International Criminal Justice

International Criminal Justice

Legitimacy and Coherence

Edited by Gideon Boas, William A. Schabas and Michael P. Scharf

International criminal justice as a discipline throws up numerous conceptual issues, engaging disciplines such as law, politics, history, sociology and psychology, to name but a few. This book addresses themes around international criminal justice from a mixture of traditional and more radical perspectives.

Chapter 7: International criminal justice in historical context: the post-Second World War trials and modern international criminal justice

Robert Cryer

Subjects: law - academic, criminal law and justice, human rights, public international law, politics and public policy, human rights, terrorism and security


A great deal was written about international criminal law in the years following the Second World War, and over the last two decades. Indeed, it is only being mildly facetious to say that the primary interaction between international criminal law and environmental law is not the possibility of creating a crime of ecocide,1 but the extent to which the collective efforts of international criminal lawyers have served to contribute to deforestation. The literature on the Nuremberg trials alone must have consumed countless forests, and once the literature on the ad hoc international tribunals and International Criminal Court (ICC) are also taken into account, the indictment is a grave one indeed. It is not the intention of this chapter to add to those charges by providing another linear chronological history of inter- national criminal law, or a history of the post-Second World War (hereafter referred to as post-War) trials. Many such studies have already been undertaken, and need not be repeated here.2 Rather, this chapter will look into some of the links between the post-War cases and more modern aspects of international criminal law. It is emphatically not the author’s intention to make the case that all aspects of those trials are instructive. Indeed, the disjunctures between then and now will be investigated. There are important similarities but also differences, which affect the way we need to look back at those trials. To treat like cases alike may be one form of justice, but to treat unlike cases as like may not be.

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