Wednesday, 10 April 2013, 6:00PM
Barnard's Inn Hall

State Involvement in War Crimes Trials

Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC

International war crimes courts deal only with the responsibility of individuals for crimes they committed. In order to avoid over-simplification of understanding what may have happened by the necessary concentration on individual criminal responsibility, it is vital not to overlook collective and state criminal responsibility; but state responsibility can only be dealt formally with at a different court, the International Court of Justice.  Has this allowed states to escape attention that should have been paid to their responsibility – as states – for conflicts, a responsibility different in kind from the responsibility of their leaders? 

All war crimes trials rely on cooperation with states, often the very ones which were involved in the relevant war, for production of valuable documents from state archives and to facilitate access to witnesses. States will be obligated by membership of the UN to cooperate while at the same time wanting or needing to obscure information that would make public the involvement of the state in the  commission of crimes and mass atrocities.

What does the evidence in the Milošević trial and in other ICTY trials tell us about the responsibility of states, and not just of the states involved in conflicts?  What does it tell us about the vulnerability of trials such as Milošević’s to state interests that may run counter to open, forensic exploration of complex histories? 

This is a part of Sir Geoffrey Nice's 2012/13 series of lectures as Gresham Professor of Law. The other lectures in this series are as follows:
    International Criminal Tribunals
    The end of Slobodan Milošević
    The ICC and Africa
    Legal Process as a Tool to Rewrite History
    Regulation at home, but not abroad

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Sir Geoffrey Nice QC has practised as a barrister since 1971.  He worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia – the ICTY – between 1998 and 2006 and led the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević, former President of Serbia.   Much of his work since has been connected to cases before the permanent International Criminal Court – Sudan, Kenya, Libya – or  pro bono for victims groups – Iran, Burma, North Korea – whose cases cannot get to any international court.  He works for several related NGO’s and lectures and commentates in the media in various countries on international war crimes issues.  He has been a part-time judge since 1984 sitting at the Old Bailey and has sat as judge in other jurisdictions, tribunals and inquiries.  Between 2009 and 2012 he was Vice-Chair of the Bar Standards Board, the body that regulates barristers.

The six free public law lectures for 2013/14 Sir Geoffrey delivered as Gresham Professor of Law included four lectures on how legal process can fail the citizen in armed conflict, one explaining advocacy work in courts, and a final lecture covering recent legal changes.

The first five of his 2012-13 lectures dealt with issues arising from the work of international criminal courts and tribunals.  The sixth contrasted the practice of law in international criminal courts where there is little or no effective regulation of lawyers and judges with the present working practices of the English Bar.

Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC continues his Law series in the 2015/16 academic year, entitled 'Law and Lawyers - not all bad?'.

Professor Nice's previous lecture series are as follows:

2015/16 Law and Lawyers - not all bad?
2014/15 From Human Rights to Srebrenica
2013/14 Law Lectures by Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC
2012/13 International Criminal Courts

All of Professor Nice's past Gresham lectures can be accessed here.

Current Gresham Professor of Law

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10 April 2013

State Involvement in War Crimes Trials
Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC

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