du pouvoir dans l’ordre juridique mondial. Je soutiens qu’une tension fondamentale dans le domaine de la justice pénale internationale réside entre l’instrumentalisation des procès par des revendications puissantes et morales en faveur de la responsabilité et de l’égalité.

Quatrièmement, j’examinerai les alternatives aux poursuites pénales au cours de chacune des périodes historiques que je discute. Comme nous le verrons, ces alternatives incluent tout, des exécutions de masse aux interventions militaires en passant par les commissions vérité et réconciliation. En traçant différentes alternatives pour chaque période, j’espère isoler les contingences de chaque moment, ce qui devrait révéler quelque chose à propos de l’identité du terrain.

Cinquièmement, je parlerai du droit. Le droit est important pour cette histoire car il constitue une considération politique cruciale, parfois décisive, dans ces histoires. Aucune des lois que je mentionne n’est un détail technique. De plus, les mêmes problèmes juridiques refont surface à maintes reprises dans toutes ces périodes, certains acteurs adoptant des positions inverses les unes par rapport aux autres. Ces visages sont également révélateurs de l’identité du terrain.

Sixièmement, j’ai l’intention de parler des conséquences de ces procès. Toute évaluation des conséquences des procès pour crimes de guerre se heurtera à une preuve de la causalité et à un risque de spéculation injustifiable, mais j’espère parler de la manière dont ces procès ont vraisemblablement atteint leurs objectifs dans certaines circonstances, ainsi que des répercussions parfois très négatives semblent avoir découlé d’eux chez d’autres.

A.        Un narrative des procès après la Première Guerre mondiale

Permettez-moi de commencer par les essais postérieurs à la Première Guerre mondiale. À mon sens, on comprend au mieux l’histoire de la justice pénale internationale pendant et après la Première Guerre mondiale comme comprenant au moins trois parties interconnectées:

a) d’abord, les tentatives infructueuses des gouvernements de l’Entente victorieux de juger l’Allemand Kaiser Wilhelm II devant un tribunal international;

b) deuxièmement, une série d’environ 1 600 procès d’armées allemandes par contumace en France et en Belgique peu de temps après la guerre; et

c) troisièmement, une série d’affaires largement ridicules portées devant le tribunal de district de Leipzig et que l’entente a acceptées à contrecoeur après que l’Allemagne eut refusé d’extrader ses ressortissants vers des nations victorieuses.

Avant que nous ne commencions avec les détails, le Kaiser a passé ses journées dans un château hollandais, sans avoir été jugé nulle part; et la combinaison des procès par contumace en France et en Belgique, d’une part, et en personne par les tribunaux de la défaite à Leipzig, de l’autre, n’était guère plus qu’une poursuite de la guerre par le biais d’un procès. Sur les 1 600 personnes jugées par contumace, il n’est pas clair qu’elles aient jamais été appréhendées. Et à Leipzig, le procureur a déclaré publiquement que 861 allégations sur 901 avaient été jugées publiquement sans réponse, souvent dans des termes qui défiaient délibérément toute motivation contraire d’un tribunal français ou belge.

B.        Les objectifs des procès

Après vous avoir donné un aperçu, laissez-moi passer à mon premier thème, les objectifs de ces procès de l’après-guerre. De nombreux chercheurs ont souligné que les objectifs de la justice pénale internationale sont multiples, largement implicites et souvent contradictoires.[2] Je présente ici certains des objectifs qui ressortent d’une lecture de la littérature de la Première Guerre mondiale, laissant d’autres objectifs pour mes conférences ultérieures.

Le premier facteur de motivation pour les essais postérieurs à la Première Guerre mondiale est la vengeance basée sur l’indignation morale. L’Europe a perdu une grande partie de la population masculine, laissant des veuves, des orphelins et des frayeurs. Ainsi, il n’est pas difficile de trouver des preuves d’indignation morale et des désirs rétributifs qu’elle suscite. Le Premier ministre italien, Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, par exemple, a déclaré «un état de colère et de rancune qui a explosé immédiatement après l’armistice».[3] De même, des témoins français et belges qui ont témoigné à Leipzig ont apparemment «haï la haine».[4] La rétribution a transformé en partie ce sentiment fort. dans les poursuites. Le président français Clemenenceau, par exemple, a qualifié le projet de procès du Kaiser de «acte de justice internationale, de vengeance mondiale».[5]

Certes, une grande partie de l’indignation morale qui a suivi la Première Guerre mondiale a été construite politiquement grâce à l’utilisation de la propagande Atrocity.[6] De plus, cette rage était très sélective, très locale et exploitée à des fins politiques très particulières. Néanmoins, l’indignation morale était et reste omniprésente dans tous les aspects de l’histoire de ce domaine. De plus, alors que des universitaires tels que Gerry Simpson considèrent les procès pénaux internationaux comme «une vengeance des droits de l’homme»,[7] de nombreux ouvrages philosophiques défendent le châtiment comme une réponse appropriée et proportionnée à un acte répréhensible.[8] Quoi qu’il en soit, comme je le montrerai, l’indignation morale a donné une impulsion majeure aux procès internationaux.

Un aspect de cet outrage moral s’est avéré particulièrement fructueux dans l’histoire de ce domaine, à savoir les expressions publiques d’absurdité morale face au manque de responsabilité pour les atrocités. Par exemple, l’excellente nouvelle tentative de William Schabas d’essayer d’essayer le Kaiser révèle une conversation entre un colonel américain Luke Lea et le duc anglais qui avait un lien de parenté avec Wilhelm II. Faisant valoir que Wilhelm devait être jugé, Lea affirma ce qui suit:

«Pourquoi les non-responsables de la guerre et contre qui nous avions fait la guerre – le peuple allemand – seraient-ils tués, blessés et emprisonnés, et la seule personne contre qui nous aurions réellement mené la guerre, le Kaiser, échappé à la peine à l’épreuve mais autorisé à vivre dans la pompe somptueuse et gloire avec toute sa fortune fabuleuse intacte?»[9]

De même, le Premier ministre britannique Lloyd George a partagé sa propre absurdité morale de la manière suivante. Il a dit:

«Supposons qu’en temps de paix, le Kaiser, agissant seul, ait traversé la frontière belge avec un fusil et tiré sur les habitants. Les premiers policiers belges sur place auraient eu le droit de l’arrêter et de le faire pendre. Devrait-il rester impuni parce qu’au lieu de le faire lui-même, il aurait envoyé un million d’hommes en Belgique?»[10]

Je reviendrai régulièrement sur ces types d’arguments tout au long de ces conférences car ce sont des caractéristiques communes du domaine.

Les arguments concernant l’absurdité morale sont particulièrement importants dans la manière dont ils tentent de transformer l’ordre juridique mondial. Le changement structurel majeur intervenu après la paix de Westaphalia, après la guerre de 30 ans, a été un système de gouvernance mondiale qui a rendu les États souverains et formellement égaux au sein de l’ordre juridique mondial. Après la Grande Guerre, beaucoup ont vu dans la justice pénale internationale un moyen de remédier aux absurdités morales au sein de l’ordre juridique mondial. Par exemple, se référant aux attentes du public que ces procès susciteraient, Clemenceau a proclamé que «justice sera rendue à l’avenir dans le cas des Kaisers et des Kings, tout autant que dans le cas des hommes ordinaires. Si cela pouvait être réalisé, le droit pénal international qualifierait de «magnifique avancée le progrès et de révolution morale».[11] De même, le professeur Larnaude a déclaré triomphalement qu «un nouveau droit des gens est né»,[12] tandis que le professeur Hersch Lauterpacht a décrit la perspective de la responsabilité pénale après La Première Guerre mondiale est un «avertissement solennel à tout futur agresseur».[13] Cette nouvelle justice a été conçue comme un outil permettant de transformer l’ordre juridique mondial après un bouleversement social gigantesque, et non comme un simple mécanisme pour délégitimer un ennemi vaincu.

Bien entendu, la dissuasion était aussi une ambition majeure. Parallèlement aux avertissements de guerre émis par les Alliés à Londres pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, le gouvernement français déclara le 5 octobre 1918 que «des actes aussi contraires au droit international et aux principes mêmes de la civilisation humaine ne devraient pas rester impunis»[14] d’autres crimes. Cette dissuasion était également importante pour un comité britannique chargé d’examiner l’incrimination du droit international. La commission a conclu qu’un tribunal international «constituerait un moyen de dissuasion et d’avertissement pour les hauts responsables».[15]

Enfin, l’incapacité était l’un des principaux arguments en faveur des essais postérieurs à la Première Guerre mondiale. L’importance de l’incapacité est devenue particulièrement apparente dans les débats souvent passionnés entre les puissances de l’Entente et le gouvernement néerlandais neutre, qui a refusé de violer les principes régissant la neutralité en renvoyant le Kaiser pour jugement. Après qu’il eut été clair que les Néerlandais n’accepteraient pas un procès devant un tribunal international, l’Entente avait travaillé dur pour que le Kaiser soit exilé, à la Napolean, dans une lointaine colonie où il ne pourrait pas reprendre la guerre.[16]  Lorsque les Néerlandais ont désapprouvé cela également, Lloyd George a écrit une lettre énergique affirmant que «Que se serait-il passé si Napoléon, au lieu d’être capturé et interné à l’étranger, avait réussi à s’enfuir en Suisse?[17]

C.        Dimensions politiques

Alors qu’en est-il des dimensions politiques de ces procès?

Après la Première Guerre mondiale, l’application unilatérale du droit pénal international était manifeste à plusieurs niveaux. D’une part, la preuve abondante d’infractions allemandes hors d’Europe a été documentée mais ignorée. L’universitaire sud-africain Christopher Gevers a écrit un excellent article montrant comment l’Entente a documenté le génocide allemand des peuples Herero et Namaqua dans l’actuelle Nambia, principalement pour servir de base à la destruction de ses colonies en Allemagne, mais que cet épisode ne leur réflexion sur la justice pénale internationale après la guerre.[18] De même, l’historien Mark Lewis montre comment le génocide arménien et les crimes des crimes commis par la Bulgarie contre ses voisins des Balkans ont été largement négligés dans l’indignation morale très sélective qui a appelé à des procès après la Première Guerre mondiale.[19]

Mais la manière dont l’Entente présumait que seuls les soldats ennemis pouvaient être fatigués était l’aspect le plus frappant de cette partialité politique. Cette partialité a été très clairement exprimée lors des négociations avec les autorités allemandes concernant les dispositions du Traité de Versailles relatives à la «culpabilité de guerre», lorsqu’un responsable allemand avait promis que son pays soumettrait ses citoyens à être jugés par un tribunal international composé de juges de des pays neutres qui avaient le pouvoir d’inculper les dirigeants militaires et politiques des puissances de l’Entente ainsi que les Allemands. Le fait que cette suggestion ait été rapidement écartée suscite l’inquiétude qu’il s’agisse de «procès-spectacles».[20]

Il est important de noter que l’Allemagne a pu résister à l’imposition de la «justice du vainqueur» imposée par l’entente. Lorsque l’Allemagne a accepté le Traité de Versailles, sa seule réserve concernait les dispositions relatives à la «culpabilité de guerre», auxquelles elle a catégoriquement refusé de se conformer. Remarquablement, le gouvernement allemand était prêt à tout risquer. Comme le notent Horne et Kramer, «il est remarquable qu’un gouvernement démocratique de la République [d’Allemagne], disposé à accepter un traité qui impose de sévères restrictions territoriales et économiques, limite l’armée à 100 000 hommes et interdit la conscription, dirige le risque d’effondrement de la paix et d’invasion d’accusations d’actes criminels contre l’ancien régime.»[21] Mais c’est ce qui s’est passé. En conséquence, l’Allemagne a pu négocier ce que j’appelle la justice vaincue, le pays responsable des atrocités acceptant de poursuivre ses propres ressortissants pour crimes internationaux. La Première Guerre mondiale est le paradigme des problèmes posés par cette approche.

Dans l’ensemble, les procès postérieurs à la Première Guerre mondiale sont une histoire de pouvoir et de résistance, le tout dans l’ombre d’un scandale moral intense mais sélectif.

D.        Alternatives

Cela nous amène au quatrième thème principal, les solutions de rechange aux poursuites. Je me concentre sur ce thème ici et tout au long de cette série de conférences, car cela contribue à isoler la contingence historique de la justice pénale internationale. Là encore, je n’ai pas l’intention de traiter de manière exhaustive les alternatives aux poursuites pour crimes internationaux. Au lieu de cela, je soulignerai ce que je perçois comme une alternative particulièrement importante à chaque époque.

Après la Seconde Guerre mondiale, une exécution sommaire simple était l’alternative la plus évidente à la poursuite, mais je n’en parle que brièvement ici, car on peut en dire beaucoup plus à ce sujet lors de notre prochaine conférence sur la justice pénale internationale après la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Néanmoins, il est important que nos conférences ultérieures notent les discussions sur la soumission du Kaiser à une exécution sommaire. Après tout, il est d’un intérêt historique majeur que l’idée d’un procès pénal soit apparue lorsque «Hang the Kaiser» était un slogan politique populaire en Grande-Bretagne et probablement dans une grande partie de l’Europe à cette époque.[22] Il ne fait aucun doute que le précédent en matière de mise à mort extrajudiciaire d’un défunt déchu n’a pas manqué.

