Conference ‘Punishing International Crimes in Domestic Courts’

The international community deems that international crimes, such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, cannot go unpunished. During the 1990s it significantly stepped up its “fight against impunity” and established numerous international criminal courts and tribunals to prosecute and punish perpetrators of such atrocity crimes committed around the globe. These institutions, however, have been lately subjected to a lot of criticism: trials are extremely slow; fact finding is inaccurate; the number of convictions marginal; victims are disappointed; sentences too lenient, inconsistent, lacking justification or misplaced; and the post-sentencing phase – incarceration and reintegration of those convicted – is haphazard and arbitrary.

Over the past decades, also domestic courts have increasingly prosecuted and punished perpetrators of international crimes. Perpetrators tried and sentenced at domestic courts clearly outnumber those at the international level. Domestic mass atrocity crimes trials, however, have so far attracted only limited attention in international criminal justice discussions and scholarship. In particular, little attention is given to the sentencing and post-sentencing phase in these domestic contexts.

As many have argued, the future of criminal justice for mass atrocity crimes is domestic. This one-day conference in Amsterdam brings together scholars from around the globe to discuss practices and challenges with regard to sentencing, incarceration and reintegration of perpetrators of international crimes in domestic contexts. It will provide a comparative overview of domestic sentencing and incarceration practices regarding atrocity crimes from selected countries across the globe and aims to discuss the following questions: How many individuals were actually prosecuted and sentenced? How severe are sentences for atrocity crimes perpetrators? How do these sentences compare to sentences of ordinary, garden-variety crimes or to sentences handed out by international courts? How is punishment for atrocity crimes justified? Is there a special legal and jurisdictional regime established for such cases? How is punishment executed and what happens to those released after serving their sentences?  How are they reintegrated?

The conference took place on 12 June 2017 and was organised by the Centre for International Criminal Justice (CICJ), VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) and is supported by a VENI research grant from the NWO, NSCR and A-lab. Further details of the affiliated project ‘Vertical (In)consistency of International Sentencing’ are available here.

The programme can be found here. A report of the conference can be found here.