This chapter explores the lawful contours of a growing phenomenon - the administration of criminal justice by non-state armed groups in territories under their control. It highlights a steadily mounting body of international practice recognizing the lawfulness of the ‘de facto’ processes as dependent on how - rather than by whom - justice is administered and considers the conditions that international law places on such justice. These include the core standards of independence and impartiality, fair trial guarantees, respect for the principle of legality and the nature of the crimes, which pose myriad challenges in practice in the context of de facto justice. Among others, the chapter flags the particular implications of increased resort by non-state actors (like states) to broad terrorism-related crimes as a basis for prosecution. Finally, as meeting the standards required of de facto justice will generally depend on external support, the chapter questions whether under international law states can - or in certain circumstances should - cooperate with or recognize such processes consistently with international law. In an area of dynamic legal and practical development, the chapter reveals a landscape that is evolving to meet the realities of the changing nature of non-state actors’ exercise of power and control, but where tensions, uncertainties and paradoxes remain.
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