International Law Hybrid International Criminal Tribunals
Sarah Williams
  • LAST REVIEWED: 02 November 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0069


International criminal law has traditionally recognized two main mechanisms to secure individual criminal responsibility in respect of those accused of perpetrating international crimes. The primary focus has been on trials before national courts, generally of the territorial state, but also before courts of other states, including states exercising universal jurisdiction. International criminal tribunals have also been established for this purpose; however, until the establishment of the International Criminal Court, such institutions have been temporary, ad hoc institutions. In recent years, attention has also been directed to another mechanism, the hybrid, mixed, or internationalized criminal tribunal. While there is no definition, such tribunals tend to apply a mix of national and international law (both procedural and substantive) and feature a blend of international and national elements, in particular international and national judges and personnel. While there is some disagreement as to those institutions that are properly considered hybrid or internationalized, the following tribunals are generally included in this category: the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in Timor Leste (SPSC), the International Judges and Prosecutors Program in Kosovo (IJPP, or Regulation 64 Panels), the War Crimes Chamber in the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (WCC), and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). Certain authors consider that other institutions, in particular the Iraqi High Tribunal and the Lockerbie court, may fall within this category. Other processes concerning international crimes, for example the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh and trials for genocide in Ethiopia, are generally considered as national in character, rather than mixed. The most recent example of the hybrid category of tribunals is the establishment of the Extraordinary African Chambers for the trial of Hissene Habre in Senegal pursuant to an agreement between the African Union and Senegal.

General Overviews

There are three significant edited collections that, although published several years ago, provide information on the earlier hybrid tribunals, as well as analysis by various authors on important issues relating to their design, legal basis and framework (Ambos and Othman 2003; Romano, et al. 2004; and Ascensio, et al. 2006). The study by Martineau examines five mixed tribunals to assess whether mixed tribunals are now an established, separate mechanism for international justice (Martineau 2007). A more recent monograph that provides a detailed introduction to the existing hybrid and internationalized criminal tribunals, their legal bases, and key legal issues is also included (Williams 2012), while the article by Nouwen is an excellent attempt at defining this category of institutions (Nouwen 2006). Finally, the early study undertaken by international relations scholars adds an important perspective to the design of such institutions (Roper and Barria 2006).

  • Ambos, Kai, and Mohamed Othman. New Approaches in International Criminal Justice: Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone and Cambodia. Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany: Max–Planck-Institut für Ausländisches und Internationales Strafrecht, 2003.

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    This is a collection of papers examining the first hybrid tribunals to emerge in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, East Timor, and Cambodia. It contains some strong discussion as to the context of these tribunals, as well as their key features.

  • Ascensio, Hervé, Elisabeth Lambert-Abdelgawad, and Jean-Marc Sorel, eds. Les juridictions pénales internationalisées (Cambodge, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Timor Leste). Collection Unité mixte de recherche de droit comparé de Paris (Université de Paris I/CNRS UMR 8103) 11. Paris: Société de législation comparée, 2006.

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    This leading French study examines the emergence of mixed tribunals, in particular the background to their establishment, their status in international law, their key characteristics, and whether such institutions are a successful and sustainable mechanism of international criminal justice.

  • Martineau, Anne-Charlotte. Les juridictions pénales internationalisées: Un nouveau modèle de justice hybride? Collection Perspectives internationales 28. Paris: Pédone, 2007.

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    This substantial study of five mixed tribunals (ECCC, SCSL, Kosovo, SPSC, and the WCC) considers whether the mixed tribunal offers a new mechanism for international criminal justice, situated between the national and the international.

  • Nouwen, Sarah. “Hybrid Courts: The Hybrid Category of a New Type of International Crimes Courts.” Utrecht Law Review 2 (2006): 190–214.

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    An attempt to identify a definition for the category of hybrid tribunals. While it concludes that no such definition exists, it does suggest a number of key features that are indicative of a particular institution falling within the category of hybrid criminal tribunals.

  • Romano, Cesare, André Nollkaemper, and Jann Kleffner, eds. Internationalized Criminal Courts: Sierra Leone, East Timor, Kosovo, and Cambodia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199276745.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This remains the leading collection on hybrid and internationalized tribunals. While it is no longer comprehensive, in that several other tribunals have subsequently been established, it provides excellent analysis by leading authors on these institutions and the key legal issues they have faced.

  • Roper, Steven D., and Lilian A. Barria. Designing Criminal Tribunals Sovereignty and International Concerns in the Protection of Human Rights. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

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    This book, written by international relations scholars, examines factors relevant to the design of international criminal tribunals, including their context and the strengths and weaknesses of the different models. It includes case studies on the ad hoc tribunals, as well as the SCSL, ECCC, SPSC, and the Indonesian Human Rights Court (a national initiative). It also contains useful chapters on financing mechanisms and completion strategies.

  • Williams, Sarah. Internationalized Criminal Courts and Tribunals: Selected Jurisdictional Issues. Oxford: Hart, 2012.

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    This monograph studies existing and emerging practice in the creation of hybrid tribunals. It also concludes that there is no single definition of a hybrid tribunal, but a number of key indicators. The detailed study also highlights that there are in fact different categories within the notion of “hybrid” tribunals, with institutions lying on a continuum.

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