SC for Sierra Leone


The United Nations lawyer Ralph Zacklin set up the special court for Sierra Leone on January 16, 2002.  This came after a request from the government of Sierra Leone in 2000.  The court was meant to last just three years, however it remained in place until December of 2013 after the final sentence was given in early September of that year. The government of Sierra Leone requested that a Special Court (SC) be made to address the atrocious crimes committed during the decade long civil war in their country. The SC for Sierra Leone (SL) was a landmark moment in international law, because it produced the world’s first hybrid international criminal trial.  This led to trying those criminals who held the greatest responsibility for the deadly crimes committed in Sierra Leone. The SCSL was also the first international tribunal to sit in the country where the actual crimes took place; it was also the first to have an outlook program on the ground that was effective. This court was funded by voluntary contributions, rather than government funds and was the first to be operated on individuals’ contributions.  In 2013 the SC completed its mandate by completing what it set out to do, and it transition into a residual mechanism. The SCSL was also the first court to convict criminals for their attacks against UN peacekeepers, and this court also punished instigators of forced marriages, naming them crimes against humanity. Continue reading “SC for Sierra Leone”

Tiananmen Square Dissident Trial


1989 Democracy Movement

  • protests were triggered by the death of Hu Yaobang, a liberal reformer who was deposed after losing a power struggle with hardliners over the direction of political and economic reforms
  • Student-led demonstrations on Tiananmen Square
  • Goals: “A communist party without corruption”; freedom of the press; freedom of speech; economic reforms
  • Methods: hunger strike sit-in, occupation of public square
  • Party officials declared martial law on May 20
  • on June 4 the People’s Liberation Army entered the square and squashed the protests with live bullets, killing hundreds (if not thousands) of protesters

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Tokyo War Crimes Trial


Nuremberg Trial

  • series of 13 military tribunals from 1945~1949 held in Nuremberg, Germany
  • held by the International Military Tribunal (formed by Allied nations) to prosecute prominent political, economic, and military leaders of Nazi Germany who participated in the Holocaust and or perpetrated other war crimes
  • basis of the Nuremberg trials was established on August 8, 1945 by the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal (IMT)
  • 4 categories of charges [definitions from the Principles of International Law recognized in the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal, with commentaries (1950) ]
  • crimes against peace: Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i)
  • crimes against humanity: Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connexion with any crime against peace or any war crime.
  • war crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labour or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
  • conspiracy to commit crimes of peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity
  • the first and best known trial of the Nuremberg trials:
  • 24 defendants (including Nazi Party officials, German industrialists, lawyers, and doctors) were chosen to represent the Nazi diplomatic, economic, political, and military leadership
  • a couple defendants died/committed suicide during the trial
  • defendants could choose their own defense counsel
  • the four main Allied nations, the UK, the US, the USSR, and France each appointed a judge and a prosecution team
  • American Robert Jackson was the chief prosecutor argued his case based primarily on Nazi written documents rather than rely on eyewitness testimonies, so that the trial could not be accused of using biased or tainted evidence
  • judges delivered their verdict on October 1, 1946
  • 3 out of 4 judges were needed for conviction
  • 12 defendants were sentenced to death, 3 defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment, 4 defendants were sentenced to prison terms of 10~20 years, and 3 defendants were acquitted
  • Nuremberg trials revealed many details about the Holocaust, including details about Kristallnacht, the Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz, etc.
  • there were many subsequent trials after the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, but the Nuremberg Trials remain the first and most famous war crimes trial
  • regarded as an important step toward the establishment of a permanent international court
  • set precedent for dealing with later crimes against humanity i.e. genocide
  • many questions are raised, however, over the legitimacy of the trials and the suitability of the verdicts

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Saddam Hussein Trial


Saddam Hussein was the president of Iraq for 24 years before the U.S. invasion in 2003. It is claimed that Hussein would use toxic gas on his citizens, as well as publicly executing people, and having kurdish people killed. The reason that the U.S. had invaded Iraq was because they believed that Saddam had building weapons of mass destruction. He was put on trial with charges of war crime, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The trial was seen as a “Kangaroo court,” meaning that it disregards recognized standards of law or justice, and carries little or no official standing in the territory. It was deemed as “unfair,” and that it “marks a significant step away from the rule of law in Iraq.” He was executed by hanging in 2006. Continue reading “Saddam Hussein Trial”

