In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section War Crimes and Tribunals

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Databases and Bibliographies
  • National War Crimes Tribunals and Domestic Prosecutions

International Relations War Crimes and Tribunals
Viviane Dittrich
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 October 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 October 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0319


Accountability has featured prominently in peace and justice debates. A by now common response to crimes committed is turning to law and holding individuals accountable in courts and tribunals. Nuremberg has largely been considered the birthplace of modern international criminal law. A new interpretation of state sovereignty and the principle and practice that war crimes are prosecuted and punished through legal proceedings, and not with revenge and war, had a defining effect. Even though the first attempts at prosecuting and punishing crimes go farther back in history, the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals represent a landmark development in holding individuals criminally responsible and in building a rules-based international order. The fundamental legal principle of individual criminal responsibility irrespective of one’s office or person was prominently enshrined in the Nuremberg Principles. After decades of political inertia, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC), and several hybrid courts were established. The creation of the ICC was a milestone in institutionalizing international criminal prosecution. Various war crimes trials were also held at the national level. The development of international criminal law, however, has not been linear, nor does the common refrain “From Nuremberg to The Hague” fully capture the myriad developments at the international and national level. International criminal justice continues to be shaped by the interplay of politics and law. The collected contributions address key questions in the study of war crimes trials and tribunals: Who gets prosecuted and for which crimes—where, when, how, why and by whom? What/whose purpose do tribunals serve? How have the early war crimes trials shaped later tribunals and accountability efforts? What kind of justice do tribunals achieve? How effective are such tribunals and what is their impact and legacy? This bibliography aims to provide an introduction to English language scholarship on trials and tribunals, dealing with the core crimes in the canon of international criminal law: war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and aggression. This bibliography mostly limits itself to book-length works. This article cannot cover in depth the vast international law scholarship on definitions of crimes, doctrinal debates, procedure, and jurisprudence, nor international humanitarian law and human rights law publications. Nor can it focus on the wider literature on transitional justice or restorative justice and quasi-judicial or nonjudicial mechanisms as alternatives to trials.

General Overviews

Textbooks on international criminal law provide invaluable introductions to core concepts, principles, procedure, case law, and legal developments, providing a solid foundation also for nonlawyers. Several meticulous commentaries on the Rome Statute exist, including in foreign languages, which are technical in nature. International relations scholarship is best read in conjunction with advanced legal scholarship and general introductions to international criminal law. Ambos 2021 and Cassese 2009 are fundamental reference works. Some of the pioneers of the field have written leading textbooks, including Bassiouni 2008 and Cassese and Gaeta 2013. Cryer, et al. 2019 and Werle and Jeßberger 2020 combine theoretical and practical elements to offer foundational introductions to the principles and practice of international criminal law. Another good source for general overviews are companions and handbooks, such as Schabas 2015 and Heller, et al. 2020. Stahn 2018 offers a critical introduction and comprehensive and readable book. Moreover, Kastner 2017 proposes a critical look at international criminal law in context, with a focus on fundamental substantive and procedural elements.

  • Ambos, Kai. Treatise on International Criminal Law. Vol. 1, Foundations and General Part. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.

    Three volumes serving as comprehensive, authoritative treatise on the principles and foundations of international criminal justice and the primary institutions, proceedings, case law, and works of scholarship that have come to define international criminal law. Also includes non-English sources.

  • Bassiouni, M. Cherif, ed. International Criminal Law. 3d ed. Leiden, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 2008.

    Written by one of the pioneers of international criminal law scholarship, this introductory textbook offers a definitive foundation on the history, sources, and doctrines of international criminal law. Focusing on both substantive and procedural aspects, Bassiouni takes readers through the development of the field’s enforcement systems and rules of procedure and further delves into its functions and future.

  • Cassese, Antonio, ed. The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    Drawing contributions from a wide array of 130 leading academics and practitioners, this reference work, edited by one of the pioneers of international criminal law, offers accessible introductions as well as more comprehensive in-depth treatments of the core themes forming the trellis of international criminal justice. Explorations of the key issues influencing its doctrinal and practical foundations, including their growth and future, are also covered by the purview of the Companion.

  • Cassese, Antonio, and Paola Gaeta. Cassese’s International Criminal Law—Revised by: A. Cassese, P. Gaeta, L. Baig, M. Fan, C. Gosnell, and A. Whiting. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1093/he/9780199694921.001.0001

    Widely considered one of the foremost international criminal law textbooks, this reference work serves as a reflection of Judge Cassese’s long and distinguished career as both jurist and academic in offering a concise introduction to the principles, procedure, and practice of international criminal law. The textbook surveys the establishment, jurisprudence, and proceedings of prominent international criminal courts and tribunals as well as hybrid courts.

  • Cryer, Robert, Darryl Robinson, and Sergey Vasiliev. An Introduction to International Criminal Law and Procedure. 4th ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1017/9781108680455

    A leading introduction to international criminal law, this book brings together the authors’ extensive academic and practical expertise to provide readers with clear and condensed elaborations on the fundamentals of international criminal law. Themes comprehensively covered include international criminal law’s aims and objectives, landmark international domestic prosecutions of international crimes, the development and elements of the core crimes, and other key substantive and procedural aspects.

  • Heller, Kevin J., Frédéric Mégret, Sarah Nouwen, Jens Ohlin, and Darryl Robinson, eds. The Oxford Handbook of International Criminal Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

    Unique handbook bringing together an impressive array of experts, who critically and innovatively explore theoretical and doctrinal developments, practices, and commonly held views in the field. With its thirty-six chapters, this interdisciplinary and theoretically informed volume serves as a valuable resource for current readings of particular intricacies of international criminal justice and its relationship with related disciplines.

  • Kastner, Philipp, ed. International Criminal Law in Context. London: Routledge, 2017.

    Volume offering a critical and contextual introduction to international criminal law, with a focus on substance, procedure, objectives, and effects. Contributions delve into the political, cultural, and historical factors that have shaped international criminal law and its trajectories as well as implementation.

  • Schabas, William, ed. The Cambridge Companion to International Criminal Law. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

    An authoritative and interdisciplinary introduction into the multifaceted workings of international criminal law and the wide range of institutions, crimes, and trials. This Companion offers a foundation toward more in-depth reading.

  • Stahn, Carsten. A Critical Introduction to International Criminal Law. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

    DOI: 10.1017/9781108399906

    A critical introduction to the foundations and changing contours of international criminal law, this volume features recurrent critiques and highlights the acute doctrinal and practical challenges and tensions that have driven these shifts while also exploring if and how international criminal justice continues to live up to its stated aims and related discourse. Available as open access publication.

  • Werle, Gerhard, and Florian Jeßberger. Principles of International Criminal Law. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

    An in-depth exploration of international criminal law’s foundational and governing principles as well as the development of its principal norms. This comprehensive and accessible textbook also incorporates critical perspectives and a discussion of recent case law of the ICC.

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