How Can International Criminal Courts Have a Greater Impact on National Criminal Proceedings? Lessons from the First Two Decades of International Criminal Justice in Operation

Yuval Shany*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


International actors and observers have afforded greater attention in recent years to the role of national courts in bringing to justice perpetrators of international crimes. Not only are national courts typically less expensive to operate than international courts, they also enjoy at times more legitimacy in the eyes of local constituencies than their international counterparts. They can also reach deeper into society and cast a wider net than international criminal courts. Indeed, there is an increased tendency to view international criminal courts as mechanisms primarily designed to support and complement the work of national criminal procedures, and to pay closer attention to the interaction between the two sets of judicial institutions. It is against this background that the Project on Studying the Impact of International Courts in Domestic Criminal Procedures in Mass Atrocity Cases (the DOMAC project) has sought to draw lessons from the experience accumulated by the interactions that took place between national and international courts in the two decades that have passed since the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. This was done in the hope that such lessons may guide such interactions in the future. Indeed, DOMAC reports have looked into interactions relating to specific legal aspects (applicable laws, prosecution rates, sentencing policies and capacity development) and/or at specific geographical regions (for example, the Balkans, Africa, Latin America, East Timor) and provide many interesting stories of success and failure, from which valuable lessons can be learned. The purpose of this article is to offer, on the basis of the said DOMAC reports, some general observations on the impact of international courts on domestic criminal processes (in the aftermath of mass atrocity situations), and to discuss the structural deficiencies that may have led until now to sub-optimal levels of cooperation and division of labour between international and national criminal procedures. On the basis of these critical observations, a number of general recommendations for future policy planners will be considered. The article first describes some of the main impacts of international courts on domestic courts handling mass atrocity cases. It then discusses four overarching problems, which may have hampered such interactions: the lack of a comprehensive legal response to mass atrocities, inadequate allocation of resources, the absence of ultimate responsibility over the international response, and legitimacy deficits. The concluding section sketches a number of proposals based on the discussion in the two immediately preceding sections.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)431-453
Number of pages23
JournalIsrael Law Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • capacity development
  • criminal procedures
  • impact of international law on domestic law
  • international criminal courts
  • international criminal law
  • judicial legitimacy


Dive into the research topics of 'How Can International Criminal Courts Have a Greater Impact on National Criminal Proceedings? Lessons from the First Two Decades of International Criminal Justice in Operation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this