Triple Book Launch at 13th Session of the ICC Assembly of States Parties

New York, 12 December 2014

Programme | Three new books | CMN Toolkits Project | ICC Legal Tools Project

Three new TOAEP volumes were launched at a side event to the 13th Session of the ICC Assembly of States Parties in New York at United Nations Headquarters on 12 December 2014: ‘Historical Origins of International Criminal Law: Volumes 1 and 2’ (edited by Morten Bergsmo, CHEAH Wui Ling and YI Ping) and ‘On the Proposed Crimes Against Humanity Convention’ (edited by Morten Bergsmo and SONG Tianying). All three books are available in the FICHL Publication Series. The side event was co-sponsored by Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Norway, the European Commission, and CILRAP.

The historical origins of international criminal law go beyond the key trials of Nuremberg and Tokyo but remain a topic that has not received comprehensive and systematic treatment. The first two anthologies on ‘Historical Origins of International Criminal Law’ aim to address this lacuna by examining trials, proceedings, legal instruments and publications that may be said to be the building blocks of contemporary international criminal law. They aspire to generate new knowledge, broaden the common Hinterland to international criminal law, and further consolidate this relatively young discipline of international law. The anthologies and research project also seek to question our fundamental assumptions of international criminal law by going beyond the geographical, cultural, and temporal limits set by the traditional narratives of its history, and by questioning the roots of its substance, process, and institutions. Ultimately, the editors hope to raise awareness and generate further discussion about the historical and intellectual origins of international criminal law and its social function.

‘On the Proposed Crimes Against Humanity Convention’ is about the need for and nature of a convention on crimes against humanity. It uses the ‘Proposed Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity’ as an important reference point. 16 authors discuss how such a convention may consolidate the definition of crimes against humanity, and develop measures for their prevention and punishment, decades after the conclusion of the 1948 Genocide Convention and 1949 Geneva Conventions. The book is inspired by the rationale of crimes against humanity to protect against the most serious violations of fundamental individual rights, and its realization especially through domestic mechanisms. Such consciousness calls upon appropriate definition and use of contexual elements of the crime, effective jurisdiction for prevention and prosecution, and robust inter-State co-operation. The book considers individual State experiences in combating crimes against humanity. It underlines the importance of avoiding that the process to develop a new convention waters down the law of crimes against humanity or causes further polarisation between States in the area of international criminal law. It suggests that the scope of the obligation to prevent crimes against humanity will become a decisive question.

In her statement, Ambassador Anniken R. Krutnes (Norwegian Ambassador to the Netherlands) remarked that her Government “has supported the research project ‘Historical Origins of International Criminal Law’ from its start, so we are naturally pleased to see the launch here today of two comprehensive volumes with chapters written by no less than 50 authors. I recognize that much work has already gone into this project – by authors, editors and assistants”. She continued: “My Government has supported this project because we believe that it may not only contribute new knowledge to international law, but it can also help build bridges between actors who may disagree on current issues such as universal jurisdiction, immunity of State officials or perhaps the crime of aggression. […] Building bridges between actors concerned with international criminal law in, for example, Europe and China, India or Indonesia, would seem to be important in the years to come. I note with satisfaction that the three books launched at this event have one European editor, two from China, and one from South East Asia. The overall list of 66 authors includes researchers from every continent, in a representative manner”.

In his concluding remarks, the chair of the side event, Mr. Martin Sørby (Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), made four reflections:

“(1) It is important to identify topics that lend themselves to build bridges between countries that are within the ICC umbrella and those that remain outside. We must try to avoid polarization between States in the area of international criminal law. The Nuremberg and Tokyo legacy is so fundamental to the international legal order that it should not be subjected to such polarization. History of international criminal law is an important subject also seen from this perspective. The two volumes published today make a contribution in this respect, as well as towards the crystallization of a sub-discipline of international criminal law.

(2) The idea of a convention on crimes against humanity will probably come to the fore during the next few years. It is time that we turn our attention more specifically to this topic. The anthology published today can help us in this process. I note with interest the reflections made, for example, on the scope of the obligation to prevent crimes against humanity in the Proposed Convention. This requires our careful analysis.

(3) The CMN department of CILRAP has an impressive record of knowledge transfer and capacity development around the world. Today we have learned more about its contributions to positive complementarity in practice, with support from the European Union and Norway. We will follow with interest the continuation of these activities.

(4) Finally, from the results presented in the well-established ICC Legal Tools Project, it is clear how useful this Project is and how far it has matured. An enormous amount of work has been invested in the ICC Legal Tools, by a dedicated team of many volunteers. My Government continues to support this project and the clear vision it is based on. We look forward to hearing its progress report at the next ASP Session”.