International Tribunals: Description, History, Activities and Statutes

The international military tribunals became the product of the twentieth century, when the world ceased to consist of separate states and the dependence of all countries on each other increased. The development of mass media made it impossible to conceal horrible crimes against humanity in wars and armed conflicts. The public demands the punishment of war criminals guilty of cruelty, sadism, genocide, mass sweeps. Accordingly, the creation of supranational judicial bodies, independent of the leadership of specific governments and capable of objectively investigating the actions of military and civilian leadership during armed conflicts, became a logical step.

Prerequisites of creation

The history of mankind consists of continuous wars and brief periods of peace between them.All this is accompanied by destruction and death of people, suffering of the civilian population. At a certain point, mankind decided to establish uniform rules of warfare in order to avoid unjustified cruelty and sadism. After the Second World War, the International Tribunals were organized, the purpose of which was to punish the Nazi criminals of Germany and the militarists of Japan.

The next step was the development of the Geneva Convention, ratified by the majority of the countries of the world community in 1949. War itself is an extremely inhuman way to solve problems, but even in this case it is necessary not to cross a certain line and not to turn the confrontation of armies into the total destruction of the civilian population.

International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

The purpose of the convention was to develop clear rules and criteria that determined the degree of permissiveness of the use of force and established the differences between the confrontation of armed parties to the conflict and the senseless and unjustified massacre of civilians and unarmed prisoners of war. International tribunals were to become an effective tool so that this noble document would not become an empty piece of paper.

First swallow

The Second World War ended with the complete defeat of the main aggressors — Nazi Germany and militarist Japan. The war crimes of the main participants in the action were so blatant, and their evidence is so obvious that the world community demanded justice and punishment of those responsible.

The result was the creation of the International Military Tribunal. It was established in accordance with agreements signed by representatives of the USSR, the USA, Great Britain and France in London in August 1945. This body was located in Nuremberg, court hearings were held in the defeated capital of the Third Reich - in Berlin.

The main purpose of this body was to show that there is not the usual reprisal of winners over the defeated, but a fair trial and retribution for terrible crimes against people who should not be repeated in the future.

The statute of the international tribunal provided for the equal representation of the parties involved in its creation. Each of the four powers delegated one judge and his deputy.


Three large groups of crimes committed by the Nazis were subject to the jurisdiction of the international military tribunal:

  • Crimes against the world.That is, incitement of war through gross violation of international treaties, planning offensive military operations in peacetime, as well as participation in plans and conspiracies leading to the start of hostilities.
  • War crimes. Intentional violation of the customs of war, cruelty to civilians, the destruction of hostages, the slavery of residents of the occupied territories, the destruction of human settlements, not caused by military necessity, the use of prohibited weapons.
  • Crimes against humanity. Murder, torture, enslavement of civilians regardless of the time of the outbreak of war, the persecution of certain groups for racial, political or religious reasons.

The essence of the international tribunal was the individual responsibility of all participants in war crimes. From now on, no executioner could justify the fact that he was a simple executor of orders. The oven cleaner at Auschwitz also bore its share of responsibility for the massacres of prisoners along with the commander of the concentration camp.

In addition, the Far Eastern Tribunal was in charge of dealing with the war criminals of Japan. The activities of both bodies were temporary, they were disbanded upon reaching their goals.

The collapse of Yugoslavia

For many years, the international tribunals following the Second World War remained the only such precedent. However, the collapse of the USSR caused a chain reaction in the Balkans. The desire of the republics of Yugoslavia to self-determination led to a bloody civil war in this country.

All this was accompanied by terrible destruction, massacres and sweeps from the territories of all parties to the conflict. The military and civil leaders of Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia were equally implicated in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

International Tribunal Court

The situation required the intervention of the UN Security Council; in 1992, an international commission was established to investigate violations of the Geneva Convention. The outcome of her work was the decision to establish the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

The principles of action of this body were strictly stipulated.Jurisdictions were subject to the territory of a federal republic with the exception of Slovenia, limited by time frames since 1991. Responsibilities were subject to specific individuals, the authority was not transferred to the tribunal to judge the government as a whole and the government. The maximum possible punishment was life imprisonment.