Pour l’instant, il suffit de noter comment la possibilité d’une exécution sommaire du Kaiser a été enregistrée aux plus hauts niveaux du gouvernement après la Grande Guerre. L’histoire remarquable de William Schabas cite les écrits d’un responsable britannique selon lesquels le Premier ministre britannique Lloyd George, je cite «veut tirer sur le Kaiser. Winston n’est pas d’accord.»[23] Comme nous le verrons plus tard, le fait que Winston Churchill ne soit pas d’accord avec les exécutions postérieures à la Première Guerre mondiale contrastera par la suite avec ses idées sur les nazis après la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Winston Churchill était un ardent défenseur des poursuites pénales au lendemain de la Première Guerre mondiale, mais il tirait ses leçons de Leipzig. Dans un exemple dramatique des changements de position réactifs évoqués au début de cet article, Churchill prônerait des exécutions massives de nazis après la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

Au lieu de me concentrer sur l’exécution, je m’adresse ici à l’alternative de l’exil. À l’époque, l’exil de Napoléon Bonaparte vers l’île de Sainte-Hélène offrait un précédent évident pour la situation du Kaiser, et non un procès devant un tribunal international nouvellement créé.[24] Des juristes et des hommes politiques ont discuté du précédent de Napoléon à de nombreuses reprises avant et après le traité de Versailles. Napoléon n’a été sauvé que de l’exécution par les Britanniques, qui l’ont traité comme un prisonnier de guerre. À l’époque, il n’y avait pas vraiment de désir de juger Napoléon pour crimes internationaux, même si son incapacité était une priorité majeure pour la stabilisation de l’Europe. Après la Première Guerre mondiale, divers comités, savants et hommes d’État ont travaillé sans relâche pour différencier Napoléon du Kaiser afin de faire de la place pour la nouvelle justice, même s’il était largement reconnu que les deux options étaient viables.[25]

Clemenceau, apparemment, était fortement en faveur d’un procès car «il envisageait d’être beaucoup plus impressionnant».[26] D’une certaine manière, ses espoirs ont finalement été largement déçus, car le Kaiser a vécu ses journées dans le luxe un château hollandais plutôt que de faire face à une quelconque procédure judiciaire. Cependant, contrairement aux périodes précédentes, la victoire de l’exil n’était que partielle; les subordonnés du Kaiser ont été jugés dans des procès pénaux par contumace en France, en Belgique et en personne à Leizpig.[27] Néanmoins, la plupart des longues, passionnées et parfois hostiles négociations sur la responsabilité pénale du Kaiser ont ouvert la voie à la montée en puissance de la justice pénale internationale moderne au cours des années suivantes. Comme nous le verrons plus tard, nombreux sont les mêmes acteurs qui ont adopté une position inverse lorsqu’ils ont été amenés à examiner exactement ces mêmes questions après la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

E.         Le droit

Cela nous amène au quatrième thème que je souhaite utiliser pour explorer l’histoire de la justice pénale internationale dans toutes les conférences que je donnerai ici. Ce quatrième thème est la loi. À l’instar de nombreuses facettes de cette histoire, les difficultés juridiques liées aux poursuites après la première guerre mondiale réapparaissent à maintes reprises à toutes les étapes de cette histoire. Je me limiterai ici à deux domaines du droit, notamment les difficultés à décider d’appliquer le droit international ou le droit national à ces poursuites et le problème du droit rétroactif. Ces deux questions avaient une énorme signification politique après la Première Guerre mondiale.

Tout d’abord, la question de savoir s’il convient d’appliquer le droit international ou le droit national à ces poursuites. En fin de compte, la justice post-WWI appliqua les deux, mais cette double application souligna une tension majeure entre ces sources de droit. Cette tension persiste jusqu’à ce jour. En ce qui concerne le Kaiser, une question importante se pose. Pourquoi ne pas le juger devant des tribunaux militaires ordinaires en France, en Belgique ou en Grande-Bretagne?[28] Les premières enquêtes ont montré que la législation nationale ne suffirait pas à couvrir de telles allégations, ce qui n’était pas surprenant étant donné que la plupart des reproches adressés au Kaiser n’avaient aucun précédent. Apparemment, un tribunal international pourrait mieux trouver le droit nécessaire.

En outre, la crédibilité de la condamnation dépendait de l’impartialité du processus ainsi que du prestige de l’institution qui a rendu le verdict, de sorte qu’un tribunal unifié conviendrait mieux à un procès de cette importance mondiale. Comme le soulignaient les deux principaux professeurs de droit français Ferdinand Larnaude et Albert Geouffre de Lapradelle, «il faut une juridiction supérieure, il y a une juridiction supérieure, une scène plus grande.»[29]

Ainsi, par un processus d’élimination, l’internationalisation des poursuites pénales a été justifiée. Les juridictions nationales étaient contrôlées politiquement par les auteurs, juridiquement non préparées pour traiter les problèmes et structurellement insuffisantes pour condamner l’infraction avec suffisamment de force rhétorique. Pourtant, le débat sur la question de savoir si les tribunaux nationaux sont préférables aux tribunaux internationaux reste un dilemme central pour la justice pénale internationale moderne. Et en tant que grand spécialiste britannique de la période observée en 1929, dans un article intitulé «A-t-on besoin d’une cour pénale internationale», «cela ne veut pas dire que, parce qu’un processus d’élimination semble nous ramener à l’idée d’un tribunal international, une solution du problème sera trouvée là. Il se peut qu’il n’y ait pas de solution.»[30] C’est apparemment ce qui s’est passé après la Première Guerre mondiale.

Pris dans son ensemble, le système de responsabilité résultant du processus dont je discute ici a conduit à un réseau de tribunaux nationaux qui se chevauchent en France, en Belgique et en Allemagne, ainsi qu’à un débat public riche sur un tribunal international pour le Kaiser en particulier. La loi que ces institutions appliqueraient variait considérablement d’une juridiction à l’autre.

Par exemple, le tribunal de Leipzgig a appliqué la procédure pénale allemande, mais celle-ci n’a pas satisfait tous les publics. Claud Mullins, un Anglais bilingue envoyé couvrir les procès de Leipzig pour le compte des Britanniques, a observé que «le système de procédure judiciaire en vigueur sur le continent diffère de nombreux points essentiels de celui en vigueur en Angleterre.»[31] En tant que problème récurrent pour ICL, il a conclu sa comparaison juridique en observant que «[l] a procédure ira à tous les avocats anglais comme étant étrange et dangereuse.»[32] dans les éditions ultérieures de la justice pénale internationale aussi.

La loi rétroactive est une deuxième question juridique récurrente dans l’histoire des procès postérieurs à la Première Guerre mondiale, qui, à l’instar des autres sujets dont je traite ici, avait une signification politique majeure. Les réticences suscitées par une loi rétroactive sont des facteurs cruciaux du refus du gouvernement des États-Unis d’appuyer la création d’un tribunal international chargé de juger le Kaiser. En 1918, par exemple, le président des États-Unis, Woodrow Wilson, déclara clairement: «Il n’est pas correct de qualifier rétroactivement un tel acte, mais de faire de ce type d’acte un crime personnel après qu’il ait été commis».[33] L’État Robert Lansing a organisé une sorte de campagne contre le tribunal, invoquant souvent une loi rétroactive pour fonder son point de vue.[34] De même, les dangers de la loi rétroactive constituaient également une base pour la protestation allemande contre l’idée d’un nouveau tribunal et un motif principal du refus néerlandais d’extrader le Kaiser.[35] Tout cela est particulièrement intriguant, bien sûr, car moins de trois décennies plus tard, ces gouvernements ont joué un rôle actif dans la création d’un nouveau groupe de tribunaux internationaux pour poursuivre le même corps de lois dont ils avaient nié avec tant de force l’existence après la Première Guerre mondiale. Là encore, on constate une forte réaction face à la résolution des problèmes d’une époque antérieure.

F.         Conséquences

Cela nous amène à notre dernier thème, les conséquences de ces poursuites. Les conséquences des poursuites pénales étant particulièrement difficiles à définir avec le plus de certitude possible, je sélectionnerai celles qui me paraissent particulièrement évidentes à la lecture de cette histoire.

Premièrement, il est clair que la justice vaincue a échoué en tant que projet. Après l’un des premiers procès à Leipzig, les Belges se sont retirés et ont qualifié le processus de «parodie de justice».[36] En outre, après deux jours de discussions à Paris en 1922, une commission interalliée a qualifié les procès de «très insatisfaisants» et de «subjectives, une justice partiale ».[37] Pour les puissances de l’Entente, le fait que le tribunal de Leipzig soit un instrument pour les auteurs a réduit de nombreux procès à des exercices de propagande qui ont probablement exacerbé la haine. Comme l’historien James Willis a déclaré: «Loin de résoudre le problème des peines de crimes de guerre, les procès de Leipzig ont créé un ressentiment supplémentaire entre l’Allemagne, la Belgique et la France».[38]

Pour donner deux exemples, alors qu’en août 1914, dans le nord de la France, le lieutenant-général Karl Stenger aurait ordonné que «tous les prisonniers soient massacrés; les blessés, armés ou non, doivent être massacrés; même les hommes capturés dans de grandes unités organisées doivent être massacrés. Aucun ennemi ne doit rester en vie derrière nous ».[39] Comme de nombreux Français ont été tués à la suite de cet ordre, le gouvernement français a classé Stenger en tête de sa liste des «accusés de guerre» qu’il voulait extradés vers la France pour y être jugés en vertu du Traité de Versailles.[40] Au cours de son procès à Leipzig, Stenger a nié avoir rendu l’ordre malgré les preuves de son subordonné. Néanmoins, le procureur du chef du Reich, c’est-à-dire l’accusateur formel de Stenger, a déclaré: «Je le crois, comme je l’ai dit, complètement.»[41] Le but de son procès, et je cite à nouveau le procureur, était donc simplement «de le confirmer, spécialement à un public étranger.»[42] Après l’acquittement de Stenger, une foule nombreuse s’est rassemblée devant le palais de justice de Leipzig pour le présenter avec des fleurs et cracher à la délégation française en partance.[43]

Dans un deuxième exemple que l’explorateur principal de ces procès, Gerd Hankel, explore, on révèle la relation entre les procès in absentia (par coutumace) en France et en Belgique et ceux de Leipzig. Selon Hankel, en 1922, le gouvernement allemand avait écrit au tribunal de Leipzig au sujet d’un colonel von Giese, condamné à mort lors d’un procès par contumace tenu en Belgique. Dans sa lettre, le gouvernement allemand expliquait que le colonel «souhaitait que son dossier soit réglé à Leipzig dans les meilleurs délais»[44] et qu’il «souhaitait utiliser la décision de la Cour du Reich pour faire valoir ses droits dans le pays et à l’étranger».[45] La lettre conclut que «Etant donné que l’affaire est très bénéfique pour nos objectifs de propagande, je vous serais particulièrement reconnaissant de bien vouloir accepter le désir du colonel von Giese de voir son affaire aboutir rapidement.»[46] L’affaire a apparemment été classée moins d’un mois plus tard, comme demandé.

Indépendamment de ces illustrations concrètes, il existe sans aucun doute une série de facteurs permettant de conclure que ces procès exacerbent la violence en plus de contribuer au ressentiment. Plusieurs spécialistes suggèrent que l’Entente était tellement motivée pour organiser ces procédures pénales, car elles étaient importantes pour justifier les coûts humains et économiques colossaux de la Grande Guerre en Grande-Bretagne, en France et en Belgique. Si cela est vrai, cela suggérerait que la justice pénale internationale puisse contribuer à la guerre en aidant à la justifier de manière post-hoc. En outre, dans le cadre d’un accord de paix exceptionnellement dur qui humiliait si profondément l’Allemagne, ces procès pourraient également avoir contribué à la résurgence de la guerre des décennies plus tard. Rappelez-vous que la culpabilité de la guerre était de loin l’aspect le plus sensible du Traité de Versailles et que les Allemands couraient le risque de faire la guerre à l’extérieur et de faire la révolution à l’intérieur afin d’éviter de se conformer à ces exigences dans le cadre d’un accord de paix que les érudits jugeaient paralysant. Il y a eu aussi des accidents de fait avec les procès de Leipzig. Adolf Hitler, par exemple, a rencontré pour la première fois Hermann Göering lors d’un rassemblement de protestation contre les procès de Leipzig en 1922.[47]

Bien entendu, cette histoire était révolutionnaire pour la notion de responsabilité pénale individuelle pour les crimes internationaux, qui prenait au sérieux l’indignation morale née des atrocités. Comme je l’ai dit, après avoir travaillé personnellement sur les atrocités, je prends cet outrage moral au sérieux, considère qu’il est souvent légitime et le considère comme doté d’une influence politique importante. Mais la manière dont nous percevons les procès en son nom devra attendre que nous ayons terminé cette série de conférences pour pouvoir voir où les idées centrales annoncées après la Première Guerre mondiale nous ont conduites et où elles peuvent aboutir. Il va sans dire cependant que les idées sur la dissuasion se sont avérées incapables d’empêcher une deuxième conflagration mondiale seulement des décennies plus tard.

