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National Law: A Small but Neat Utensil in the Toolbox of International Criminal Tribunals

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This article explores to what extent the ad hoc tribunals have made use of the national law of the state where the crimes have allegedly been committed in their quest for elements of crimes, concepts of criminal responsibility, grounds for excluding criminal responsibility and guidelines for sentencing. At first sight, one would expect the legislation of the territorial state to feature only as an indication of 'general principles of law' or 'international customary law'. However, the investigation of case law reveals that the law of the territorial state holds a far more prominent place. In search for rationales, the author suggests that, initially, national legislation has been used to plug the legal gaps in international criminal law. However, more recently the ad hoc tribunals have canvassed the national legislation of the territorial state, in order to find out whether this state would qualify to take over criminal proceedings against mid-level perpetrators. The author suggests that the International Criminal Court might follow suit, in order to give shape to its policy of 'positive complementarity'.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of international criminal law, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Research fellow Amsterdam Center of International Law, The Netherlands


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