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Accountability for international crimes: from conjecture to reality

31-03-2002 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 845, by Jelena Pejic


Jelena Pejic
is Legal Advisor at the ICRC ’s Legal Division. 

While the proceedings instituted against Augusto Pinochet in the United Kingdom in 1998-1999 were unprecedented, they should have come as no surprise. The arrest of Pinochet was but one highly visible stage in a process which will end in the obligation to render account for international crimes - a process which began before the Pinochet case and is still continuing. The article examines the various international mechanisms which now provide a general legal framework against impunity. It reviews the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals, internationalized courts, the future International Criminal Court and the efforts being made to implement the principle of universal jurisdiction. The article notes briefly that the edifice of domestic amnesties has started to crumble, enabling the perpetrators of international crimes to elude justice. It enumerates the problems and challenges to be overcome in order to make progress and recommends that greater attention be paid to the way in which national criminal justice systems can play a useful role in the fight against impunity.  

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