G.        Conclusion

En résumé, une grande partie de la littérature sur le droit pénal international s’appuie de manière injustifiée sur Nuremberg, mais l’histoire du droit pénal international remonte très clairement plusieurs décennies plus tôt. Après la Grande Guerre, de nombreux objectifs incohérents avaient été annoncés pour cette «nouvelle justice», mais ils étaient très étroitement liés au pouvoir. L’idée du droit pénal international a réussi à prévenir les exécutions, mais seulement partiellement à vaincre l’exil. La notion de justice vaincue résultant de la résistance acharnée des Allemands à assumer la responsabilité de la guerre était au mieux inutile et probablement contre-productive. Néanmoins, cela créait certainement une expérience que les Alliés travailleraient très dur pour ne pas répéter. Lorsque la Commission des Nations Unies pour les crimes de guerre a été créée en 1943 pour commencer les préparatifs des procès des nazis, son président a annoncé sa détermination à ne pas répéter «le fiasco de Leipzig.»[48] La grande réaction a donc commencé. Lors de la prochaine conférence, je parlerai de Nuremberg et de Tokyo après la Seconde Guerre mondiale.


[1] Par exemple, Linear Law: The History of International Criminal Law, , in Critical Approaches to International Criminal Law: An Introduction 159–179 (Christine Schwöbel ed., 1 ed. 2014), https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781317929215 (last visited Nov 29, 2019).

[2] Mirjan Damaska, What is the Point of International Criminal Justice?, 83 Chic.-Kent Law Rev. 329 (2008).

[3] William A. Schabas, The Trial of the Kaiser 17 (2018).

[4] Claud Mullins, “Notes of a Conversation with Herr von Tippelskirch at Leipzig on Belgian & French War Trials,” Hanworth Papers, cited in James F. Willis, Prologue to Nuremberg: The Politics and Diplomacy of Punishing War Criminals of the First World War 134 (1st edition ed. 1982).

[5] Gary Bass, Stay the Hand of Vengeance : The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals 84 (2002).

[6] Par exemple, James Morgan Read, Atrocity Propaganda, 1914-1919 (1941).

[7] Gerry Simpson, Human Rights with a Vengeance: One Hundred Years of Retributive Humanitarianism Kirby Lecture in International Law 2015, 33 Aust. Year b. Int. Law 1–14 (2015).

[8] For a defense by one of the leading theorists in the English language, see Michael Moore, Placing Blame: A Theory of the Criminal Law (2010); For a literary critique of non-retributive theories of punishment, see C.S. Lewis, The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment, 3 Twent. Century Aust. Q. Rev. 5–12 (1949).

[9] Schabas, supra note 3 at 81.

[10] Id. at 187.

[11] Bass, supra note 5 at 85–86.

[12] Schabas, supra note 3 at 133; See generally, Ferdinand Larnaude & Albert Geouffre de Lapradelle, Examen de la responsabilité pénale de l’empereur Guillaume II d’Allemagne, 46 J. Droit Int. 131–238 (1919).

[13] Schabas, supra note 3 at 304.

[14] Claud Mullins, The Leipzig trials: an Account of the War Criminals’ Trials and a Study of German Mentality 5 (1921).

[15] Schabas, supra note 3 at 51.

[16] Id. at 56.

[17] Id. at 278.

[18] Christopher Gevers, The “Africa Blue Books” at Versailles: The First World War, Narrative, and Unthinkable Histories of International Criminal Law, in The New Histories of International Criminal Law: Retrials 145–166 (Immi Tallgren & Thomas Skouteris eds., 2019).

[19] Mark Lewis, The Birth of the New Justice: The Internationalization of Crime and Punishment, 1919-1950 (1 edition ed. 2014).

[20] Martti Koskenniemi, Between Impunity and Show Trials, 6 Max Planck Yearb. U. N. Law (2002).

[21] John Horne & Alan Kramer, German Atrocities 1914: A History of Denial 85 (1st edition ed. 2001).

[22] See Chapter 2, Schabas, supra note 3.

[23] Id. at 16.

[24] Id. at 38.

[25] Id. at 38.

[26] Id. at 65.

[27] See Gerd Hankel, The Leipzig Trials: German War Crimes and Their Legal Consequences after World War I (2014).

[28] Schabas, supra note 3 at 51.

[29] Larnaude and de Lapradelle, supra note 12 at 143.

[30] J. L. Brierly, Do We Need an International Criminal Court, 8 Br. Year b. Int. Law 81–88, 83 (1927).

[31] Mullins, supra note 14 at 88.

[32] Id. at 39.

[33] Schabas, supra note 3 at 178.

[34] Id. at 178.

[35] Id. at 178.

[36] Willis, supra note 4 at 135.

[37] Id. at 140.

[38] Id. at 134.

[39] Mullins, supra note 14 at 152.

[40] Liste des personnes désignées par les Puissances Alliées pour être livrées par l’Allemagne en execution des article 228 à 230 du traité de Versailles et du Protocole du 28 juin 1919, at 40.

[41] Hankel, supra note 27 at 101.

[42] Id. at 101.

[43] Willis, supra note 4 at 136.

[44] Hankel, supra note 27 at 360.

[45] Id. at 360.

[46] Id. at 360.

[47] Willis, supra note 4 at 141.

[48] History of the United Nations War Crimes Commission and the Development of the Laws of War, 111 (1948).

Mr. Bemba’s Acquittal – A Shortcut to Justice?

Thomas Weigend is a Professor of International, Comparative and German Criminal Law at the University of Cologne.

(1) Introduction

The source of Mr. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo’s legal problems was an intervention of troops under his command in an internal armed conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) in the years 2002 and 2003.[1] While Mr. Bemba continued to reside in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), his soldiers committed murders and rapes against CAR civilians and pillaged their homes. Several years later, the Prosecutor of the ICC charged Mr. Bemba with the crimes committed by the soldiers, under the heading of command responsibility (Art. 28 ICC Statute). After having been convicted by a Trial Chamber in 2016, Mr. Bemba appealed, alleging that the Trial Chamber had committed a long list of factual and legal errors. The Appeals Chamber, by a 3:2 majority, found in favor of the appellant and acquitted him.

It is unusual, even in the area of international criminal law, that the resolution of a case on appeal engenders four separate opinions with an aggregate of about 500 pages. This avalanche of words is the result of a deep split between the judges of the Appeals Chamber – a split that affects almost every aspect of the case and has led to widely diverging views as to its appropriate resolution.  

It is impossible in a short comment to do justice to the multitude of arguments exchanged between the opposing sides as well as to the profound general observations and learned quotations in the separate concurring opinion of Judge Eboe-Osuji, the current President of the International Criminal Court. I will instead limit my remarks to what I conceive to be the main points of dissension among the judges.

Judges Van den Wyngaert and Morrison, who together with Judge Eboe-Osuji formed the majority, wrote a separate opinion[2] in which they explained their motives. In concluding this opinion, they seek to style the main conflict as one between reason and emotion:  “We can only hope to establish the rule of law”, they write, “if we discipline ourselves to be guided by rationality and resist the urge to allow emotions to determine judicial decisions”.[3] Although this sentence is meant to explain that the judges in the majority empathise with the victims of the atrocities committed by Congolese soldiers in the CAR, it implicitly portraits the dissenting members of the Appeals Chamber (Judges Monageng and Hofmanski) as following their emotions rather than rationally applying the law. Such an implication would be far from accurate, given the meticulous analysis of the evidence and the law that the dissenting judges provide in their lengthy opinion. Yet, it is hard to deny that the end result of the case leads to a sense of frustration – not only in regard of the enormous amount of time and effort spent on prosecuting and adjudicating Mr. Bemba but also in regard of the great suffering that is left without a legal response, at least on the level of international criminal law. The outcome of the case is unsatisfactory in yet another respect: although the Court was eventually unable to establish facts indicating Mr. Bemba’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, some of the judges remain fully convinced that the former accused was responsible, as a commander, for the crimes committed by DRC soldiers in the CAR. This leaves the case (and the former defendant) in a state of limbo, so that the efforts of all participants to establish “the truth” seem to have been in vain.

(2) Breadth of Charges

In the end, this problematic result has been caused by evidentiary difficulties. But as a preliminary matter, the very scope of “the case” before the Court was doubtful. Both the Trial Chamber and the dissenting judges of the Appeals Chamber accepted the charges as formulated by the Prosecution. These charges were formulated in very broad terms. For example, the charge relating to the crime against humanity of murder read: “From on or about 26 October 2002 to 15 March 2003, Jean-Pierre Bemba committed crimes against humanity, by the killing of men, women and children civilians in the Central African Republic […].” The document containing the charges listed a number of examples of specific criminal acts but made it clear that the charges “include, but are not limited to” those acts.[4] The dissenting judges argue that the formulation of the charges lies in the discretion of the Prosecutor, hence all acts of murder committed on the territory of the CAR between 26 October 2002 and 15 March 2003 by any soldier under Mr. Bemba’s command was properly before the Court.[5] As a consequence, the Prosecution was free, in the opinion of these judges, to augment the charges by adding further instances of crimes allegedly committed by the DRC soldiers after the original charges had been confirmed by the Pretrial Chamber and even after the trial had begun, provided that the defendant was given proper notice in accordance with Art. 67 (1) (a) ICC Statute. The Prosecutor had in fact amended the original charges in the course of the proceedings. The majority of the Appeals Chamber find that these additional instances – for which the Trial Chamber had held Mr. Bemba responsible under Art. 28 ICC Statute – were not subject to the Trial Chamber’s jurisdiction. The majority rely on the wording of Art. 74 (2), second sent. of the Statute, which reads:

“The decision [of the Trial Chamber] shall not exceed the facts and circumstances described in the charges and any amendments to the charges.”

The interpretation of this provision may be aided by Regulation 52 (1) (b) of the Regulations of the Court:

“The document containing the charges referred to in article 61 shall include: (…) (b)  A statement of the facts, including the time and place of the alleged crimes, which provides a sufficient legal and factual basis to bring the person or persons to trial, including relevant facts for the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court; (…).”

From these legal texts, the Majority of the judges draw the conclusion that the charges to be confirmed by the Pretrial Chamber must be precise in describing the acts of which the defendant is suspected; it is not sufficient that the document containing the charges simply lists categories of crimes (such as “murder” and “rape”) or – as happened in Mr. Bemba’s case – names a time span of almost five months and a space covering a whole country, thus holding the defendant potentially responsible for any offense committed by the troops under his command within these broad limits.[6] The Majority therefore accept as properly charged only those few particular instances of soldiers’ criminal conduct that were specifically named in the original charging instrument (one murder, the rape of 20 persons and five acts of pillaging).[7] In their Separate Opinion, Judges Van den Wyngaert and Morrison clarify the reasons for this conclusion: “The proper identification of criminal acts in an exhaustive manner is crucial to allow a Trial Chamber to manage the trial proceedings and to allow the accused to prepare a meaningful defence…”[8]

In my opinion, the last sentence quoted above correctly defines the issue. Contrary to the Minority’s argument, Art. 74 (2) ICC Statute does not merely describe the “accusatorial principle”, limiting the trial court’s inquiry to whatever conduct the prosecutor, in her discretion, chooses to include in the charging document. Since Art 74 (2) ICC Statute speaks of “facts and circumstances described in the charges”, it alludes to two further functions of the charging document, which are more clearly expressed in Regulation 52 (1) (b) of the Court’s Regulations: The charging document must, in a meaningful fashion, circumscribe the scope of the trial, and it must put the defendant on notice of the alleged facts to which he needs to direct his defense efforts. A loose description of a large time period and an area of thousands of  square kilometers plus a generic list of legal offense descriptions cannot fulfil either function. It is only when the relevant acts (or omissions) are described as to their approximate time and space that the defendant can reasonably prepare his response. As the history of the case at hand shows, an overly broad formulation of the charges also deprives both the pretrial and the trial chambers of a fixed target: the prosecutor may at any time add new incidents that fall under the broad purview of the loosely described original charges. One should, moreover, bear in mind that the charges and the ensuing findings of the court also describe the scope of the defendant’s protection against double jeopardy: if the charges were conceived as broadly as the Bemba Trial Chamber understood them to be, the court’s judgment (be it a conviction or an acquittal) would shield Mr. Bemba from responsibility for any atrocities his soldiers committed in the relevant time period even if new evidence showed that their crimes were much more extensive that assumed at the time of the trial. 

In the case at hand, the issue is complicated by the fact that Mr. Bemba was charged not with (direct or indirect) perpetration of the crimes in question, in accordance with Art. 25 (3) (a) ICC Statute, but with responsibility for his subordinates’ crimes as a commander. One might argue that the fault of the commander is his failure to take “all necessary and reasonable measures” to prevent or repress the subordinates’ offenses (Art. 28 (a) (ii) ICC Statute), hence the charges against him only need to describe the period of time in which he should have taken such measures. However, under Art. 28 the commander is not convicted simply of failing to exercise control over his troops (which might have been a sensible approach for the formulation of the Statute) but is held responsible for the very crimes that his subordinates committed. It is therefore imperative that the charges individualize each “underlying” crime, because the commander must be put in a position to raise a defense against each of them. He might do so, e.g., by showing that he was unable to prevent the subordinate from committing a specific offense, or that he would have had to take unreasonable measures in order to stop him from committing the crime in question.[9]

(3) Did Mr. Bemba take “all necessary and reasonable measures”?

With regard to the offenses subject to the Trial Chamber’s jurisdiction, the critical question is whether Mr. Bemba had taken all necessary and reasonable measures to prevent them and – if necessary – to submit them to the proper authorities with a view toward sanctioning the individuals responsible for the crimes. It was beyond dispute that Mr. Bemba had learned of some of these crimes and also had taken some preventive and repressive action in regard to them (installing commissions of inquiry, contacting UN agencies, seeking the cooperation of the CAR government, etc.). The critical issue thus was whether his activities were sufficient and genuine.