Principles of formation

The location of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was the Dutch city of The Hague. It consisted of two court chambers and one appeal. In addition, it included the prosecutor and the secretariat. The composition of the judges was to be selected from persons with high moral principles, objectivity and impeccable reputation. The principle of equal representation of judges from different states was observed.

a group of people

The composition of the judges was determined by the UN Security Council. The final approval of the list was carried out by the General Assembly.

Long process

It was planned that the activities of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia will continue until 2009, and the last appeal will be considered in 2010. However, the reality has made its own adjustments to these calculations.The last case was considered in 2017, when the Tribunal announced its closure.

During the existence of an international body, 142 cases were investigated against those accused of war crimes. The most odious figures of the processes were the leaders of the Bosnian Serbs - Radko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. The prosecution did not escape the country's president Slobodan Milosevic. He died in prison without waiting for the final verdict.

Criticism of the ICTY

Many independent experts noted the excessive politicization of the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Despite the fact that his goal was a fair trial without regard to nationality, it soon became clear that an independent court of the international tribunal is more like a massacre of winners over the defeated.

Most of the convictions were handed down in cases of Serbian generals, almost all of the representatives of the Croatian armed groups were acquitted. In addition, many Kosovo Albanian leaders responsible for mass cleansing and trafficking in human organs have escaped responsibility.

International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

Even the most ardent supporters of the ICTY from the neutral side were embarrassed to find that the bloody civil war was, in the opinion of the tribunal, an epic battle of good (represented by supporters of independence) against evil (represented by Serbian imperialists).

International Tribunal for Rwanda

The mass genocide in Rwanda in 1994 against the Tutsi ethnic group provoked an immediate UN response. Again decided to use the proven tactics of international tribunals. The UN Security Council resolution on the situation in Rwanda was adopted unanimously, the goals of the new body were not only retribution, but also the restoration of legality, peace and reconciliation of the parties.

The International Tribunal for Rwanda was organized in the image of the ICTY. It consisted of two judicial and one appeal chamber. This organ was based in Arusha, Tanzania.

International Tribunal for Rwanda

The first process took place in 1997. A total of 93 defendants were tried. Twelve of them were acquitted, but the rest were severely punished. The most notorious of them was the ex-premier of the country, Jean Kambande. Much evidence was given that he called for the Tutsi massacres and organized the massacre of them.The most obvious of these was his approval of propaganda on RTLM radio, which called for the physical destruction of this people.

International Criminal Court

In addition to the temporary international tribunals, there is a permanent body that serves as an arbitrator in international affairs. The International Criminal Court was established in 1998 on the basis of the Rome Statute. It is a permanent structure, its decisions are binding on states that have ratified an international treaty establishing it. To date, the agreement has been signed by 104 countries.

Unlike the International Criminal Tribunal, the Court does not have priority over national law. The ICC only accepts proceedings in cases where the state is unable or unwilling to take up the investigation of serious crimes.

statute of the international tribunal

An important condition for the normal operation of the Court is the cooperation of all States parties, the ability to bring the accused to the place of the process. Jurisdictions are subject to those suspected of committing the most serious crimes - genocide, war crimes, aggression.


The International Criminal Court began its activities in 2002. He was handed over the affairs of the situation in the Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic. An investigation is being conducted into the conscription of under-age children in these African states.

The prosecutor of the International Court of Justice issued orders for the arrests of a whole group of people accused of mass abductions of children in Uganda. They were forcibly recruited into the ranks of the armed forces or used as slaves.

International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

At a certain point, all maritime powers realized the need to create a single body for settling disputes with each other. In 1994, in accordance with the UN Convention, the International Maritime Tribunal was established. It is authorized to resolve controversial issues related to the development of resources in the seabed zone outside the national waters.

international criminal tribunal

The convention unites 165 subjects of international law, including 164 states and the European Union. The composition of the tribunal includes 21 representatives from the participating countries, which are elected for a period of 9 years.

International tribunals are called upon to serve as an instrument of justice regardless of geography and severely punish those guilty of committing crimes against humanity.

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