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1. Rethinking the outer limits of secondary liability for international crimes (NWO VICI)

This project is funded by NWO under the VICI scheme.

The aim of Rethinking SLIC* is threefold: First, to identify the current state of the law on secondary liability for international crimes and serious human rights violations. Second, to assess its adequacy for establishing legal accountability. Third, to recalibrate the law of secondary liability in light of the need for legal certainty and for the protection of human rights.

Bearing in mind that serious human rights violations are usually committed with the assistance of an extended network of actors, traditional approaches towards secondary liability should be reconsidered. This serves the interests of both victims and perpetrators. A better understanding of the scope and content of secondary liability mechanisms generates more effective protection mechanisms for victims. On the other hand, a clear set of rules with respect to secondary liability will allow powerful actors such as multinational corporations and States to adjust their conduct accordingly and act without undue restraint. Thus, clear outer limits of secondary liability should also be established in order to protect against a chilling effect on international transactions and cooperation.

The project focuses on secondary liability in the fields of civil law, criminal law and State responsibility under international law in relation to international crimes and widespread and systematic human rights violations. Within the project, the term secondary liability encompasses various types of assistance in the commission of international crimes and serious human rights violations. The scope and content of liability for assistance may differ per legal field (civil law, criminal law or the law on State responsibility) and gives rise to different legal liability constructs, such as aiding and abetting or complicity. Without being restricted by existing limitations of legal liability, the project will rethink secondary liability in light of today’s interdependent and cross‐border commission of wrongdoing, as well as the enormous harm that is occasioned by international crimes and serious human rights violations.

While the research may also be relevant for secondary liability in other situations, Rethinking SLIC focuses on assistance –secondary liability– in the commission of atrocities, particularly because of the extreme gravity of the harm and the complexity of multiple actors generally involved in their commission.

2. Making sense of linkages between international and transnational crimes

International and transnational offences are often committed by the same actors as part of the same conflict situations and continuum of transactions, with the ill‐gotten gains of transnational offences going to finance and enable the commission of international crimes. Moreover, the two regimes on transnational organized and international crimes have developed in parallel, whilst conceptual and phenomenological links between them have been largely overlooked. Despite those links between the two categories of crimes, suppression remains fractured along jurisdictional and institutional lines. What are the effects of this fragmentation and how can they be minimised?

3. Governance of international criminal jurisdictions

International criminal tribunals do not operate in an institutional vacuum. Other than for their core judicial business in respect of which they exercise self‐governance, these courts are governed by political and executive bodies. Those bodies elect court officials, approve yearly budgets, amend legal frameworks, and ensure management oversight. The relationship between the courts and their governance institutions raises a myriad of issues, which have remained under‐examined. The way in which governance functions are exercised can impinge on judicial independence, deprive courts of the necessary political and operative backing, undermine the enforceability of their decisions, and debilitate them through budgetary strangulation. But quid custodiet ipsos custodes?

4. Legitimacy and critique: assessing institutional and procedural practice and outputs of international criminal justice

Over the past few years it has often been claimed that international criminal justice is in a state of crisis. Its judicial institutions have faced serious critiques in part of practices, rhetoric and outputs, while the functioning of the ICC and of the Rome Statute system as a whole has been subjected to a comprehensive Independent Expert Review which recommended a series of reforms. The field of international criminal law is undergoing a profound transition attended by a shift of commitment on the part of states, reallocation of resources, and migration of expertise to and across the contiguous fields of transnational criminal law, domestic prosecution of international crimes, quasi‐prosecutorial mechanisms, transitional justice, and peace‐building. Are the various critiques voiced in respect of international criminal justice institutions thoroughly justified and (how) can they be addressed? Is the project beyond the point of no return or can it (still) be salvaged through institutional overhaul or procedural fixes – and, if so, which? Is the rethinking of the present configuration and role of international criminal law called for and to what extent the proposed (re)turn to transnational and domestic criminal law paradigms takes into account the related structural defects which gave rise to the supranational enforcement model in the first place?

ACCJ researchers and projects under Pillar 3