For centuries, jurists defined international law solely in terms of relations between states. World leaders acted with impunity because international law did not hold them accountable. But this has been changing. The UN tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia address the legal responsibilities of individuals who have committed crimes of war and crimes against humanity. National courts, too, have exercised jurisdiction over world leaders, and some, such as former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, have been charged by courts in many countries. The International Criminal Court will take this process further still. This page tracks these and other developments that bring hope of a more just international order.
The International Court of Justice
Founded by the United Nations in 1945, the ICJ hears disputes between nations, but only when the parties agree to be bound by its decision. Can the ICJ one day act as a check to the authority of the Security Council?
The International Criminal Court
Established in July 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC) brings to trial those who commit large-scale political crimes – genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Although the Court faces difficult challenges, in particular US opposition, it offers progress towards the long-held ideal of global justice.
International Criminal Tribunals and Special Courts
The UN has established tribunals in Yugoslavia and Rwanda to prosecute leaders responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Special Courts, believed to be cheaper and more efficient than UN tribunals, are jointly administered by the UN and the domestic government. Questions linger over both the effectiveness of the courts and the degree to which politics influences their establishment and operations.
Former Yugoslavia | Rwanda | Sierra Leone | Lebanon | Cambodia | East Timor | Iraq | General
This page provides a sample of world leaders who are accused of serious violations of international criminal law. Some have been indicted by tribunals and some have not.
Alien Tort Claims Act
Since the 1980s, plaintiffs have used this 1789 US law to bring civil suits in US courts against individuals who have violated "the law of nations." Recently, human rights activists have used the ATCA to sue transnational corporations for violations of international law outside the US. If these suits are not blocked by the Bush Administration, then ATCA could become a powerful tool of corporate accountability.
This page analyses the concept of universal jurisdiction and follows the legal and political battles over attempts to invoke it.
US, UN and International Law
This section posts articles on US policy towards the UN, international law and treaties. The section includes special coverage of the torture, prison abuse, rendition and indefinite detentions at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and other US-run prisons around the world.
General Articles on International Justice
This page discusses general issues of international justice.
More Information on International Law and War on Iraq