Old and new models of post-conflict justice: Experiences from international(ised) courts

Event summary by our intern Taylor Hendrickson:

The Centre for Global Constitutionalism was honoured to welcome Beti Hohler, an Associate Trial Lawyer in the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, who discussed both the evolution of post-conflict criminal prosecution in a variety of judicial settings. Ms. Hohler began by providing an overview, explaining that the international community may step in when states cannot or will not prosecute crimes committed in their territory during conflict. Such intervention happens through prosecution in two types of judicial organs. First, the more familiar type is an international court (for criminal cases, the ICC). In recent years, there has been the rise of the second type: internationalised courts. These are temporary and perform criminal judicial functions through a mix of international and national material jurisdiction, while applying both international and municipal law.

Focusing on the evolution of international and internationalised courts, Ms. Hohler framed the next portion of her talk around three important years (1948, 1998, 2018) and their associated eras. Starting with 1948, Ms. Hohler discussed the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals, their limitations, and how they established three of the four crimes covered by the ICC: crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Ms. Hohler then moved to 1998, which followed a decade of change from military tribunals to civilian courts with the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Such tribunals and states’ desire to strengthen humanitarian law, Ms. Hohler argued, laid the groundwork for the International Criminal Court, the Statute of which was adopted in 1998. Returning to 2018, Ms. Hohler described the recent shift to new models of justice with the rise of internationalised courts like those in Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and Kosovo.

The talk concluded with Ms. Hohler’s discussion of the present state of post-conflict justice. She advocated the continued use of both international and internationalised courts, depending on the conflict, as neither type alone can handle all crime in conflict. The variety of paths of prosecution—municipal, internationalised, and international courts—mean the widest possible number of crimes can be prosecuted. Ms. Hohler also discussed the current situations in Syria and Myanmar, the jurisdictional possibilities for each, and the challenges each present. This theme of the present and future of post-conflict justice was carried into the question and answer session, where Ms. Hohler spoke about the relationship between the ICC and politics and issues of state (non)cooperation.