Klaus Barbie Trial


  • Nikolaus “Klaus” Barbie was an SS officer and Gestapo member.
  • He was known as the “Butcher of Lyon” for having personally tortured French prisoners of the Gestapo while stationed in Lyon, France.
  • In 1943, he captured Jean Moulin, the leader of the French Resistance, and had him slowly beaten to death.
  • In 1944, Barbie deported 44 young Jewish children and their seven teachers hiding in a boarding house in Izieu to the Auschwitz extermination camp.
  • After the war, United States intelligence services employed him for their anti-Marxist efforts, and also helped him escape to South America.
  • Barbie is suspected of having had a hand in the Bolivian coup d’état orchestrated by Luis García Meza Tejada in 1980.
  • After the fall of the dictatorship, Barbie no longer had the protection of the Bolivian government, and in 1983 was extradited to France, where he was convicted of crimes against humanity and died in prison of cancer.

Key Legal Issues

  • There were two large obstacles for the prosecution to clear before it could formally try to convict Barbie:
  • First was choosing the crimes for which Barbie should be tried and
  • Second was figuring out if French law would permit Barbie to be tried for those crimes.
  • The prosecution had split into two camp: those who wanted Barbie tried for the murders, torture, and coercion he used against the Resistance;
  • and those who wanted Barbie punished for his role in the Final Solution.
  • All charges against Barbie that could be considered “war crimes” had to be dropped under the Statute of Limitations because Barbie had been gone for more than twenty years.
  • if the prosecution could prove that Barbie had the intent of following an “ideological hegemony” when he killed, tortured, and deported, then he could be found guilty of “crimes against humanity.”


  • Barbie was charged with 177 crimes against humanity.
  • The jurors are fairly young men and women because both the defense and the prosecution hoped that the young jurors, who not adults during the Occupation, would have a more objective view of Barbie’s crimes. In addition, Barbie’s punishment would have even more weight if he were tried by those who never suffered at his hands.
  • Elie Wiesel was the star witness of this trial.
  • The defence was trying to establish that his crimes were merely part of a soldier’s duty and therefore not testable.
  • For every crime attributed to Klaus Barbie, the defence would find a corresponding crime attributed to the French, claiming that the French judiciary system was corrupt.
  • the prosecution was forced to prove and reprove what distinguished the Holocaust from ordinary acts of war or criminality.
  • Significance: France was forced to acknowledged its role in implementing the Final Solution. The French public pays a great deal of attention to genocide or even the potential of genocide in any region of the world.
  • The jurors found Klaus Barbie guilty of “crimes against humanity” and for that act sentenced him to spend the rest of his life in prison, France’s highest punishments.

ICT for Yugoslavia

Background and Key Legal Issues

  • With the resurgence of  nationalism across Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the 1980s and 1990s witnessed dramatic political and social change. In the early 1990s, hostilities in Slovenia was followed by conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1998-99 and 2001 the conflicts resumed in Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
  • Reports of rape and torture in detention camps, the massacre of thousands of civilians, and hundreds of thousands expelled from their home prompted the UN into action.
  • Evidence of of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and other violations of international humanitarian laws led the security council to to decide it would establish an international tribunal for persons responsible for these crimes.
  • This was the first war crimes court established by the UN and the first international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals. It marked the end of immunity for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.
  • The UN had to establish a statute of the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) that determined it’s jurisdiction and organizational structure. As well as the criminal procedure in general terms.


Slobodan Milosevic (2002-2005)

  • Slobodan Milosevic was a Serbian and Yugoslav politician during the times of war. He was well known for being corrupt and abusing his power.
  • Slobodan Milosevic was arrested on March 31st, 2001. His charges included genocide; complicity in genocide; deportation; murder; persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds; and extermination just to name a few.
  • The prosecution took two years to present its case. During the prosecution, 295 witnesses were presented and over 5000 exhibits of evidence presented. A motion to dismiss the charges was denied, in accordance that the prosecution case contained evidence supporting all 66 charges.
  • Milosevic decided to defend himself. But before he could finish his defense he was found dead in his cell from a heart attack.  Supporters from both sides believed the heart attack had been cause or self induced.

