The Interface of Civil Law and Common Law Legal Systems
Edited by Linda Carter and Fausto Pocar
Chapter 2: Plea bargaining
Over the last two decades, plea bargaining has spread beyond the countries where it originated – the United States and other common law jurisdictions – and has become a global phenomenon. It is spreading rapidly to civil law countries that had previously viewed the practice with skepticism. And it has now arrived at international criminal courts. While domestic plea bargaining is often limited to non-violent crimes, at the international courts it is possible for even the most serious offenses, including genocide and crimes against humanity. Its use remains highly controversial, and debates about plea bargaining in international courts continue in court opinions and academic commentary: Is it appropriate to offer sentencing concessions to a defendant who pleads guilty to a heinous crime involving thousands of victims? How can the avoidance of a public trial be reconciled with some of the professed goals of international criminal law, including the goal of creating a more accurate historical record of the atrocities and that of providing victims with a voice in the process? Conversely, given the very limited resources and enforcement powers of international criminal courts, could these courts achieve any of their goals effectively without the use of plea bargaining?
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