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Article revised to include information on criminal justice and human rights, and references updated.

Updated on 30 June 2020. The previous version of this content can be found here.
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date: 25 September 2020

Summary and Keywords

One the most dramatic development in international law in the 20th century was the formation of international criminal tribunals. Unlike conventional international tribunals, such as the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, international criminal tribunals—such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg—are a controversial element of international law and international politics. Precisely because they are aimed at individuals who act under color of law, such as military officials or heads of state, they invoke a number of political challenges. Their combination of international law, human rights, criminal justice, and hotly disputed facts of great moral gravity makes them a subject of intense debate among academics, government officials, and the public at large. Much of the scholarship on international tribunals can be summed up by three periods: pre-Nuremberg, Nuremberg, and post-Cold War developments. Each period reveals shifts in the way that international criminal tribunals were studied and conceptualized in the academic world. In the future, much of the scholarship on international tribunals is expected to be influenced by the impact that the actual tribunals themselves have on international politics.

Keywords: international criminal tribunals, international law, international courts, criminal justice, human rights

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