Research Handbook on the International Penal System
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Research Handbook on the International Penal System

Edited by Róisín Mulgrew and Denis Abels

Drawing on the expertise and experience of contributors from a wide range of academic, professional and judicial backgrounds, this handbook critically analyses the laws, policies and practices that govern detention, punishment and the enforcement of sentences in the international criminal justice context. Comprehensive and innovative, it also explores broader normative questions related to international punishment and makes recommendations for the international penal system’s development.
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Chapter 6: International sentencing: law and practice

Silvia D’Ascoli


This chapter focuses on international sentencing and discusses, in particular, the law and practice on sentencing of the UN ad hoc Tribunals ICTY and ICTR, the ICC and the SCSL. ‘Sentencing’ here refers to the process of meting out punishment and determining an appropriate sanction when individual criminal responsibility is ascertained, including the criteria for the individualization of the penalty. ‘International sentencing’, more specifically, refers to the process of meting out punishment by international courts and tribunals. Sentencing should be regarded as one of the most important parts of the adjudication process. A sentence plays a fundamental role for the convicted person, the victim(s), the general public (considering the impact of the judgment upon society) and for the judges, as a judgment represents the concluding stage of the proceedings and thus their final outcome. International sentencing, in particular, acquires an important additional function: to underscore the existence of international justice. In fact, it serves the purpose of demonstrating the seriousness with which the international community regards violations of its laws, condemns transgressions and metes out penalties for the commission of crimes of international concern. Despite its importance, what is surprising about international sentencing, especially when compared to national sentencing, is the lack of a defined set of norms and principles guiding the determination of penalties in international criminal law. In fact, international sentencing has thus far not been regulated by strict norms, rules or principles, or significant guidelines.

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