Australian International Criminal Law Workshop

The Australian Human Rights Centre hosted the second Australian International Criminal Law Workshop at UNSW on 25 and 26 September 2014 following its inauguration at the University of Melbourne Law School in 2013. The workshop series has been designed to allow researchers working in the field of international criminal justice to deliver work-in-progress papers to their peers. This year approximately 35 scholars from around Australia were invited to present their research and to provide and receive feedback on a range of topical papers.

The workshop drew out recurring themes both challenging the role of an international criminal ‘project’ led by the International Criminal Court, and seeking to explain and underwrite the ongoing significance of prosecuting international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Many papers addressed the political context and ramifications of international crimes trials and the tension between individual, local and global justice norms. This raised technical legal questions about how international laws are, or ought to be, interpreted and defined in varied contexts and in light of national legislation. Speakers often addressed the complexity involved in ensuring that politically-established and managed international criminal courts and tribunals can conduct legitimate and fair trial processes, and sought to interrogate how these institutions can do so while also bringing ongoing justice to victims and ending impunity on a grand scale. These topics produced vibrant discussions about the aims of international justice and its role in securing peace and showcased the depth of Australia’s contribution to international criminal law scholarship.

The attendees were treated to two very different keynote addresses. The first, by barrister Clair Duffy of the International Bar Association, drew upon three international crimes trials that involved sexual violence charges before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Karemera), the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts in Cambodia and the International Criminal Court (Katanga). She demonstrated how different applications of criminal ‘modes of liability’ and particularly the joint criminal enterprise doctrine have led to very different results in these cases, and argued for courts to reconsider how leaders’ broader criminal purpose to terrorise a population can be linked to the resulting sexual crimes.

Professor Penny Green, visiting from King’s Colleage London, drew on extensive field research in Tunisia and Burma to tease apart the varied forms of resistance exhibited by civil society groups toward state violence and corruption. This research is challenging conventional perceptions of the role of civil society groups, by uncovering how they may both support and contest existing social relations. Professor Green asked attendees to question the boundaries of legitimacy – since under repressive regimes, what is proclaimed as legality is in reality institutionalised state crime, and what is criminalised may in fact be peaceful resistance.

These two seminars were complemented by a viewing of four modules from the film “Watchers of the Sky”, followed by a discussion between Dr Donna-Lee Frieze, Deakin University, and Professor Andrea Durbach, Director of the UNSW Australian Human Rights Centre about the life and legacy of Raphael Lemkin and the Genocide Convention for which he worked so tirelessly in conceptualising, drafting and lobbying for ratification at the United Nations General Assembly.

Please click on this link to access the program for the second Australian International Criminal Law Workshop.

For any questions, please contact A/Prof. Sarah Williams.