chapter  7
21 Pages

Linear law

The history of international criminal law
WithGerry Simpson

The media obsession with Ratko Mladic, Slobodan Milosevic and Gotovina might lead one to suspect that international criminal law sometimes seems to be in the grip of a Great Man theory of world events. This chapter explains that in 1919, a committee was established at the Versailles Peace Conference to consider the question of war crimes trials for the defeated German elite including the Kaiser. This represents the first occasion in international history when there is a somewhat methodical, official statement and interrogation of what were to become some of the central problems in the field. International criminal justice is probably best defined by what it cannot do, by what it is prevented from doing and by what it refuses to do. Any heretic histories will have to reckon with and resist the defining methodological and cultural preferences at the heart of the field.