In This Chapter


Authored by: Niamh Hayes , Yvonne McDermott , William A. Schabas

The Ashgate Research Companion to International Criminal Law

Print publication date:  May  2013
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409419181
eBook ISBN: 9781315613062
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043157


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International criminal law is frequently presented or discussed as a relative newcomer within the international legal order. It is true that one can follow some of its tendrils back through to the international military prosecutions following the Second World War, and some back to the aftermath of the First World War or even further back to the development of the first standards of international humanitarian law. However, it is equally true, but a fact which is frequently not entirely absorbed, that what we most often mean when we refer to ‘international criminal law’ – namely, the body of procedural rules and substantive law identified and applied by modern international criminal tribunals – is not yet 20 years old. It is remarkable in many ways that international criminal law has carved out such a prominent position within the international legal framework in such a short space of time. A number of factors have contributed to this remarkable progress: the parallel development and enforcement of international human rights law and international humanitarian law; the creation of numerous ad hoc international criminal institutions capable of identifying, interpreting and applying international criminal law; the existence of sufficient political impetus in a post-Cold War context for the inclusion of judicial mechanisms in the international community’s responses to conflict; the establishment of a permanent treaty-based international criminal court; and, of course, the consistent efforts of countless activists, diplomats and scholars to support and advance the project of international criminal justice.

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