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Thoughts from Nuremberg

By ucqhgnu, on 22 August 2016

By Gaiane Nuridzhanian, PhD student at UCL

This summer, between 1 and 12 August 2016, the International Nuremberg Principles Academy hosted the International Criminal Law Summer Academy for Junior Professionals. The Nuremberg Summer Academy brought together participants with diverse backgrounds from countries that face challenges in terms of accountability for international crimes. The Summer Academy was attended by prosecutors, investigators, judges, as well as aspiring academics, from Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Nigeria, Kenya, Kosovo, Kurdistan (Iraq), Syria, and Ukraine.


The course was designed so as to allow the participants to expand and deepen their theoretical knowledge of international criminal law. It also presented the participants with a unique opportunity to engage in debates concerning application of international criminal law in practice with state officials, prosecutors and defence lawyers practicing international criminal law at the domestic and international levels. The programme of the course also included visits to the historic sites that are closely connected to the events which gave rise to the first international criminal trials: Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds, Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, the Nuremberg Palace of Justice and Nuremberg Trials Memorial.

The course opened with the historic overview of international criminal law from Nuremberg Trials to the adoption of the Rome Statute of the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC); with a discussion concerning the purpose of international criminal justice, relationship between domestic and international criminal courts and limitations and advantages inherent in the prosecution of international crimes before international, regional and domestic courts.

Considerable attention was paid to the discussion of the core crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the Rome Statute – genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In his lecture, Professor Schabas of the Middlesex University School of Law, focused on the definition of the crime of genocide. He pointed out the questionable elements of the existing definition of crime of genocide. For instance, he observed that the criterion of existence of special intent to destroy the targeted group in whole or in part was not always helpful, in practice, for the purposes of establishing whether genocide indeed took place. Instead, according to Schabas, it is more useful to talk about the requirement of policy. This criterion is reflected in the Elements of Crimes of the ICC, under which the conduct that took place in the context of a manifest pattern of similar conduct is an element of crime of genocide.

Certain other notions discussed in relation to the definition of genocide included the term ‘to destroy’, which, in fact, excluded ‘cultural genocide’ since it did not involve physical destruction. Similarly, the discussion addressed the term ‘in whole or in part’, which has been interpreted by international criminal tribunals as encompassing the destruction of a substantial part of the targeted group. Finally, the debate touched upon the existing limitation of the targeted groups to four categories – nationality, ethnicity, race, and religion. According to Professor Schabas, these four characteristics have a common denominator: they define the identity of an individual. In addition, the choice of these specific characteristics was explained by the historical events that gave rise to the notion of the crime of genocide.

Professor deGuzman, of Temple University Beasley School of Law, discussed the definition of ‘crimes against humanity’ as well as the purpose and justification/reasoning of this category of international crimes. Distinction was drawn between the definition of the ‘crimes against humanity’ in the law and practice of various international criminal courts and tribunals. Such diverging and disputed elements included nexus to an armed conflict, the presence of discriminatory grounds, and the open-ended definition of ‘crimes against humanity’.  The Course participants also focused the debate on the contextual elements of ‘crimes against humanity’ such as the notions of ‘widespread or systematic attack’ and ‘attack directed against civilian population’. The constitutive contextual requirement of the conduct to be part of ‘a State or organisational policy’, its content and relevance were examined by the participants in the course of a brief moot court exercise. The Decision on confirmation of charges in a case arising from a situation of Kenya, served as an example.

In addition to the definitions of ‘genocide’ and ‘crimes against humanity’, the participants benefited from an opportunity to engage in a discussion on the problematic issues concerning the definition and prosecution of war crimes, crimes of piracy, and terrorism. In the course on the lecture on terrorism, Tim Moloney, QC, of Doughty Street Chambers, presented the participants with a detailed outline of the UK legislation, as well as with the domestic practice related to counter-terrorism measures and their consequences for the individual rights.

A separate lecture was dedicated to the question of the proposed Criminal Chamber of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR). Professor Jalloh, of Florida International University College of Law, delved into the issues surrounding the adoption of the Malabo Protocol, which aims to extend the jurisdiction of the future African Court of Justice and Human Rights to crimes under international law and transnational crimes. It has been shown in the course of the lecture that the proposal for a regional court in Africa, which would try crimes under international law, was not novel; it has, in fact, been mooted and debated since 1980s, and again in great vehemence in 2014 with the adoption of the Malabo Protocol.

