Mission impossible? Bringing charges for the crime of attacking civilians or civilian objects before international criminal tribunals
31-12-2008 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 872, by Carolin Wuerzner
Three main arguments may explain why few cases in international (and national) criminal law include charges for attacks against civilians or civilian objects. The law may not be sufficiently clear, there may be a lack of evidence or the selection of military targets may be based on mainly subjective considerations, which make it very hard to establish individual culpability. This article examines some legal and practical reasons for the difficulties the prosecutor faces when trying to charge individuals with such crimes. Although there are few examples, the ICTY has shown that it is generally possible to hold individuals responsible for such crimes.
CarolinWuerzner was editorial assistant for the International Review of the Red Cross and is now working with UNHCR.