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The Law of International Criminal Procedure and Domestic War Crimes Trials

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This article deals with the question of possible effect of the law of international criminal procedure for domestic war crimes trials. With the increasing number of national prosecutions for war crimes this question will gain in relevance.

The article starts with an exploration of the origin and development of the law of international criminal procedure, to reach the conclusion that because of the lack of a strong foundation it is difficult to discern firmly established rules in this field. Next, two areas are examined where the law of international criminal procedure is capable of producing effect for national trials: human rights and rules that have developed in the specific context of war crimes prosecutions.

Whether rules of international criminal procedure are formally effective in the domestic legal order remains to be seen. There is no clear obligation under international law to do so. Furthermore, the law of international criminal procedure may be difficult to harmonise with domestic inquisitorial systems.

In spite of these difficulties, the article concludes that national courts will increasingly face similar procedural problems in complex war crimes trials as international criminal tribunals and will be happy to learn from their experiences.

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