As to sufficiency, the two dissenters side with the Trial Chamber in finding that the efforts undertaken by Mr. Bemba to curb the misconduct of his troops was not all he could reasonably have done in that respect. The judges in the minority also fault their colleagues on methodological grounds: the majority, they claim, uncritically believe Mr. Bemba’s assertions about his lack of efficient means and fail to consider the totality of the evidence before the court, which – in their opinion – strongly suggests the defendant’s lack of genuine effort.[10]

The judges in the majority, by contrast, emphasize that the Rome Statute does not provide for a commander’s strict liability for offenses committed by his subordinates but explicitly limits the commander’s obligation to doing what is feasible and reasonable for the prevention and repression of crimes.[11] In accordance with the principle of individual criminal culpability, the majority claim, commanders can be held accountable only for the crimes of those they are commanding directly and whose conduct they can actually monitor.[12] The criterion of “reasonableness” implies further that a commander may take into consideration the impact of potential measures on ongoing or planned military operations and may choose the least disruptive measure as long as it can reasonably be expected to prevent or repress the crimes.[13] The majority also claim that the trial court must “specifically identify what a commander should have done in concreto” before he can be convicted based on his lack of activity.[14] In this respect, the number of crimes charged gains significance: since only slightly more than 20 offenses of Mr. Bemba’s soldiers were properly before the Trial Chamber, the majority judges argue, the demands on his activity must be proportionate to this number of crimes, not to a multitude of other offenses that DRC troops might have committed.[15]

In the arguments of both the majority and the minority of the Appeals Chamber, the motivation for Mr. Bemba’s activities play a major role. Both the Trial Chamber and the minority judges doubt the sincerity of Mr. Bemba’s efforts. The Trial Chamber saw his activities as motivated to a large extent by a desire to preserve the reputation of his troops and to rehabilitate their public image against public allegations of misconduct.[16] The majority of the Appeals Chamber, by contrast, emphasize that motives play only a limited role for the question of whether a commander undertook genuine efforts to prevent his subordinates’ crimes. The judges in the majority explain that a commander may well “discharge his duty to take ‘necessary and reasonable measures’ and in doing so accomplish multiple, additional or extraneous purposes, such as protecting the public image of his forces.”[17] They therefore see legal error in the Trial Chamber’s reliance on Mr. Bemba’s motives as grounds for discrediting the genuineness of his efforts.[18]

Another point of contention is the subjective standard for liability under Art. 28 (a) ICC Statute. The two dissenting judges write that it is not necessary, for the prosecution or the trial court, to make a clear distinction as to whether the accused “knew” or “should have known” about the (impending) offenses of his subordinates since Art. 28, in their opinion, provides for a “unitary standard” and hence the distinction “has no practical consequence”.[19] Judges Van den Wyngaert and Morrison, on the other hand, explain that the original charges, implying that Mr. Bemba “knew” of the offenses in question, could not subsequently be changed to the “should have known” standard since each alternative requires proof of different matters and hence can be defended against on different grounds.[20] Knowledge in the sense of Art. 28 of the ICC Statute “requires that the commander is aware that the subordinates are ‘about to’ commit crimes. This connotes a certain imminence and specificity going well beyond general concerns about the level of discipline of particular troops/units”.[21] The judges in the majority consequently assert that the evidence did not allow the Trial Chamber to find, beyond reasonable doubt, that the reports available to Mr. Bemba afforded him knowledge of imminent criminal conduct by his troops.[22]

Finally, the judges are of different minds with regard to the “as a result” formulation in Art. 28 (a) ICC Statute.[23] Although this dispute has no influence on the outcome of the case, it is interesting to note that the judges in the majority would in effect negate any significant substance of the “result” clause,[24] whereas the dissenting judges – deviating from their general tendency to give the Statute an extensive reading – would require proof of a high probability that the crimes in question would not have been committed if the commander had fulfilled his obligation to take reasonable preventive measures.[25]

I will comment only briefly on the interesting questions the judges raise concerning the interpretation of Art. 28 ICC Statute.

As to the fundamental issue of the extent of the commander’s obligation, the Statute appears to set an extremely high standard when it requires that the commander take “all necessary and reasonable measures … to prevent or repress” the commission of offenses by his soldiers. If the word “all” is taken literally, the very fact that the soldiers committed the crimes would indicate that the commander (who, according to Art. 28 (a) ICC Statute, exercises “effective command and control” over his subordinates) is indeed criminally liable, because his position of authority coupled with his knowledge of the imminence of offenses ought to have enabled him to interfere effectively, barring very exceptional circumstances. The judges in the majority correctly point out, however, that Art. 28 ICC Statute was not meant to confer strict liability on commanders, and that his options are to be assessed ex ante, not by hindsight.[26] I also agree with the majority’s position that the term “reasonable” in the description of the commander’s obligation significantly limits his liability. While I would not subscribe without qualification to the majority’s assertion that “commanders are allowed to make a cost/benefit analysis when deciding which measures to take”[27], I would still restrict the commander’s obligation to activities within his ordinary scope of authority.[28] Of course, preventing the commission of crimes is an important task, and the commander must carefully carry out that task because he has accepted a position of responsibility over a particularly dangerous instrument (i.e., a large group of heavily armed persons licensed to kill[29]). Yet, Art. 28 does not demand more of the commander than to “exercise control properly over [his] forces”, that is, to make use of the means conferred upon him in his capacity as a commander. I doubt, therefore, that the Trial Chamber in the instant case was correct in demanding that Mr. Bemba should have redesigned the campaign in CAR and/or withdrawn his troops from the CAR in order to protect the civilian population from harm.[30] These would have been strategic decisions which – though desirable – cannot in fairness be demanded under the threat of punishment in accordance with Art. 28 ICC Statute. In sum, I think that the majority view better reflects the limits of command responsibility. Whether Mr. Bemba in fact took all reasonable opportunities to prevent the crimes in question or to initiate an investigation of the soldiers involved in them is a matter of the available evidence, which cannot be properly assessed within the confines of this comment.

With respect to the question of whether Mr. Bemba made “genuine” efforts to prevent or repress the crimes in question, I do not think his motives are of relevance. It is the objective character of any measures the commander has taken that the court must assess; if these measures are sufficient under the reasonableness standard, it does not matter whether the commander took them in order to prevent crimes and to bring soldiers to justice, or to enhance his popularity, or even because he personally disliked the soldiers in question. If it was indeed Mr. Bemba’s motive – as the Trial Chamber asserted – “to protect the image” of his troops,[31] that motive may well have been in line with the legislative motive behind Art. 28 ICC Statute: Repression and sanctioning of soldiers’ crimes is demanded in order to preserve among the soldiers a law-abiding spirit, which will necessarily be reflected in the troops‘ image, both in public and within their own ranks. Although the majority judges correctly point out that a commander’s motives as such are irrelevant to Art. 28 charges, they may overstate the impact of the “motivation” factor on the Trial Chamber’s assessment of the overall sufficiency of Mr. Bemba’s measures.[32] It may thus be an over-reaction for the majority to dismiss the findings of the Trial Chamber in toto because of its alleged reliance on Mr. Bemba’s motivation.[33]    

Concerning the issue of the subjective element(s) of the commander’s responsibility under Art. 28 (a) (i) ICC Statute, the dissenters, in my opinion, take a wrong path in looking only at the identical end result of a conviction. It is true, of course, that a commander may be convicted if he “should have known” as well as if he “knew” of his soldiers’ impending or past offenses. But this does not mean that the charges are interchangeable and can simply be amended with regard to the evidence as it develops in the course of the trial. As the majority point out, it is of vital importance for the defendant to know whether he needs to counter the allegation that he was aware of the impending crime (which he can do by showing that no believable information of the soldiers’ plans reached him in time for taking effective counter-action) or the allegation (under the “should have known” alternative) that he should have become active in advance to learn about such plans. 

The divergence of opinions with regard to the “as a result” clause in this case is in part due to the lack of clarity of the text of Article 28. Whereas the French version does not seem to include any “result” requirement but only a conditional (“lorsqu’il”) connection between the commander’s failure to exercise control and his criminal liability,[34] the English version includes the words “as a result” but is grammatically ambivalent as to whether the resulting consequence of the lack of control is (a) the crime committed by the subordinate or (b) the commanders’ personal responsibility. Two arguments support the latter interpretation[35]: First, it leads to harmonious results under the English and the French versions; second, it avoids a logical contradiction with regard to the second alternative of Art. 28 (a) (ii), namely “to submit the matter to the competent authorities for investigation and prosecution”: Not submitting a case for investigation can hardly be regarded as the cause for antecedent crimes committed by the soldiers in question.[36] If one accepts this interpretation and views the commander’s criminal responsibility as the “result” of his lack of proper control over his forces (exemplified by the items listed in nos. (i) and (ii) of Art. 28 (a) ICC Statute), no causal element needs to be proved in these cases. If, on the other hand, one retains the more traditional interpretation, which demands a causal connection between the commander’s lack of proper control and the commission of the offenses by his troops,[37] then it makes sense to require no more than proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) of a high probability that the action expected of the commander would have prevented the commission of the crimes in question.[38] As the dissenters correctly point out, a hypothetical connection (What would have happened if the commander had taken the action reasonably expected of him?) can never be proved as a certainty.

(4) Standard of Review

Although the interpretation of Article 28 ICC Statute certainly played a role, the decision of the case eventually turned on questions of proof. The Appeals Chamber did not take any evidence but had before it the complete record of the trial. It seems that this record was not conclusive either in proving Mr. Bemba’s guilt or in showing his innocence of the crimes with which he was charged. The critical question then was whether the Appeals Chamber should defer to the findings of the Trial Chamber and accept its finding of guilt, or whether it should form its own judgment based on the evidence available in written and video form.

Both the majority and the minority of the Appeals Chamber delivered somewhat paradoxical opinions on this point. Judges Monageng and Hofmanski opted for a deferential attitude toward the Trial Chamber’s findings but nevertheless painstakingly examined the extensive record and used it to refute, one by one, Mr. Bemba’s objections to the finding of guilt. The judges in the majority, by contrast, emphasized the importance of determining the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt on the basis of the trial record; but they did not undertake a thorough analysis of the evidence but instead issued a judgment of “not guilty” after having examined (and found wanting) the Trial Chamber’s judgment of conviction.

In their opinion, Judges Monageng and Hofmanski rely on the case law of the ICTY and in particular of the ICC Appeals Chamber in the Lubanga case for adopting a deferential standard of review on the appeals level with respect to alleged factual errors. Citing the Lubanga Appeals decision, they proclaim as the correct standard of review “whether a reasonable Trial Chamber could have been satisfied beyond reasonable doubt as to the finding in question. The Appeals Chamber will not assess the evidence de novo with a view to determining whether it would have reached the same factual finding.”[39] The main argument in favor of this standard is, of course, that only the trial judges are in a position to see and hear the witnesses and therefore have a more reliable and comprehensive access to the relevant evidence.[40]

The judges in the majority take a very different approach. In their opinion, “the Appeals Chamber must be satisfied that factual findings that are made beyond reasonable doubt are clear and unassailable, both in terms of evidence and rationale. Accordingly, when the Appeals Chamber is able to identify findings that can reasonably be called into doubt, it must overturn them.”[41] In essence, the judges in the majority place greater emphasis on the principle that guilt must be established beyond reasonable doubt, and they regard themselves as responsible for ascertaining that this principle is strictly applied and that any possible miscarriage of justice is avoided.[42] In support of their view, the judges cite two provisions of the ICC Statute: Art. 83 (1), which grants the Appeals Chamber, for the purposes of appeals proceedings, “all the powers of the Trial Chamber”;[43] and Art. 74 (5), which obliges the Trial Chamber to render a decision containing “a full and reasoned statement of the Trial Chamber’s findings on the evidence and conclusions”.[44] It is in fact the lack of a full and reasoned (and, one should add: convincing) statement of its finding of guilt which, for the judges in the majority, vitiates the Trial Chamber’s finding of guilt.[45]

It is difficult to fairly assess the relative strength of the arguments advanced by the opposing sides. Certainly, mere reliance on a principle of deference – which has no basis in the ICC Statute itself – appears unsatisfactory where the defendant may have been convicted without proof sufficient to overcome the presumption of innocence. The judges in the minority in fact go to great lengths in reviewing the Trial Chamber’s factual findings and in establishing their own view of the trial record. In that sense, the minority judges‘ actions (commendably) diverge from their theoretical stance.

