International war crimes courts deal only with the responsibility of individuals for crimes they committed. In order to avoid over-simplification of understanding what may have happened by the necessary concentration on individual criminal responsibility, it is vital not to overlook collective and state criminal responsibility; but state responsibility can only be dealt formally with at a different court, the International Court of Justice. Has this allowed states to escape attention that should have been paid to their responsibility -- as states -- for conflicts, a responsibility different in kind from the responsibility of their leaders?
All war crimes trials rely on cooperation with states, often the very ones which were involved in the relevant war, for production of valuable documents from state archives and to facilitate access to witnesses. States will be obligated by membership of the UN to cooperate while at the same time wanting or needing to obscure information that would make public the involvement of the state in the commission of crimes and mass atrocities.
What does the evidence in the Milošević trial and in other ICTY trials tell us about the responsibility of states, and not just of the states involved in conflicts? What does it tell us about the vulnerability of trials such as Milošević's to state interests that may run counter to open, forensic exploration of complex histories?
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:
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Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC
Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Gresham Professor of Law, has
practised as a barrister since 1971. He worked at the International
Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia – the ICTY – between 1998 and 2006
and led the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević, former President of Serbia.
Much of his work since has been connected to cases before the permanent
International Criminal Court – Sudan, Kenya, Libya – or pro
victims groups – Iran, Burma, North Korea – whose cases cannot get to any
international court. He works for several related NGO’s and lectures and
commentates in the media in various countries on international war crimes
issues. He has been a part-time judge since 1984 sitting at the Old
Bailey and has sat as judge in other jurisdictions, tribunals and
inquiries. Since 2009 he has been Vice-Chair of the Bar Standards Board,
the body that regulates barristers.
first five of his 2012-13 lectures asGresham Professor of Lawwill deal with issues arising from the
work of international criminal courts and tribunals. The sixth will
contrast the practice of law in international criminal courts where there is
little or no effective regulation of lawyers and judges with the present
working practices of the English Bar, on which he can reflect in light of his
long experience generally and his recent experience as a regulator.