Excusable Evil

An Analysis of Complete Defenses in International Criminal Law

By Maartje Krabbe

Could Hitler have pleaded insanity? Can a soldier participating in a massacre claim duress because his superior forced him? In domestic criminal law, complete defenses, such as insanity and duress, are rather common legal figures. But, what is the role of these arguments in international criminal law? Can horrific large-scale crimes, such as genocide and crimes against humanity, ever be excused? This book provides an analysis of cases featuring complete defenses at international criminal courts: the International Military Tribunal, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the International Criminal Court. The conclusion of the analysis is that international criminal courts recognize most complete defenses in principle, however they consistently reject them in practice. Courts thus tend to say: "Insanity is available as a complete defense...but not in this case." This conclusion raises questions as to the compatibility between complete defenses and international crimes: When they are never accepted in practice, should such defenses be available at all? The final section of the book answers this question in the affirmative and provides recommendations on the contents of complete defenses in the field of international criminal justice. (Series: School of Human Rights Research - Vol. 50)


Publication Date: 6/12/2014
Format: Paper
ISBN: 9781780682044