All posts by James G. Stewart

Open Society Foundations, New York

“Who sold these weapons? The Accomplice Liability of Arms Vendors for International Crimes”

In recent years, a number of courts have tried businessmen who supply weapons to notoriously brutal regimes for complicity in the international crimes their clients perpetrated. James Stewart, an Open Society Fellow and former war crimes prosecutor, explores some of the implications of these cases. His work has shown, for example, that prosecuting arms vendors might be an effective means of halting the systematic rape of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pursuing arms vendors for complicity in international crimes will also have serious geopolitical consequences, especially for major weapons producers like China, Russia, and the United States.

Robert Varenik, director of programs for the Open Society Justice Initiative, introduces the event.

Click here to listen to the audio from James Stewart’s talk at OSI.

The Future of the Grave Breaches Regime: Segregate, Assimilate or Abandon

Grave Breaches Special Edition Screenshot

James G. Stewart (ed) The Grave Breaches Regime in the Geneva Convention: A Reassessment Sixty Years On Journal of International Criminal Justice, Vol. 7(4) 2009 (peer reviewed).

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This Article appears in an edited volume involving leading commentary on the grave breaches regime of the Geneva Conventions. I argue that there are three possible futures for the grave breaches regime: (a) continued segregation from other categories of war crimes in deference to the historical development of these crimes; (b) assimilation with other categories of war crimes, ideally through the promulgation of a more coherent treaty regime; and (c) abandonment because grave breaches entail troublesome technicalities with only marginal substantive added-value. I conclude that these war crimes will persist in a tension between these poles.

Wanton Destruction not Justified by Military Necessity; Plunder; Judicial Notice; Internationalized Armed Conflict; and Guantánamo


Antonio Cassese (ed) ‘The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice’ (Oxford, 2008) (peer reviewed).

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These short entries provide encyclopaedia-like treatment of a range of issues in modern international criminal law, including wanton destruction not justified by military necessity, plunder, judicial notice, internationalized armed conflict and Guantánamo. The entries were solicited contributions to a treatise on international criminal law.

The Military Commissions Act’s Inconsistency with the Geneva Conventions: An Overview

Journal of International Criminal Justice, Vol. 4(1) 2007 (peer reviewed).

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The article criticizes various aspects of the Military Commissions Act 2006, which governed the trial of Guantánamo detainees. The piece forms part of an expert symposium on the Military Commissions Act, which also included George Fletcher and Michael Dorf. The article is cited with approval in the amicus brief of the French Minister of Justice, which was joined by various international law experts, in the Omar Kadr case before US Military Commissions.

Re-Thinking Guantanamo: Unlawful Confinement as Applied in International Criminal Law

Journal of International Criminal Justice, Vol. 4(1) 2006 (peer reviewed).

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This article was awarded the La Pira Prize in 2006 for best article by a scholar under the age of 35 years. The paper concludes that there is a striking resemblance between allegations made of detention practices at Guantánamo and many of the scenarios that gave rise to individual criminal responsibility for unlawful confinement as a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions in other contexts. As such, I gently emphasize the need to rethink the legal basis for detention at Guantánamo and point to the troubling risks of individual criminal responsibility for purporting to develop international humanitarian law through unilateral changes in policy rather than formal international law-making processes.

Judicial Notice in International Criminal Law: A Reconciliation of Potential, Peril and Precedent

The International Criminal Law Review Vol. 3(3) 2003 (peer reviewed).

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This article was cited with approval by the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in the decision to take judicial notice of the Rwandan Genocide. It argues for great use of judicial notice in international criminal justice as a means of overcoming the need to prove background contextual elements of international crimes, such as the existence of an armed conflict, especially when they are common knowledge and previously adjudicated.


Towards a Single Definition of Armed Conflict in International Humanitarian Law: A Critique of Internationalized Armed Conflict

The International Review of the Red Cross, June 2003, Vol. 85 No 850, 313 (peer reviewed).

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This article argues for the abolition of the distinction between international and non-international armed conflict in the laws of armed conflict, by highlighting the current dichotomy’s failure to cope with conflicts that contain both elements, namely, internationalized armed conflicts. The article was cited within the International Criminal Court’s first judgment, was listed as one of four documents of interest on the ICRC’s main international humanitarian law webpage, and is translated into Arabic, Spanish and Russian.