The future Criminal Chamber within the ACJHR would ostensibly differ from the ICC in number of key respects. For instance, the definition of the crime of genocide differs between the courts. In addition to the underlying acts enumerated in Article 6 of the Rome Statute, the Malabo Protocol also envisages that the acts of rape and any other form of sexual violence committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group may also constitute the crime of genocide; a component absent from the ICC definition. In Professor Jalloh’s opinion, the definition of genocide found in the Malabo Protocol represents a progressive development of international criminal law. It in fact reflects the findings of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in the Akayesu case that acts of sexual violence can be qualified as acts of genocide. In addition to the crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC, the future ACJHR Criminal Chamber will be competent to try quite an extensive number of other crimes. Namely, the crime of unconstitutional change of government, piracy, terrorism, mercenarism, corruption, money laundering, trafficking in persons, trafficking in drugs, trafficking in hazardous wastes, and illicit exploitation of natural resources. Finally, unlike the Rome Statute, the Malabo Protocol provides for immunity of serving head of state or government and senior officials in relation to their functions and during their term of office.

Professor Tladi, of University of Pretoria, focused on the relationship between Africa and the ICC. He examined in detail the role allocated to, and played by, the UNSC in the framework of the ICC prosecutions and trials. He also engaged in the discussion of the decisions of the ICC and South African courts. Professor Tladi’s discussion also touched upon the question of States’ obligation to co-operate with the ICC and on the question of immunities of state officials. Tladi opined that there was no conflict between Article 27 of the Rome Statute concerning irrelevance of official capacity for the purposes of trial before the ICC, on the one hand, and Article 98 of the Rome Statute concerning state obligation regarding state or diplomatic immunities, on the other. The former reflects the relationship between the ICC and the accused, while the latter concerns states’ obligations vis-à-vis each other. On the more practical side, the participants of the course also had an opportunity to learn more about the practicalities of State Co-operation and Mutual Legal Assistance from Jennifer Schense, an International Co-operation Adviser at the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (‘OTP’).

A series of lectures were dedicated to the practical side of prosecuting international crimes at international and domestic levels. These covered such topics as domestic prosecution of international crimes, investigations and the gathering of evidence, prosecutorial strategy and construction of cases, drafting of indictment and charges, and the prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence.

Brenda Hollis, a Prosecutor at the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone, outlined for the participants a comprehensive strategy for the investigation of international crimes and human rights violations. In her lecture she focused particularly on the collecting of evidence, which took into account the specific nature of international crimes and various nuances related to the investigations of such crimes. Jonathan Rathel, the former Head of the Kosovo Special Prosecution Office (SPRK), bolstered the practical discussion and spoke about prosecuting organized crime. He focused in particular on drafting an indictment and bringing charges, using as an example the case of trafficking in human organs prosecuted by the EULEX in Kosovo.

Several final lectures were dedicated to the questions that have been subject to extensive discussions among the international criminal law scholars, namely the rights of the accused in the trial before the international criminal courts and tribunals and the status and rights of victims in cases and situations subject to the ICC investigations.




The Nuremberg Summer Academy for Junior Professionals stands out amongst a number of superficially similar events. What separates it from others is its ability to offer the participants a course that combines academic and theoretical debate alongside a more practical understanding and application of the law. Thus, theoretical discussions of some of the most debated issues in international criminal law were combined and interwoven with the expertise of practitioners in the application of international criminal law, at both the international and the domestic level. Further, the Summer Academy was mindful to bring together participants from the very countries that are in need of expertise in international criminal law. All the participants were eager to share their experience and to contribute actively to the debate on international criminal law and its future development.

More information on the International Nuremberg Principles Academy and the events organised by it can be found at the Academy’s website.

7 Responses to “Thoughts from Nuremberg”

  • 1
    IraRykLakhman wrote on 22 August 2016:

    Thoughts from #Nuremberg. New post on #UCLLawBlog @ucljlj @ya_chereshnya

  • 2
    ucljlj wrote on 22 August 2016:

    New post: Thoughts from #Nuremberg by Gaiane Nuridzhanian@ya_chereshnya https://t.co/8CsCig8mQf

  • 3
    ya_chereshnya wrote on 22 August 2016:

    This summer I attended a very interesting ICL event organised by Nuremberg Academy. Find out more here: https://t.co/6mxzU6gMyk

  • 4
    ya_chereshnya wrote on 22 August 2016:

    RT @IraRykLakhman: Thoughts from #Nuremberg. New post on #UCLLawBlog @ucljlj @ya_chereshnya

  • 5
    IraRykLakhman wrote on 22 August 2016:

    RT @ucljlj: New post: Thoughts from #Nuremberg by Gaiane Nuridzhanian@ya_chereshnya https://t.co/8CsCig8mQf

  • 6
    Dominique Puskas wrote on 17 October 2016:

    I truly appreciate this post. I¦ve been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thank you again

  • 7
    ucqhiry wrote on 24 October 2016:

    Our pleasure! we hope you’re following the other posts too

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