ICC 2007: Year of Assessment

1 Dec, 2007 | Publications

  • An exclusive forward by David Tolbert: “The ends of international justice: closing international courts”
  • A unique comparative table of the courts tasked with trying serious crimes in the world
  • An updated map of the ICC’s activity in 2007
  • 240 bilingual pages (French and English) of news articles and analysis
  • Download cover and table of contents



Closing the “old” tribunals, a new challenge

Never before have there been so many international criminal tribunals. At the end of 2007, there are no fewer than seven international tribunals or tribunals with international participation operating or on the verge of opening (see table on p. 8-9). Nearly fifteen years after their work began, the two United Nations tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR) must now share their task with a permanent court and four so-called “hybrid” courts—in which the responsibilities are shared between national and international participants—created for Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Cambodia and, shortly, Lebanon. International justice seems to be flourishing.

While they already seem prehistoric in an era that is in fact barely adolescent, the ICTY and the ICTR are preparing to address a long list of new questions. We now know how international tribunals are created. But no one knows how to close them. Yet, in the next two years, three of them—the ICTY, the ICTR, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone—must, in theory, wrap up their work and organize their final stages. Already, many questions have arisen regarding how to do so. Already, one thing has become clear: rather than place the key completely under the doormat, it will no doubt be suggested that these institutions continue under a very reduced but also easy to revive form. What are now known as the “residual functions” of international tribunals have thus become one of the major projects for the future.

This book, compiled of a selection of articles published in the International Justice Tribune (IJT), is the second volume in the IJT Series. It follows “ICC in 2006: Year One”, published one year ago. Its goal is still to offer an equally comprehensive and dynamic vision of the major issues that marked and drove 2007 in the field of international justice. To begin, it helps draw an initial assessment of the three tribunals that are approaching their final stretch and offers the first analyses of the Bosnian and Cambodian “models”. The next two sections continue the observation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) started in the first volume of this series.

Through more than thirty correspondents around the world, in 2007, IJT again provided unparalleled coverage of the major international criminal courts. The journal
also closely covered the rash, throughout the entire world, of legal and paralegal initiatives that, without necessarily being direct heirs, have come into being since the creation of international courts. Latin America was front and center with the opening of trials in Argentina, the acceleration of the trial in Peru of its former president and the delicate yet essential undertaking begun in Colombia with the Justice and Peace Law.
In Africa, far from the ICTR, Rwanda closed 2007 with the astonishing tally of 800,000 genocide suspects tried by the national gacaca courts. While the Liberians (like, far from there, the Nepalese) have been waiting all year for the start of public hearings before their Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Burundian leaders continue to push back the creation of any mechanism that would make it possible to deal with the mass crimes committed over the past four decades. In Iraq, following the execution of Saddam Hussein, trials persist, albeit discreetly.

In the former Yugoslavia, national courts pursued their work, sometimes in collaboration with the ICTY, sometimes at odds with it, as in the case of the Ovcara massacre. Croatia opened important trials against former members of its armed forces, and Serbia stumbled over a first important judgment but carries on its proceedings, while Kosovo is looking primarily to The Hague where the trial of its former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj is drawing to a close. For the third time, Belgium unequivocally tried the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Canada is attempting to do the same, but hitting many snags. France promises to get to work, without managing to be convincing about its intentions. The Netherlands, seat of world-wide international justice, declared itself legally unable to try the Rwandan genocide. Regarding universal jurisdiction, the lukewarm actions of Senegal in organizing the trial of Chadian Hissène Habré add to this hesitant picture, which appeared in IJT throughout the year.

Beyond the closing of the first generation international tribunals, it is a question of truly understanding and successfully managing the many direct and indirect ramifications of their legacy, as well as the independent initiatives undertaken elsewhere to try the most serious crimes. IJT will continue tirelessly covering these proceedings in 2008 with the same degree of rigor and independence.