One would indeed have expected that the judges in the majority undertake a similar task; but they do not.[46] For them, it seems sufficient to find that they have “reasonable doubts” about the Trial Chamber’s factual findings, because the Trial Chamber’s written judgment in itself appears to them to be inconsistent or unpersuasive. However, the majority‘s reliance in this regard on Art. 74 (5) ICC Statute concerning the obligation of the Trial Chamber to provide a full and reasoned statement seems beside the point. Tellingly, the majority struggle with explaining why a deficiency of the written judgment by itself should be sufficient grounds for overturning the verdict. Art. 83 (2) ICC Statute permits reversal of the Trial Chamber’s judment only if “the decision or sentence appealed from was materially affected by error of fact or law”. In order to justify reversal in Mr. Bemba’s case, the majority argue that a violation of Art. 74 (5) “has a material effect in terms of article 83 (2) of the Statute because it inhibits the parties from properly mounting an appeal in relation to the factual finding in question and prevents the Appeals Chamber from exercising its appellate review”.[47] That may well be true – but after the defendant has mounted an (obviously well-reasoned) appeal and after the Appeals Chamber has thoroughly considered the case, any such defect of the trial judgment is moot and can no longer be sufficient grounds for reversal. The dissenters’ criticism of the majority’s shortcut to reversal thus appears well founded.[48] I cannot quite suppress the thought that one motive for the judges in the majority to vote for Mr. Bemba’s acquittal may have been to sanction the Trial Chamber (and perhaps the Prosecutor) for what they regarded as shoddy work.[49]

But what are appeals judges supposed to do, under the ICC Statute, if they regard the Trial Chamber’s written reasons as insufficient to support a finding of guilt? The Statute in fact offers several options: According to Art. 83 (2), the Appeals Chamber may order a new trial, may remand a factual issue to the original Trial Chamber for it to determine the issue and to report back accordingly, or may itself call evidence to determine the issue. Reversal and retrial was indeed the resolution proposed by Judge Eboe-Osuji for the Bemba case.[50] Judges Van den Wyngaert and Morrison opposed this suggestion, mainly based on practical considerations, the most important of which was the length of detention that Mr. Bemba had already suffered and that would have continued for several more years in case of a retrial.[51] Judge Eboe-Osuji recognized that a stale mate within the Chamber would have ensued if he had insisted on his stance and therefore eventually agreed with the disposition suggested by his Colleagues in the majority.[52]

(5) Concluding Remarks

There are several perspectives that one can take on the outcome of Mr. Bemba’s case. The affair may be analyzed as a power struggle between the Trial Chamber and the Appeals Chamber, with the Appeals Chamber imposing its (majority) view on the other judges. One may also say that Mr. Bemba was lucky in escaping conviction due to excellent and inventive legal representation on appeal and a stale mate on the Appeals Chamber. But the uneasy resolution of the case also reveals certain deficiencies in the ICC Statute’s provisions on appeals proceedings. The Appeals Chamber certainly should not be in a position to simply replace the Trial Chamber’s factual findings by its own, without having thoroughly reviewed all the evidence beyond the reasons stated by the Trial Chamber. On the other hand, a retrial of the charges (be it before a Trial Chamber or an Appeals Chamber) in a typical ICC case would often be so cumbersome and time-consuming that it would impose disproportionate burdens on the accused who, after all, must still be treated as innocent. The rule of deference to the Trial Chamber’s factual findings might thus be a wise compromise; yet, this rule should not be applied too broadly and should leave enough room for the Appeals Chamber to correct potential miscarriages of justice.


[1] For details see Pros. v. Bemba, ICC-01/05-01/08-3343, Trial Chamber, Judgment of 21 March 2016, §§ 379 et seq.

[2] Hereinafter: Separate Opinion Van den Wyngaert & Morrison.

[3] Separate Opinion Van den Wyngaert & Morrison § 79.

[4] Pros. v. Bemba, Corrected Revised Second Amended Document Containing the Charges,  pp. 32-34.

[5] Pros. v. Bemba, Appeals Chamber, Judgment of 8 June 2018, Dissenting Opinion of Judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng and Judge Piotr Hofmański (hereinafter: Dissenting Opinion) §§ 28, 32, 36.

[6] Pros. v. Bemba, Appeals Chamber, Judgment of 8 June 2018 (hereinafter: Majority Opinion) §§ 103, 104, 110, 115. The Majority also deem insufficient the formulation “including but not limited to” in regard to certain acts named as examples of soldiers’ offenses in the charging document .

[7] Majority Opinion § 119.

[8] Separate Opinion Van den Wyngaert and Morrison § 29.

[9] For this reason, I do not find persuasive the Minority’s argument that “in cases where command responsibility is alleged for mass crimes committed by the accused’s subordinates, the focus of the case will generally be the accused person’s ability and failure to exercise control properly, and the detail of the individual criminal acts alleged will generally be less material to the description of the charges under article 74 (2) of the Statute than in cases, for example, where the accused is alleged to have directly perpetrated those acts.” (Minority Opinion § 27).

[10] Minority Opinion §§ 52 et seq., 106.

[11] Majortiy Opinion §§ 168-169.

[12] Separate Opinion Van den Wyngaert and Morrison § 33.

[13] Majority Opinion § 170.

[14] Majority Opinion § 170.

[15] Majority Opinion § 183.

[16] See Pros. v. Bemba, ICC-01/05-01/08-3343, Trial Chamber, Judgment of 21 March 2016, § 728.

[17] Majority Opinion § 179.

[18] Majority Opinion § 191.

[19] Minority Opinion §§ 265-266.

[20] Separate Opinion Van den Wyngaert and Morrison §§ 38-40.

[21] Separate Opinion Van den Wyngaert and Morrison § 44.

[22] Separate Opinion Van den Wyngaert and Morrison § 50.

[23] “A military commander… shall be responsible for crimes… committed by forces under his or her effective command and control… as a result of his or her failure to exercise control properly over such forces, where …”

[24] Separate Opinion Van den Wyngaert and Morrison §§ 51-56.

[25] Minority Opinion §§ 321, 331, 335, 338, 339.

[26] Majority Opinion § 170.

[27] Majority Opinion § 170.

[28] Judge Eboe-Osuji in his Separate Opinion §§ 273-274 correctly points out that the obligation to take preventive measures may extend temporally to periods well in advance of the actual commission of crimes; however, there remains the subjective requirement that the commander must even at that time foresee or be able to foresse that without his action his troops will commit crimes.

[29] This concept is developed in the Separate Opinion Eboe-Osuji §§ 239, 274.

[30] Pros. v. Bemba, ICC-01/05-01/08-3343, Trial Chamber, Judgment of 21 March 2016, § 740.

[31] Pros. v. Bemba, ICC-01/05-01/08-3343, Trial Chamber, Judgment of 21 March 2016, § 728.

[32] The discussion of Mr. Bemba’s motivation is limited to one paragraph of the Trial Court’s lengthy opinion.

[33] See the criticism, along the same lines, in Minority Opinion §§ 72-73.

[34] Art. 28: […] Un chef militaire ou une personne faisant effectivement fonction de chef militaire est pénalement responsable des crimes relevant de la compétence de la Cour commis par des forces placées sous son commandement et son contrôle effectifs, ou sous son autorité et son contrôle effectifs, selon le cas, lorsqu’il ou elle n’a pas exercé le contrôle qui convenait sur ces forces dans les cas où […]

[35] This interpretation has been adopted in Separate Opinion Van den Wyngaert and Morrison § 56.

[36] Separate Opinion Van den Wyngaert and Morrison §§ 52-54. The Minority Opinion § 333 suggests that the problem could be solved by a requirement that “causation needs to be demonstrated in respect of subsequent crimes that were committed because of the failure to punish earlier crimes”; see also Separate Opinion Eboe-Osuji § 211. The problem with this approach is that the commander, under Art. 28 ICC Statute, is punishable for the “earlier” crime, not for the subsequent ones.

[37] As does the Minority Opinion §§ 331, 334, 335, citing the culpability principle and the principle of strict construction (Art. 22 (1) of the ICC Statute).

[38] Minority Opinion §§ 338, 339.

[39] Minority Opinion § 2, citing Pros. v. Lubanga, ICC-01/04-01/06, Appeals Chamber, Judgment of 1 Dec. 2014, § 27.

[40] Minority Opinion § 7.

[41] Majority Opinion §§ 3, 45.

[42] Majority Opinion § 40; Separate Opinion Eboe-Osuji §§ 9, 23, 52, 74, 79; Separate Opinion Van den Wyngaert and Morrison § 14.

[43] Separate Opinion Eboe-Osuji § 45. Judge Eboe-Osuji points out that no such provision existed in the Statutes of the ad hoc tribunals. However, it is unlikely that Art. 83 (1) ICC Statute is intended to grant the Appeals Chamber full authority to replace the Trial Chamber’s factual findings by its own (even without taking any evidence!). In light of the introductory words (“For the purposes of proceedings under article 81 and this article,…), a more probable interpretation of Art. 83 (1) would limit its impact to procedural matters, i.e., the authority to take the same procedural measures as the Trial Chamber.

[44] Majority Opinion §§ 49-50.

[45] This becomes quite clear from this statement in the Separate Opinion Van den Wyngaert and Morrison § 6: “A major concern we have is about the opacity of the Conviction Decision in terms of outlining the evidentiary basis for many of the findings. The decision is replete with cross-reference upon cross-reference and the reader is often left to speculate about which specific items of evidence the Trial Chamber relied upon for a particular finding.”

[46] The Minority Opinion § 18 is quite correct in asserting: “Even if the Majority were to be understood as requiring an assessment, under the standard of beyond reasonable doubt, of the accuracy of the Trial Chamber’s findings, it fails to do that as well.”

[47] Majority Opinion § 55. In a different context, the Majority Opinion (§ 50) argues that “the provision of reasons also enables the Appeals Chamber to clearly understand the factual and legal basis upon which the decision was taken and thereby properly exercise its appellate functions”.

[48] See Minority Opinion § 11.

[49] See what might be a revealing remark in the Separate Opinion Van den Wyngaert and Morrison § 73: “… we would not find it fair to give the Prosecutor a ‘second chance’ to prosecute this case, given the serious problems we have detected in the Prosecution case.”

[50] Separate Opinion Eboe-Osuji § 22; see also Minority Opinion § 53.

[51] Separate Opinion Van den Wyngaert and Morrison § 73.

[52] Separate Opinion Eboe-Osuji § 22.

Reply to Barry, Gooch, Le Billon, Okowa, Stewart, and Taylor

Leif Wenar is Chair of Philosophy and Law, King’s College, London. His most recent book, Beyond Blood Oil: Philosophy, Policy and the Future, combines five essays from field leaders in political theory, philosophy and energy politics.


I would like to give thanks to James Stewart for making Blood Oil part of his excellent symposium. I have admired Stewart since I first met him at the Peace Palace in The Hague in 2010, at a major conference centered on his work on pillage of natural resources.[1] His conference was full of luminaries of international law and politics (it is where I first met two outstanding judges of the International Court of Justice, Rosalyn Higgins and Abdul Koroma), and Stewart’s research was an ideal catalyst for intense discussions over the use of international law in the fight for justice.

I would also like to thank the other commentators sincerely for their generous attention and kind words. Perhaps I might just say how much I admire each of them. Phoebe Okowa is the author of important work on international environmental and criminal law, and also the author of fine articles on the laws governing natural resources in situations of armed conflict. Philippe Le Billon is among the world’s leading experts on natural resources and conflict; I have learned much from him, including from his books such as Fueling War and Wars of Plunder,and cite his work many times in Blood Oil. Christian Barry is one of the world’s top moral and political philosophers, an expert on justice in international trade and complicity, and the co-author of the much-anticipated Ethics for Consumers.

Very special thanks are due to Simon Taylor and Charmian Gooch, whose organization, Global Witness, has changed the way I see the world. I began working on the resource curse, in 2006, as a skeptic. Although I saw the terrible ‘paradox of plenty’ in so many countries, like some of the commentators (and perhaps some readers of this symposium), I was doubtful that much could be done about it. The interests opposing action were too strong, it seemed, and the status quo too entrenched. Global Witness helped to turn me into an optimist. Again and again Global Witness has won inspiring victories against the powerful, and Blood Oil tells many of the stories of their successes.

The Khmer Rouge, Charles Taylor the tyrant of Liberia, Sierra Leone’s blood-diamond funded militias, Robert Mugabe’s military thugs, Equatorial Guinea’s dictator Teodoro Obiang, Burma’s generals, Muamar Gaddafi—all of their injustices have been exposed by campaigns led by Global Witness. The bribes by the oil companies Shell and Eni that appear to have cost the Nigerian people over a billion dollars—and the corrupt deals of Dan Gertler, allegedly one of the worst in the Congo’s long history of foreign exploiters—are also now known because of Global Witness and other determined campaigners. Because of Global Witness and its partners, whole industries in the West have made their dealings with resource-rich foreign governments more transparent, and are also more diligent in keeping conflict minerals out of their supply chains.

Indeed whole continents have changed their legislation—the EU has now mandated public registers of beneficial owners of companies, which will help to crack down on abuse of the anonymously-owned companies that facilitate tax evasion, money laundering, and corruption. Global Witness has been a leader in this campaign (and—as their exposé on ‘60 Minutes’ showed—there is still much more to be done). And Global Witness is now increasingly turning attention to environmental and climate issues, as when it revealed the secret payments that an oil company made to armed Congolese rebels, to get drilling access to Africa’s oldest and most biodiverse national park.

Simon Taylor and Charmian Gooch have helped to build Global Witness into an effective, respected, and trusted international organization, a huge accomplishment. Global Witness has brought injustices to the world’s attention that had been under the radar, challenging ‘business as usual’ and inspiring others to launch their own campaigns. As I’ve gone around the world for the last dozen years giving talks on the resource curse, people have often asked me which organizations they can support—who is ‘fighting the good fight’ for change. I always say to support Global Witness. Global Witness has shown that a relentless focus, and an implacable sense of justice, can win.[2]

Summary of Blood Oil

Blood Oil is a big book. For those who are coming to this material for the first time, it may be helpful if I start by setting out its position quickly, without the nuances or qualifications, pulling together (and occasionally correcting) some points from the summaries of the contributors.[3]

The book is about power and natural resources. Violent, coercive, and corrupt men are today selling off their countries’ resources, gaining enormous unaccountable power from the money the world gives them in return. Some of these men use this unaccountable power to oppress their people, others to start brutal wars, others to maintain themselves in luxury while their populations endure grinding poverty.

