Vertical (In)consistency of International Sentencing: Case Study of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Rwanda

This NWO funded project aims to empirically evaluate to what extent sentencing of international crimes by international criminal tribunals and domestic courts evolved into consistent practice and how any inconsistencies in international sentencing can be explained.

Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes are the most serious crimes of international concern. These international crimes, such as committed in the Former Yugoslavia or Rwanda, entail widespread mortality and victimisation, as well as long-lasting societal trauma and disruption, that may take generations to heal. While for some conflicts, domestic courts have eventually prosecuted these crimes, the international community has established international criminal courts and tribunals to ensure that “justice is done” and the most culpable perpetrators do not go unpunished. However, the simultaneous operating of these different legal systems – with different legal traditions and differing dogmatic underpinnings – has generated incidents where perpetrators of similarly serious crimes received widely different sentences. It has, however, not been established how structural such inconsistency is. Inconsistency may be problematic not only from a normative point of view by violating the principle of equality and fairness, but may threaten the legitimacy of international criminal justice. Indeed, surveys have reported large discontent in post-conflict societies with international criminal justice and in particular with the leniency and “unfairness” of sentences at the international level.

This study has been designed to address this situation. By combining qualitative legal case file analysis with quantitative regression analysis, it will assess to what extent inconsistency of sentencing of international crimes occurs, as well as identify factors that generate inconsistency. The research is based on a comparative case study of sentencing of international crimes committed in the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda by various courts at the international and domestic level. The findings will be published in academic journals, presented at international academic conferences and laid down in an “International Sentencing Handbook” that will, employing domestic as well as international academic and legal practitioners’ expertise, offer remedies to harmonize sentencing of international crimes.

Project leader: Barbora Hola

Project coordinator in Rwanda: Chris Amani, MsC

Project coordinator in Bosnia: Dr. Almir Maljevic

Junior researcher: Jessica Kelder

Intern: Leonie van Breeschoten

Interns in Rwanda: Pascaline Umutesi, Jean-Pierre Tuyishime, Kayumba Godfrey and Mazimpaka Eddy

Interns in Bosnia: Mirza Buljubasic, Ademir Durakovic and Ljubisa Mandic

For more information on the project contact: Barbora Hola

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