International Law: Still Pretty Messy

On October 30th, Professor Combs gave the 2008 Blackstone lecture. The topic of her lecture was “Factfinding in International Criminal Law: The Appearance, the Reality, and the Future”.

After a brief overview of the course modern international criminal law has taken from the Nuremburg trials to today, Professor Combs turned to the focus of her talk: the difficulties posed by attempting to apply the standards and methods of criminal law fact finding to an international law context.

The war crimes tribunals that followed the Second World War were viewed as landmark events in the history of modern international law. There were high hopes that the international response to these atrocities represented a first step towards holding all accountable under the law, even political leaders and nation-states. Subsequent efforts in the field of international law include the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Efforts such as these suffer from the difficulties that plague all international projects: poor funding, unstable political support, ill-defined authority, and inadequate enforcement mechanisms. Nonetheless there is hope that the mere existence of such tribunals is a step in the right direction, and a sign that international law is slowly progressing and growing.

However the failings Professor Combs’ talk focused on challenged this notion of modern international law as a system that, while flawed, is moving in the right direction. Specifically, Professor Combs analyzed the fact that the modern international law system seems to be employing a much more flawed fact finding method than they are willing to acknowledge, with troubling implications for due process.


Published in: on November 28, 2008 at 11:52 am Comments Off on International Law: Still Pretty Messy