To give a few suggestive correlations, most of the authoritarian regimes, most of the civil wars, most of the most corrupt governments, and most of the hunger crises in the world today are in resource-rich states. Most of the world’s refugees are today fleeing from these states. And, soon, most of the world’s extreme poverty will be in states that export oil, metals, or gems. Resources can indeed be a curse.

The unaccountable power that these men gain from selling natural resources spells disaster for the people that they torture, and attack, and neglect. And the power that the world gifts to these men is so enormous that it often spills across borders, and indeed around the world. Most of the West’s major foreign threats and crises for the past two generations have originated in resource-exporting states. The unaccountable power of resources is bad for ‘them’ there, and it’s bad for ‘us’ here in the West too. Because of this unaccountable power, we are all ‘resource cursed.’

What is the ultimate source of the unaccountable power of these violent, coercive, and corrupt men? Ultimately, it is the world’s consumers, paying every day for the products that are made from (and transported with) the natural resources that these men sell off from their countries. Ultimately, consumers are paying for the curses that fall back on them.

And why? Why are we consumers sending our money to men responsible for such suffering and injustice? The book’s answer is a surprise. The main culprit is a legal relic from the 17th century, that we all take for granted, embedded in the domestic law of every state. This is the rule that makes it legal to buy natural resources from whoever in a foreign country can control the extractive sites by force.

So, for example, years ago when Saddam Hussein’s junta took over Iraq in a coup, every state’s default law made it legal to buy Iraq’s oil from that junta. And then years later, when ISIS took over some of those same wells by force, it became legal to buy Iraq’s oil from ISIS. (That’s why sanctions had to be imposed—to make it illegal to buy oil from ISIS.) This legal rule is called ‘effectiveness’ for natural resources—essentially, effectiveness means that ‘might makes right.’

This archaic legal rule makes no common sense. If an armed gang takes over a Shell station in your country, should the gang get the legal right to sell off the gasoline and keep the money? It also violates a primary principle of any market order, to protect property against forceful seizure. In this way, ‘might makes right’ is a standing challenge to the rule of law.

As the book shows, the rule of effectiveness has been abolished in many other areas of law over the past 300 years—indeed, this progressive abolition of effectiveness has been a major part of the moral progress of humankind. The slave trade, colonial rule, apartheid, even ethnic cleansing and genocide: all of these violent practices used to be permitted under international law, which was often little more than the legitimation of power. Today, all of these things, when they happen, are violations of international law.

In fact, the world has even abolished effectiveness for a single natural resource: diamonds. Because of the campaigning of Global Witness and its allies, it is now illegal in most states to import diamonds that have been sold by armed groups. We’ve abolished the legal rule of ‘might makes right’ for diamonds, the question is whether we could do this for oil, for metals, and for other gems too.

What gives great hope for the abolition of effectiveness for all natural resources is that a better principle for trade in these resources is already widely accepted worldwide. This is the principle that every country belongs to its people. Under this principle, each country’s resources start out as the property of the people, and any government that wants to sell off (or privatize) those resources must be minimally accountable to its citizens when it does so.[4] That is, citizens must be able to find out the government is doing with their resources, and effectively to protest this if they don’t like it. Anyone who sells off a country’s resources without being minimally accountable to the owners—the citizens—is literally selling stolen goods.

This legal principle that ‘the resources belong to the people’ was first pressed by countries in the Global South in the 1950s, and it is now proclaimed in major treaties to which almost every state is party. Both of the main human rights treaties, for example, declare in their first article that ‘All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources.’[5] States with 98% of the world’s population are already party to one of these major treaties. More, politicians and popular majorities in every world region regularly endorse the principle that every country belongs to its people. At the level of ideas, ‘popular resource sovereignty’ has already won.

Popular resource sovereignty requires a government to be accountable to the people for the country’s resources. It is the best solution to the resource curse. The power that natural resources bring cannot be made accountable from outside the country. We know this from the West’s failed attempts to control the power of oil through alliances, invasions, and sanctions over the past 40 years, especially in the Middle East. The power of natural resources can only be held accountable from within the country, by governance that is accountable to citizens. We know that popular resource sovereignty is the solution to this problem, because countries that had minimally accountable governments when resource revenues began to flow (like Norway and Botswana) have not suffered the resource curse.

Today, every importing state is maintaining a legal rule that violates popular resource sovereignty: the rule of effectiveness. Every state’s default law says, ‘Whoever can control the extractive sites by force—we will make it legal to buy the resources from them.’ This is the rule that is driving repression, conflict, corruption and more in resource-cursed states. It is the rule that importing states can now change, to respect the human right that is popular resource sovereignty.

The book’s main policy proposal is that resource-importing states pass a Clean Trade Act, which would make it illegal to buy natural resources from anyone who is not minimally accountable to the people of their country. Progressively and responsibly, importing states can get their consumers out of business with violent, coercive, and corrupt men abroad. Ending today’s bad business will not end the resource curse overnight, but it is the most that states can do to stop the damage that their laws are doing to resource-exporting countries today. It is also the most that states can peacefully do to take a principled stand for the rights of all peoples, everywhere.

Readers may need reason to believe that this legislation is politically realistic. I’m happy to help with the optimism. Clean Trade is now a registered charity, with outreach to governments, investors, lawyers, and consumers.  And we’ve already gotten a Clean Trade Act onto the legislative agenda. Brazil, the world’s fifth largest country and a leader of the Global South, has a Clean Trade bill pending in its senate that would ban all imports of oil from unaccountable governments, and also prohibit its national oil company, Petrobras, from entering into new contracts with those governments. If Brazil can introduce a Clean Trade Act, such progress should be possible in other countries too.

Beneath the Status Quo

I’ve presented the ideas of Blood Oil hundreds of times now, on every continent except Antarctica, and I’ve found a curious thing. Even though much of the book is about the law—‘the rules that run the world’—it is often lawyers who have the hardest time seeing what it is saying. Having considered this for a while, I think I understand better why. This book challenges the status quo understanding of the global legal order, which is the domain that lawyers work within every day. The pull of the status quo is so strong that even lawyers who read the book seem to pass over sections, or whole chapters, when they describe what it says in their own terms. There is a great temptation to frame the whole thing within the familiar old debates, that lawyers know so well.

I have real sympathy for these lawyers: understanding the deeper ways that the world works was also difficult for me at first. And I believe that these lawyers (and indeed all the commentators in this symposium) share the same ultimate values and goals: as Okowa says in her essay, we all believe in peoples’ ‘dignity and integrity as sovereign peoples,’ and we all support ‘the bedrock principles on which our shared security rests… the sovereign equality of peoples and the overriding imperatives of maintaining peace and order.’

Yet since some readers may be coming to these ideas for the first time, it’s important that we take these debate out of their familiar tracks. So let me say a few things clearly at the outset. Blood Oil does not recommend sanctions. It doesn’t advocate coercing anyone, or intervening in the affairs of any state. It’s not about promoting a freestanding ‘right to democracy,’ and it doesn’t aim at spreading Western ideas to non-Western countries. It doesn’t recommend military invasions. It does not claim to speak for foreign peoples, or somehow to know what citizens of other countries want. And its policies have nothing to do with subordinating foreign peoples or managing the affairs of other countries from afar.

Those are all the old debates, within the terms of a familiar legal status quo. Our questions are deeper: what explains the status quo itself, and what can be done to change it. That’s what Blood Oil is about. Once we dig down to the subterranean channels of power in the global economy, we see things differently. In fact, those old debates look upside-down. The truth turns out to be that we are now intervening in the affairs of other countries—in very damaging ways—and that the world’s future would be better if we stopped intervening as we’re doing now every day.

Here’s the status quo. Authoritarians run oil states like Russia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Given this, the West has tried to control such authoritarians in many (often unjust) ways—sanctions, invasions, alliances, and sending secret agents to undermine democratic movements. But why are these authoritarians there in the first place?

Massively corrupt officials fleece the citizens of resource-rich states from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. Given that these corrupt officials are in power, Western corporations have unjustly bribed them to gain access to the resources. But why are these corrupt officials there in the first place?

Grueling conflicts have racked many resource-rich states. As Okowa wrote in 2013,

One of the defining features of the many recent conflicts of the past three decades, especially those in Angola, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Liberia, and more recently in the Great Lakes region of Africa, is the centrality of illegal exploitation of natural resources in causing and sustaining these conflicts. Many of these are not ideologically driven wars commanding popular support or addressing acknowledged grievances of the population. Instead they have as their focus access to the resources which, in addition to enriching the warring parties, also provides a continuous source of revenue for funding the war… Exploitation of natural resources by insurgents and governments alike has played a pivotal role in a number of protracted armed conflicts of the last two decades….They have all been financed, sustained, and exacerbated by illegally sourced minerals and other natural wealth of the territories affected.[6]

Given that these conflicts are occurring, foreign governments have tried to come up with ways to contain them and foreign corporations to exploit them. But why are the conflicts happening in the first place? Why is the status quo so oppressive, corrupt, and violent?

There are many reasons. Authoritarianism, corruption, and conflict are not only about resources, and of course these things occur in resource-poor states too. As Blood Oil says, ‘We live in a multivariate world. Many factors beyond the resource disorders have contributed to the disasters that end up in the headlines. Nothing explains everything; human affairs have more features than any one vantage can survey.’[7]

Still, one primary driver of these phenomena is the ancient rule of effectiveness. Because of effectiveness, resource-rich countries are much more likely to be authoritarian, highly corrupt, and at war with themselves. This rule explains much of the status quo—and it’s within this status quo that Western states and corporations then make their moves. The old debates are about those moves—and within these debates, I agree that what Western states and corporations have done has often been unwise and unjust. Yet we can go deeper than those old debates. The new debate is how to understand the status quo itself, and then to transform it. How can ‘might makes right’ be replaced with a better global rule, will stop driving authoritarianism, corruption, and conflict in the first place?

It’s Not about Political Recognition

Blood Oil challenges a major orthodoxy in global trade—the rule of effectiveness, by which every state makes it legal to buy natural resources from foreign authoritarians and armed groups. However, there is another part of today’s legal orthodoxy that the book does not challenge at all. These are the rules on state recognition: the rules about when states must recognize other states, and governments must recognize other governments, as legitimate. International law requires states to recognize each other’s ‘right to rule,’ and (contrary to what both Stewart and Okowa suggest) Blood Oil does not question these laws on political recognition at all. For ‘us’ in Western countries, for instance, who legitimately rules Russia or Iran or Angola is none of our business; the book doesn’t question the Russian, Iranian or Angolan governments’ ‘right to rule’ at all.

What Blood Oil does challenge is a different legal decision that states make: not political recognition, but commercial engagement. Given that international law requires states to give each other political recognition, there is a further question. Who in foreign countries will states make it legal to engage with commercially? Every state has to decide for itself from whom in other countries it will be legal to buy natural resources. These are the decisions that states should change.

This is the argument made at length in Blood Oil Chapter 7, ‘How Might Makes Right.’ Just because Charles Taylor of Liberia once forced a law through the parliament saying that it would only be legal to buy Liberia’s resources from him, that didn’t decide the matter for other states. Each sovereign state must set its own domestic laws on commercial engagement for natural resources. As the book says,

There’s a mental short circuit that can cause a blind spot here. The short-circuited reasoning goes like this: ‘Passing laws is what sovereign states do. And international law requires all states to recognize other states as sovereign. So international law requires all states to respect the laws of other states within their own laws.’

The protection against this short circuit is a crucial fact: political recognition does not require commercial engagement. Whoever rules in a foreign country and whatever laws they pass, the international law of recognition does not require any country to align its property laws with the laws of that country… Even during full political recognition, one state can refuse to align its property laws with those of another by forbidding its persons to buy what the foreign law says can be sold.[8]

This is clearest with sanctions. When a state imposes oil sanctions, for instance, it is changing its domestic laws so that it becomes illegal for its nationals to buy any oil from the sanctioned state. This is entirely a commercial matter, and has nothing to do with political recognition of the sanctioned state or government. Indeed, the book describes a case during the uprisings of 2011 when the United States changed its law to make it illegal for Americans to buy Libya’s oil from the government that it recognized politically—and even made it legal for Americans to buy Libya’s oil from rebels that no state recognized politically.

Whether or not this US policy was a wise one, the crucial legal point is that ‘who will it be legal for us to buy foreign resources from’ is a matter that each state must decide for itself. And again, this is entirely separate from the international law of recognition. Under the international laws of recognition, the United Kingdom must acknowledge, for example, the Russian government’s right to raise taxes, to defend its borders, and to issue postage stamps. Yet here is a separate, commercial question, which is not settled by any international law: will Britain make it legal for British persons to buy Russia’s oil from those who are now selling it? That’s a question for Britain’s own law to answer.

Blood Oil asks all states to stop answering this question with effectiveness, the rule of the slave trade, colonialism, and apartheid. It asks states instead to guide their commercial engagement by human rights.

