Mélange du Mercredi/The Contours of International Prosecutions: As Defined By Facts, Charges and Jurisdiction

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Contours of International Prosecutions: As Defined By Facts, Charges and Jurisdiction by Elinor Fry

Reviewed by Sarah Swart, Regional Legal Advisor at the Pretoria Delegation of the ICRC and originally published in the International Review of the Red Cross

The Contours of International Prosecutions, by Elinor Fry, challenges the reader’s understanding of a number of well-known principles of international criminal justice by questioning the outer limits of those principles. Divided into three main parts, the book addresses the typical nature of an international crime, the factual demarcation at the case level (effectively, the micro level), and the jurisdictional reach of the International Criminal Court (ICC) (the macro level of one specific international institution). She takes the reader on a journey through the various stages of a criminal prosecution – from the indictment to the facts to the evidence – in order to demonstrate the importance of “a meticulous stance towards and respect for the basic building blocks that are the essentials of a criminal prosecution.”

In Chapter 2, following an opening chapter setting out the roadmap for her analysis, Fry addresses “The Nature of International Crimes and Evidentiary Challenges”. She provides a comprehensive comparison between elements of national and international crimes, and notes the factual and evidentiary complexities involved in prosecuting international crimes. In order to address some of these evidentiary hurdles involved, Fry recommends a search for relevant procedural solutions, and suggests that any such search should consider the unique characteristics of international crimes. She essentially promotes a methodology that focuses on the crime and not on the court. Of particular interest within this chapter is a discussion of the didactic (storytelling) value of court cases – Fry suggests that while it may be a valuable general objective of international criminal justice, setting it as a goal at the trial level will have the consequence of increasing the amount of information relevant to the case. In addition, as a useful annex to these discussions, the author includes two appendices in the book: the first provides a clear visual demonstration of the link between evidence, facts and charges, and the second sets out ten pleading principles for practitioners as identified in international case law.

To download the full review, go here