Tipton Three


  • The Tipton Three was a collective name given to three British citizens from Tipton, England who were being held in Guantanamo Bay after being captured in Afghanistan.
  • The Tipton Three, captured in Afghanistan in 2001, in relation to the 9/11 attacks in September of 2001. They were then transferred to United States Army custody and taken to Guantánamo Bay, where they were held as enemy combatants without trial.
  • The law concerning Habeas Corpus of foreign nationals in the U.S. and how it has previously existed.
    • Habeas Corpus: Is a order to the court that requests an inmate to be brought before the court to determine whether that person is imprisoned lawfully, and whether or not they should be released from custody.
    • The law concerning Habeas Corpus of foreign nationals in the US has a precedent case, Johnson v Eisentrager (1950). This case set out that nonresident enemy aliens do not have the legal right to petition U.S. courts for writs of habeas corpus.
  • The law concerning enemy combatants in the U.S. and in regards to Geneva convention.
    • The Geneva Convention is treaty law, which sets out the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs), and soldiers incapable of fight. The U.S. is a party to this treaty
    • Enemy Combatants: Are people who come with the intent of waging war by destruction of life or property. Enemy combatants are generally deemed not to be entitled to the status of a prisoner of war, but are subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals
    • The term enemy combatant exists as unlawful combatants under the Geneva Convention. Unlawful combatants do not qualify as POWs but qualify for some protection under the Geneva Convention. However, under the Bush administration enemy combatants are not protected under the Geneva Convention.
  • Enforcement and punishment for countries in violation of the Geneva Convention.
    • The Geneva Convention is to be enforced by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The UNSC rarely uses its authority in administrating the Geneva Convention, typically issues are resolved between involved parties through regional treaties or national law, but if not the convention may go unenforced.
    • Other times some countries act as protecting powers between two countries in conflict, they are responsible for implementing these conventions and overseeing treatment of POWs.
    • Nations who are parties to this treaty are responsible for bringing those who have violated the convention to trial. The only times people have been placed on trial for violation of the treaty were those responsible for the Rwandan and Yugoslavian genocides.

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Nuremberg Trial


  • On August 8, 1945, directly following the end of World War II the Charter of The International Military Tribunal (IMT) also known as the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal, was signed at the London Conference
  • Held for the purpose of bringing Nazi war criminals to justice and to document Nazi Germany’s crimes
  • The proceedings established the principle that wartime leaders are accountable under international law for illegal and immoral actions
  • Defendants =  22 leading Nazis including Nazi party officials, high ranking military officers, German industrialists, lawyers, and doctors
  • Crimes charged: Conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity
  • Chief Defense Lawyers: Otto Stahmer, Fritz Sauter, Alfred Seitel, others
  • Chief Prosecutors: Representatives of the United States, Great Britain, The Soviet Union, France
  • Judges: Chief Judge Geoffrey Lawrence of Great Britain (elected President of the International Military Tribunal), seven associates
  • The United States, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union — provided one judge and one alternate for the court
  • The Clerks had been preparing analysis of the defendant’s guilt prior to the start of the trail
  • Verdicts: Nineteen of the 22 guilty on one or more counts
  • Sentences: 12- death by hanging; the others – prison terms
  • Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, committed suicide and was never brought to trial
  • The city of Nuremberg(aka Nurnberg) in the German state of Bavaria was selected as the location for the trials because its Palace of Justice was relatively undamaged by the war and included a large prison area
  • Nuremberg had been the site of annual Nazi propaganda rallies and was considered to be the symbolic capital of Nazidom
  • Holding the post war trials there marked the symbolic end of Hitler’s government, the Third Reich
  • The Allies in concert dealt only with the leading conspirators; national courts would handle the thousands of lesser cases
  • Other war crimes trials were conducted parallel to the Nuremberg trial

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Extradition Treaty


An extradition is the transfer of an accused from one state to another state of country that seeks to place the accused on trial. Extradition usually occurs when the person that is accused of a crime in a certain area flees that area. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that accused persons can be sent to other countries to face trial. However, it has ruled against extraditing people accused of capital offences (crimes punishable by death in some jurisdictions) to a country where the death penalty is legal, as they think that facing the possibility of a death penalty would violate that person’s right to life. Continue reading “Extradition Treaty”

Diplomatic Immunity


  • Laws around Rules of diplomatic immunity were put into action by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Immunity in 1961. These laws were created so that Diplomats could not be threatened by foreign governments.
  • “Believing that an international convention on diplomatic intercourse, privileges and immunities
  • Would contribute to the development of friendly relations among nations, irrespective of their differing
  • Constitutional and social systems” (Vienna convention on Diplomatic immunity 1961)
  • Diplomatic immunity is now seen as customary law in many nations.

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