Popular resource sovereignty is a human right. As above, this principle is affirmed in both of the major human rights treaties: the human rights Covenants of 1966. In fact, the rights of peoples to their resources is affirmed twice in both Covenants—these treaties affirm popular resource sovereignty more than they affirm any other human right. Popular resource sovereignty is also affirmed in major regional human rights instruments, like the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. As Okowa in 2007 eloquently explained one of the doctrines that helped to form this human right, it provides

An international standard against which the legality of natural resource exploitation by all parties to a conflict stands to be assessed.… If the terminology of peoples’ rights in the 1966 Covenants and in the African Charter is significant, then both must be regarded as imposing a set of justiciable precepts, in the form of limitations on what the government of a territory may do with resources of that territory. These instruments are clearly in force as binding treaties, creating obligations.[9]

By passing a Clean Trade Act, an importing state will be doing nothing more than to change its own domestic laws so that they respect human rights. As Blood Oil says,

a Clean Trade Act is less dramatic than more familiar foreign policy options. A country passing this Act will be changing its own laws, enforced on its own soil, regarding its own terms of trade. Not a single bomber or soldier need be sent abroad to implement these policies.

Moreover, a Clean Trade Act does not challenge the right of any regime to rule its country. An enacting state need say nothing about the legitimacy of foreign leaders, and need make no changes in the list of states receiving its diplomatic recognition…. Political recognition and commercial relations are distinct, and passing a Clean Trade Act only alters commercial relations. Leaders of a Clean Trade country can say that who holds the presidency of a resource-exporting country is ‘none of our business,’ while also saying that today its president qualifies for ‘none of our business.’[10]

As I hope this make clear, Clean Trade policy is not about ‘promoting democracy’ by challenging the right to rule of non-democratic regimes. Indeed, even within the domain of natural resources, Kuwait (for instance) is currently just ‘above the line’ in terms of minimal accountability to its citizens for resource decisions—and few would call Kuwait a democracy. Clean Trade is about power: about states ending their own contributions to the empowerment of unaccountable actors abroad.

Not Sanctions, Not Interference, the Opposite of Intervention

Stewart and Okowa worry about the effects of sanctions, and also raise concerns that a Clean Trade Act would amount to interfering with, or even neo-colonial intervention in, in the domestic affairs of other states. I share their concerns about sanctions, and I share their dismay at neo-colonial policies. Yet those worries are within the familiar old debates that accept the status quo—debates about foreign ‘state-building,’ and about Western military intervention to ‘build democracy’ abroad. Once we see what happens when states choose effectiveness, those old worries get turned on their heads. As Blood Oil says,

Determined action to reform the global resource trade must choose its tools wisely. The sharp-edged tool of military action to force democratic change is, as we’ve seen, not fit for this work. Even putting aside the efficacy of bombing for democracy, this is too much like the colonizing campaigns of the past to build the trust that the West now needs. Western nations should instead work to align their policies to fit their own principles— first by powering down their own destructive laws like effectiveness for resources. The first tools the West needs are not those for state-building; first turn off the West’s machines that are now state-razing.[11]

Let’s start with sanctions. Stewart and Okowa are right to be concerned about sanctions; but a Clean Trade Act is not sanctions. Sanctions aim to punish a specific enemy. A Clean Trade Act does not aim to punish anyone. Rather, it takes a principled stand for all people’s rights, across the board, for allies and adversaries alike.[12] The leadership of a country enacting a Clean Trade Act can say to foreign leaders,

‘We do not challenge any of you, as always we continue to recognize your right to rule your land. On matters beyond resource trade, our relations can go on as before. All we are saying is that we believe that we have no right to buy resources from you—no right, because by the principles that you and we both endorse, the owners of those resources cannot be authorizing their sale. By passing this Clean Trade Act we are building respect for the human rights of all peoples into our laws—the rights of the Saudi people, of the Russian people, of the Iranian people, of the Angolan people—the rights of all peoples, worldwide.’

Nor would a Clean Trade Act be an intervention, or an interference in the internal affairs of other states (much less would it be, as in Okowa’s more pungent descriptions, ‘coercive and intrusive,’ ‘subordination,’ ‘degrading tutelage,’ or ‘vigilante justice.’) In fact, the situation is exactly the reverse: it is our countries today who are doing the meddling. As Blood Oil explains, ‘It would be dark humor for any country with an effectiveness-based trade policy to charge a Clean Trade country with ‘political meddling.’’ To make such a charge, a leader of an effectiveness-based importing country would have to make a speech like this one:

‘Today, we choose to take Equatorial Guinea’s oil. In exchange, we choose to give hundreds of millions of dollars to a brutal dictator, knowing that the money will help him to keep power by paying for soldiers and secret police and torture chambers for political prisoners. However, if mercenaries are tempted by our money and can assassinate Obiang tomorrow, we will buy oil from whoever hired the mercenaries and assumes the presidency. We are not meddling in the politics of Equatorial Guinea. It is those who buy no oil who are meddling.’

This is not compelling… It is countries that send large sums to ‘whoever can be most coercive’ that are interfering in the internal affairs of other nations and meddling in their politics. Countries that refuse to send large sums to authoritarians and militias are the ones that are not interfering, not meddling.[13]

This is an important point, so let’s do a thought experiment to idea the point home.[14]

Saudi Arabia banned slavery in 1962—but imagine that it hadn’t. Imagine that Saudi domestic law today says that the Saudi state has the legal right to sell Saudi slaves to foreigners. In this case, should the United States set its domestic law so that Saudi slaves could be bought and owned within its own borders? That’s the equivalent of today’s rule of effectiveness for natural resources.

Now let’s imagine that the US has long had a law allowing Saudi slaves to be bought and owned within its own borders. And imagine that, after determined activism, the US then enacts a law banning the importation of Saudi slaves, and the sale of Saudi slaves on American territory. Would this new law be interfering in Saudi internal affairs? Would this law be a coercive and intrusive foreign policy, a neo-colonial intervention that manages Saudi Arabia from afar? Would it be an act of vigilante justice, subordinating Saudi Arabia to a degrading foreign tutelage?

I can’t believe that the commentators, or anyone today, would believe so. Nothing in international law (of recognition, or anything else) requires any state to change its laws to align with the laws of a state that sells slaves. Any country that has banned the importation of foreign slaves has merely aligned its own laws with human rights—with the human rights of all people to be free. And this is all that a country that passed a Clean Trade Act would be doing. Nothing in international law requires any country to align its own laws with the Saudi laws that say that the Saudi state has the right to sell off Saudi oil without accountability to the people. And in fact, the human rights treaties that nearly all states (including Saudi Arabia) have ratified affirm the rights of the people over their resources.[15]

It is true that the crime of slavery is worse than the theft of a nation’s resources. Yet there is a difference in the other direction too. Britain’s campaign to ban the Atlantic slave trade in the 19th century was a one in which the most economically advanced Western country imposed ‘its’ values on other countries. By contrast, the campaign for the legal recognition of popular resource sovereignty was a campaign of the Global South. Starting with Chile in 1952, it was ‘Third World’ states—against strong opposition from the West—that insisted on the legal principle that a country’s resources belong to its people.[16] The campaign for popular resource sovereignty was an anti-imperialist campaign waged by developing countries trying to resist the exploitation of their natural resources by Western corporations. The historic success of this campaign by the Global South can now be leveraged to advance the rights of all peoples today.

Both Stewart and Okowa rightly condemn neo-colonialism. Yet it is the status quo—which Okowa in particular defends so passionately—that is more vulnerable to this charge. It has often been noted that in the end the Western imperial powers were not so unhappy about ‘losing’ their resource-rich colonies, which had become troublesome and expensive to govern from afar.[17] The imperialists saw that after independence, they could still extract the natural resources that they wanted from the colonies, without having to bear the costs of rule them. They would just need their corporations to bribe the post-independence strongmen to get the resources—or their corporations might need to pay off armed groups when civil wars broke out.

In this history, Western imperialists were happy enough to see their colonial rule replaced by authoritarians, corrupt officials, and civil conflict—because their countries still got the resources out. ‘Independence’ merely reduced their expenses. Those who defend today’s status quo by endorsing the law of ‘might makes right’ must defend its interference in the internal affairs of resource-rich states, partly for the benefit of the former colonial powers.

Principles and Consequences

Passing a Clean Trade Act is a dramatic thing for states to do. Though implementation could be gradual, and good diplomacy will be essential, passing an Act will be a major change in international trade. Running through all the commentators’ remarks is an understandable concern about the consequences of making such reforms. Will it be worth it for states to make a stand on principle? Are there unintended consequences that might cancel out the benefits of making these reforms?

These are crucial questions. Blood Oil carefully considers the consequences of the policies it recommends, using the empirical literature to project those consequences as responsibly as possible. Yet the book also raises on one point. When we wake up tomorrow, our country will have a law in place saying who it’s is legal to buy natural resources from. Our choice is not ‘Clean Trade or not Clean Trade.’ Our choice is ‘Clean Trade or effectiveness.’ And those who choose effectiveness for tomorrow must also take responsibility for the consequences of their choice.

Here is a summary passage from Blood Oil, based on research by Michael Ross, that highlights a few of the consequences of the choice of effectiveness over the past forty years.

For forty years, oil states have been noisy distractions to the quiet successes of the developing world. While non-oil states have generally been getting richer, freer, and more peaceful, the oil states are no richer, no more free, and no more peaceful than they were in 1980. Many oil states have even gotten worse—Gabon’s average income fell by almost half over the quarter century from 1980; Iraq’s fell by a full 85 percent. Long internal conflicts have ravaged countries like Algeria, Angola, Colombia, and Nigeria. Two headline figures are that these oil states are 50 percent more likely to be ruled by an authoritarian government, and poorer ones are twice as likely to experience civil war, as non-oil states. The oil states are also more financially opaque and volatile on average than non-oil states, and… they allow women fewer opportunities to enter politics or to work outside the home.[18]

These are just some dimensions of the resource curse on exporting states. Those who endorse effectiveness for tomorrow must accept the consequences of their choice for the people of these states tomorrow. Indeed, we can expect these consequences now to get worse. Because of climate change, the oil-exporting states around the equator will be getting hotter, and hungrier, and thirstier, just as they go through a youth bulge and these regions fill up with more powerful explosive and drones. Those who choose effectiveness tomorrow must consider that their choice may bring a future that is even worse than the past.

More than this, it is vital to understand the range of reasons there are to abolish effectiveness for natural resources. When I speak to people in government in Washington and London, we mostly don’t talk about human rights. These conversations are all about national security. Effectiveness is not only bad for ‘them there.’ It also seriously threatens ‘us here.’ (This is the argument of Chapter 6 of Blood Oil, ‘Curses on Us.’)

Let’s head backward in time through the last forty years, and look for common factors in the West’s major foreign threats and crises. Recently we have seen Putin meddling in Western elections and invading a European country, Ukraine. From 2014, the Syrian conflict swelled a refugee crisis that fired nationalist populism in Europe. Next, think of ISIS, with its beheadings and its sexual slavery. Then Gaddafi, who sponsored terrorists from the Munich Olypics attackers to the Lockerbie bombers. Think of the terrorist attacks in London on 7/7/05, and in America on 9/11/01, which were planned by Al Qaeda. Before Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein destabilized the Middle East  in 1990 by invading Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Since 1979, the Iranian regime has funded militant groups from Hezbollah to Islamic Jihad. And going back to the 1970’s and 80’s, the Soviet Union posed the West with its greatest existential threat when it raced ahead in the nuclear arms race.

A lifetime of foreign threats and crises, with one common factor. All of these threats and crises came from states that export a lot of oil. Let’s agree right off that the West’s responses to the authoritarians and armed groups listed were often ill-advised and immoral. Yet, again, we also need to ask why the authoritarians and armed groups were there in the first place. (And, for Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups, where they derived their extreme, fundamentalist version of Islam.) Again, oil does not explain everything—it’s a complex world, and each threat and crisis has several causes. And yet, again and again, the foreign threats and crises in our headlines have emerged from oil states, and have been driven by unaccountable men empowered by the money that we as consumers have sent them.

The past forty years have shown that the West cannot contain the unaccountable power of oil from outside exporting countries, through alliances or invasions or sanctions. There is only one source of accountability over the power of oil and other resources, which is the people of the country, who live right there, on the ground, every day. Respecting popular resource sovereignty is the political solution for lifting the resource curse, on ‘them’ and on ‘us.’ When we wake up tomorrow, our countries will have a choice: Clean Trade or effectiveness. I accept the consequences of the law that I recommend.[19] Those who endorse continuing with effectiveness must also own the consequences of the law that they support. Tomorrow’s threats and crises will be on them.

While pressing for the abolition of effectiveness, reformers should be determined but never utopian. Stewart imagines campaigners who think, ‘once consumers refuse to purchase natural resources that are stolen from peoples, authoritarian governments will fall, resource wars will dissipate, poverty will decline and human beings will prosper.’ But that kind of thinking is unrealistic. As Blood Oil says,

Abolishing effectiveness for resources can start today, but it won’t be finished tomorrow. This won’t take sixty years, like abolishing the slave trade—yet resistance will be significant, and setbacks will happen.

And once more, the world is not monocausal or even oligocausal. Resources are something, but not everything… Even the best policies will fall far short of magic. The resource-diseased countries that we’ve studied, such as Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea, have many weaknesses beyond resources; they may not become stable constitutional democracies even in the medium term. We should also remember that in many resource-disordered countries, corruption is not a fault in the system, it is the system—so changing the basic structure of governance will take time. More, there are many important global challenges—such as nuclear proliferation and banking secrecy— that resource reforms by themselves will not meet. The finale of our journey is not an earthly Paradiso; we press on.

