New Models of Tribunals Bring Innovation to the International Court System

On 19 September, The Hague Institute for Global Justice and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) organized a conversation on new models of international criminal law tribunals. Both the MICT and the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) are relatively new institutions operating in the field of international criminal law. Their methods and aims reflect the evolution of the field and offer possible models for future initiatives.

Dr. Abi Williams, President  of The Hague Institute for Global Justice, moderated the conversation between Judge Theodor Meron, President of the MICT; Dr. Fidelma Donlon, Registrar of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers; and Professor Dr. Carsten Stahn, Chair of International Criminal Law and Global Justice, and Programme Director of the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies at Leiden University.

Judge Meron and Dr. Donlon gave brief overviews of the events leading up to the establishment and the functioning of the MICT and the KSC, respectively. Judge Meron emphasized the novelty of the MICT in that it is both a residual mechanism and a tribunal in and of itself. The MICT was created to ensure a smooth wrapping up of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. However Judge Meron made it clear that the MICT also has its own identity. The Mechanism’s novel structure aims to ensure efficiency and lower costs while maintaining international criminal law standards, which, according to Judge Meron, cannot be compromised. Additionally, the MICT has the capacity accommodate other residual functions and mechanisms, if the Security Council deems this necessary.

Dr. Donlon drew attention to the fact that the KSC form part of the Kosovar court system and apply Kosovar national law. The Chambers are housed in The Hague, funded by the European Union (EU) and staffed entirely by international personnel, giving them an international character. This most recent addition to the constellations of international courts will start judicial proceedings in the first half of next year and can be seen as a continuation of international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Kosovo, particularly those spearheaded by the EU. Dr. Donlon underlined the fact that the KSC exist in order to serve the Kosovar people and that, as such, outreach and cooperation with local civil society organizations are priorities.

Dr. Stahn commended the international community for its return to the use of hybrid tribunals as well as its creativity in using and renewing such institutions to address criticisms that plague the international criminal law field. The MICT and KSC, said Dr. Stahn, address the “tribunal fatigue” resulting from questions about costs and efficiency associated with previous international courts. He considered hybrid tribunals to be one of the four dimensions of the international criminal justice system. The entry point of the system is, and always will be, according to Dr. Stahn, domestic jurisdiction. However, the regional and international dimensions, with the principle of complementarity a determinant factor, also have their roles to play in international criminal justice. The new courts also help to further the development of international law, Dr. Stahn argued. The inclusion in the KSC of transnational crimes alongside international crimes is a particularly welcome development in this regard, given that they are often precursors to the latter.

All the discussants agreed that the MICT and KSC are innovative and unique models of international criminal tribunals, with their own special attributes that allow them to address specific problems. The emergence of these two new models will help the international community in continuing to strive for justice and combat impunity.

Additionally, on 23 September, Dr. Stahn posted a blog on EJIL: Talk! entitled Tribunals are Dead, Long Live Tribunals: MICT, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and the Turn to New Hybridity.

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