Strategies for Progress

The campaign for abolishing ‘might makes right’ for natural resources faces significant challenges. This is not the work of a single day or year. Because the opposing forces are so entrenched, any successful campaign must move on several fronts at once. Which strategies will be best for reforming ‘the rules that run the world’?

Barry is a leading authority on supply chains and on consumer complicity in injustices abroad. He sets out the challenges of individual action for change, before going on to consider some alternatives. Barry says,

The natural approach would be to work together to bring about legal reform in our own countries so as to delink ourselves from non-clean trade.  As a claim about what we ought to do, this seems unobjectionable. However, the path from what we ought to do, to what I and other individuals reading his book ought to do, is an uneasy one. I cannot count on others doing what we ought together do in deciding how to act.  Indeed, the unwillingness of others to do what we ought to do may change what I ought to do.

Barry is here raising the familiar problem of the connection between individual action and collective action. Twenty years ago, your deciding to recycle would not, by itself, have changed anything about how your community dealt with trash. Today, your deciding to eat free-range or vegan food will not, by itself, change anything about how your country regulates factory farming. No individual’s action is decisive—and sometimes it seems as though no individual’s action can have an impact at all. And yet, when one looks at examples like these, individual actions have made (and we hope will make) all the difference.

The most compelling story of individual action turning into major reform is the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade, which I sketch in Blood Oil and which is told at length in Adam Hochschild’s magnificent book, Bury the Chains.[20] When individuals began to boycott ‘blood sugar’ harvested by slaves on British plantations in the Caribbean, the forces set against the end of the slave trade were much more powerful than the forces that might oppose Clean Trade today. And yet, they did it—individual by individual, the anti-slavery boycott, combined with campaigns on several other fronts, made the slave trade illegal, first in the British colonies, and then across all of the slave-trading empires.

It may seem that individual action cannot be efficacious against the forces set against it. Yet as these and many other examples show, reform efforts based on individual action have often succeeded. We can hope that climate change will be another case like this—that individual action to reduce emissions will be part of a global campaign that turns the world away from the dangerous trajectory that it is currently on. Individual action is never sufficient for success, but as history shows it is often necessary. We should not give up on individual action before the campaigns begin.

Barry considers some individual actions that seem less promising. For example, he wonders whether individuals could impose a tax on themselves for the proportion of their spending that is on natural resources from resource-cursed countries. As he says, this would be difficult to do. The world’s supply chains are elaborate and ever-shifting, and for oil in particular they are opaque. Oil and oil products are used in many links in the supply chain for any particular good. For consumers to work out for themselves what their tax should be is currently well-nigh impossible.[21] As Barry says, consumers could demand more transparency from companies. Yet for companies constantly to update the proportion of ‘clean’ oil used to make their products would require quite expensive changes in global business practices. There is also the question of how this information could be conveyed to consumers in a way that would be useful to them.[22]

Clean Trade takes a different approach. Instead of trying to follow the oil, it follows the money. For our campaign, we asked: where are the big oil companies making their profits from extracting oil? Clean Trade has done the numbers, and compiled them into a ranking that shows which companies are doing more business with authoritarian regimes. This ranking is now available on the Clean Trade website, as part of its ‘Weekend Freedom’ campaign. This campaign says, for drivers who fill up on the weekends and have a choice of branded stations, ‘Why not do business with a company that does less business with dictators?’ This will send a message to the oil companies that consumers notice when they make deals with regimes that keep their people from being free. (For drivers who are even more committed, the website notes that the index can be used to decide where to fill up, all week long.)

Ultimately, Clean Trade does aim at coordinated legislation among states, to make the legal transition from international resource trade based on effectiveness to trade based on popular resource sovereignty. Legislation is the ultimate goal for reasons that Le Billon spells out in his discussion of voluntary initiatives at the company level. There needs to be a legally-enforced ‘level playing field’ for companies, to keep defectors from gaining competitive advantage. Yet while legislation is the ultimate goal, it is a goal that often requires consumer and citizen pressure to achieve. This is why Barry’s discussion of individual action is so important.

One point on which Barry and I are in furious agreement is that, as he says, ‘We can surely limit significantly the degree to which we consume it and products composed of it. And it seems we should take on such costs, if that is really what it takes to refrain from putting lots of money in the hands of repressive regimes.’ I agree—and as I’m certain that Barry would also say, we should reduce our consumption of oil not only for the sake of human rights, but for the sake of the climate as well.

It is urgent that humanity reduces its use of oil—indeed, its use of all fossil fuels—as quickly as possible. The best way to end blood oil is to end the use of oil entirely. These two crucial campaigns can reinforce each other—we can have ‘win-wins’ for both.

The first step for devising such strategies is to make an honest assessment of where we are with fossils. Humanity must reduce its use of fossil fuels as quickly as possible—and this will take concerted action, because humanity today depends on fossil fuels for its energy. In fact, the reality is that humanity today is highly dependent. One doesn’t get a good sense of this from the news, where many stories are about the rapid advance of renewable energy sources. Renewables are indeed rapidly advancing—yet from a very low baseline. The sober fact is that today humanity gets 85% of its energy from fossil fuels. And, for all of the progress, all renewables combined today provide around 4%.[23] (For an analogy, add up some foods that you eat now that provide 85% of your calories, and also foods that provide 4% of your calories. It’s certainly possible for you to make a ‘food transition’ that would bring those percentages closer to even, yet this would take determined effort.)

Oil, and so blood oil, will still be used for some time. This is why we need reinforcing campaigns to limit emissions, and—as the 2015 Paris Agreement says—to limit them through a ‘just transition’ that respects human rights. Reducing the use of oil will reduce the unaccountable power in the hands of violent, corrupt, and coercive men in resource-cursed states—and reducing the power of those men will reduce the global instability that hinders further international coordination on climate. The climate and Clean Trade campaigns should offer each other significant arguments and initiatives that support each other.

In the ‘Green Trade’ section of Blood Oil, the following argument, based on the principle that ‘the oil belongs to the people,’ is offered to push faster action on climate:

Over half of the world’s oil production, and over half of the world’s oil reserves, cannot be exported without violating property rights. This oil is ‘stranded’ in the sense that no one can rightly sell it: it is stranded because it cannot be sold without passing stolen goods. On strict market principles, more than half the world’s oil is right now not available to be exported at all.[24]

This argument should be especially potent when directed at powerful international actors (such as corporations and Western governments) that have always taken the protection of property rights as a top priority. We now show them that respect for property rights requires that we not buy stolen goods, based on a principle of ownership affirmed in treaties that they have long pledged to respect. For those who valorize capitalism and the roles as ‘market actors,’ this argument shows that oil use must be reduced quite significantly, right away.

One argument will never be enough, so we should look for more ‘win-wins’ on climate and on human rights. As mentioned above, a Clean Trade Act in a country like the United States would lead to a modest increase in the price of gasoline, which would help to speed the transition to renewable energies.

And, as Barry suggests, consumers can do much too.[25] One current Clean Trade initiative is a campaign against ‘Blood Plastic.’ If something is plastic, then it’s oil—so purchasing it may be spending money that entrenches the worldwide resource curse. And especially destructive are single-use plastics, which stimulate continuous demand for oil and which often end up damaging marine environments. Consumers can take positive action on all of these fronts by saying, ‘Don’t use single-use.’ Skip the straw, bring your bag, steel your bottle—it’s not unrealistically demanding to avoid single-use Blood Plastic, and by doing this consumers can take a first step after which further steps will seem easier. (More campaigns, such as ‘Washed Clean’ and the ‘Toycott,’ are described in Blood Oil.[26])

And Clean Trade has more, reinforcing campaigns as well. As Le Billon suggests, legal strategies are promising. Clean Trade is currently pursuing legal complaints against international corporations that buy fossil fuels from the world’s most oppressive regimes. We are also hopeful for action in international litigation, where a democratic successor to an authoritarian regime could dispute an unfavorable resource contract by showing that the previous regime could not have been authorized by the owner of the resource (the citizens) to enter into the contract. We will also be pressing for investors and businesses to respect the human right of popular resource sovereignty, declared in treaties that they have already pledged to honor.

There’s so much that we can do, individually and together, on many fronts, to lift the world’s resource curse. Stewart, Okowa, Barry and I may have local disagreements about this issue or that, but I admire each of them, and in the end I take issue mostly with the strain of pessimism that sometimes creeps into their remarks. This is a tough time in politics, as we all know. But those who have come before us have endured worse, and have kept going, and eventually they have won over challenges larger than those we now face. As Blood Oil says, we have to see the world with both eyes at once. The world is much worse than it should be, but in many ways it’s much better than it was—because determined individuals took resolute action for positive change.

Which brings us back again to Simon Taylor, Charmian Gooch, and Global Witness. Whenever pessimism about the world and its future takes hold, one might remind oneself what Global Witness has accomplished already, against what seemed to be impossible odds. Progress is possible, tomorrow’s heroes are acting right now. The sober lesson is that progress does not come by itself—it does take a great deal of hard work, by individuals coming together and making common cause. Yet progress can come. There is much we can do today to make the world a better home for humanity tomorrow.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

BP. 2018. BP Statistical Review of World Energy. 67th edition. https://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/business-sites/en/global/corporate/pdfs/energy-economics/statistical-review/bp-stats-review-2018-full-report.pdf.

Adam Hoschchild. 1995. Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

ICCPR. 1966. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 999 UNTS 171.

ICESCR. 1966. International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. 993.

Phoebe Okowa. 2013. ‘Sovereignty Contests and the Exploitation of Natural Resources in Conflict Zones’, in Current Legal Problems 66.1: 33-73.

Phoebe Okowa. 2007. ‘Natural Resources in Situations of Armed Conflict: Is there a Coherent Framework for Protection?’ International Community Law Review 9.3: 237-62.

James Stewart. 2011. Corporate War Crimes: Prosecuting the Pillage of Natural Resources. New York: Open Society Institute.

Leif Wenar. 2017. Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules that Run the World. Updated edition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Leif Wenar.

[forthcoming]

. The Right of Peoples over Natural Resources. (available on request, leif.wenar@kcl.ac.uk)

Leif Wenar, Michael Blake, Aaron James, Christopher Kutz, Nazrin Mehdiyeva, and Anna Stilz. 2018. Beyond Blood Oil. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.


[1] Stewart 2011.

[2] www.globalwitness.org.

[3] For readers interested in more details and footnotes, shorter summaries of the book are now available. An open-access, policy-oriented summary is in the Progressive Review at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/newe.12038. A fuller summary is in the first chapter of the author-meets-critics volume, Beyond Blood Oil. Wenar et. al., 2018.

[4] In the US, sub-soil resources are often privately owned. This is compatible with the principle, insofar as the relevant authorities were minimally accountable when they passed the laws that allowed private acquisition of what were, up until then, publicly-owned resources.

[5] ICCPR, ICESCR, common Article 1(2). Stewart raises the important point that international law has also affirmed the rights of indigenous peoples to the natural resources of their traditional lands. These legal rights of national peoples and indigenous peoples are compatible. I say a little about this in Wenar 2017, pp. 198-200, and much more in Wenar [forthcoming].

[6] Okowa 2013, pp. 37-39.

[7] Wenar 2017, p. 81.

[8] Wenar 2017, p. 111.

[9] Okowa 2007, pp. 246, 257, discussing the doctrine of ‘permanent sovereignty over natural resources.’ I survey the current status of popular resource sovereignty in international law in a working paper, available on request (leif.wenar@kcl.ac.uk).

[10] Wenar 2017, p. 285.

[11] Wenar 2017, pp. 276-77.

[12] Okowa worries that a Clean Trade Act would be a ‘witch-hunt’ that would ‘be a rallying point for political Islam.’ Currently, passing a Clean Trade Act would disqualify resource imports from, for example, Russia, Burma, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Angola—countries of different world regions, with quite different histories, religious and ethnic compositions, and relations to the West. Okowa might need to spell out in more detail how her concerns might eventuate.

[13] Wenar 2017, pp. 296-97.

[14] This case is based on a parallel example inWenar 2017, pp. 119-20.

[15] Saudi Arabia is party to the Arab Charter of Human Rights, which affirms all peoples’ rights over their resources.

[16] Wenar [forthcoming].

[17] See Wenar 2017, p. 115.

[18] Wenar 2017, p. xv.

[19] The best question I’ve ever gotten when speaking on the reforms I advocate is whether I would still press for them were it my own life that would be sacrificed in the transition to a better world. My answer was, ‘of course yes.’

[20] Hochschild 1995.

[21] These problems with supply chains would not affect a Clean Hands Trust, as Barry suggests. To set up such a trust, an enacting state only has to know how much stolen oil is going into a target country. (This is easy to find out, as most internationally-traded oil is transported on huge tankers, already tracked by satellites.) The enacting state then simply collects the value of that stolen oil from duties on imports from the target country, and holds that money in trust. See Wenar 2017, pp. 289-91.

[22] There has been an attempt at a certification scheme to generate something like ‘Fair Trade Oil,’ but it seems not to have gotten traction so far. See Equitable Origins, EO100 Site Certification scheme https://www.equitableorigin.org/programs/eo100tm-site-certification/.

[23] BP (2018).

[24] Wenar 2017, p. 304.

[25] As Barry says, for instance, consumers can purchase a conflict-free Fairphone; gems guaranteed not to be taken from combat zones are also available at retailers like Brilliant Earth.

[26] Wenar 2017, p. 292.