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International Criminal Law


Within the framework of this programme, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) performs various kinds of activities both in cooperation with international criminal tribunals and domestic judicial and training institutions. These activities can be subsumed in the following main areas:

  • Supporting the mission and work of international and internationalized criminal tribunals and courts
  • Legacy projects and technical assistance to Member States

Supporting the mission and work of international and internationalized criminal tribunals and courts

In cooperation with international criminal tribunals, UNICRI has launched various initiatives aimed at gathering and transferring knowledge acquired by these international institutions to national judiciaries and practicing lawyers and concerned professionals to support the work of international tribunals set up for the prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

In this context UNICRI boasts of organizing some of the world’s best training programs focusing specially on the development of international criminal law by international courts. Examples include

  • The Master of Law (LL.M.) in International Crime and Justice, provided in association with the University of Turin, which caters solely to younger professionals of law and related disciplines, and trains them to specialize in international criminal justice. The success of the Master Program can be marked from the fact that such professionals, upon the completion of their training have often been invited to intern or work by international courts and tribunals such as the ICC, ICTY, ICTR, SCSL, STL, ECCC and various UN agencies and peacekeeping missions
  • The International Criminal Law Defence Seminar, a unique training program with an innovative methodology explaining the practice and procedures of international tribunals in a 4 day period to practicing attorneys, judicial personnel, law enforcement and governmental officers working in the area of international justice.

Legacy projects and technical assistance to Member States

The UNICRI approach that has been followed with regard to preserving the legacies of International Tribunals’ comprises of:

  • Applied research and cooperation with the Tribunal to identify which type of knowledge and practices are worth to be transferred
  • Thorough analysis of the need of the countries involved by the Tribunal’s work
  • Elaboration and implementation of capacity building projects

UNICRI, on the basis of its previous experience, has undertaken a wide range of activities aimed at strengthening the capacities of domestic jurisdictions. These include:

  • Undertaking a thorough needs assessment of the judiciary and identification of gaps in its capacity to deal with statutory war crimes cases: Most recently, UNICRI has undertaken a careful needs assessment of the jurisdictions of the former Yugoslavia paying particular attention to needs for training and educational activities in the field of International Humanitarian Law, structural problems within the court systems and compliance of court procedures with international standards. The outcome of this endeavor was the 2009 ICTY-ODIHR-UNICRI Final Report “Supporting the transition process”, which provides an in depth analysis of the past capacity building activities in the region and recommendations on how to implement future capacity building programmes.
  • Elaborating training programmes and training curricula for legal practitioners on war crimes related issues: In 2008, UNICRI implemented a project aimed at strengthening the capacity of the Bosnian judicial system to deal with war crimes prosecution. Within this framework, a series of trainings for defence counsel were organized in cooperation with the Criminal Defence Section of the Registry of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina on several issues, such as plea bargaining and use of evidence in war crimes cases. The choice of topics, lecturers and the preparation of training material was undertaken in close coordination with the local counterparts, to ensure that the trainings met the needs of the target groups.
  • Facilitating the transfer of knowledge and expertise to national judiciaries and building national capacities: Together with the ICTY and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE-ODIHR), UNICRI has implemented a joint project entitled “War Crimes Justice Project” (WCJP) which has successfully transferred knowledge on war crime cases from ICTY to the region. As a result of various initiatives to build the capacity of national jurisdiction in handling war crimes cases in 2011, over 800 justice professionals benefited from the training provided. Within the project framework, UNICRI also prepared, in cooperation with the Association of Defense Counsel practicing before the ICTY (ADC-ICTY), a “Manual on International Criminal Defence. ADC-ICTY Developed Practices”, an electronic and knowledge management tool in the nature of a bilingual training and e-learning portal, to facilitate the exchange of information and experience between practitioners from judicial institutions of the countries of the former Yugoslavia was made available. The training and e-learning portal, prepared in partnership with national institutions, contains over 700 relevant legislative tools in the field of war crime prosecutions, international conventions and treaties, relevant national legislation, bilateral agreements on criminal matters. The e-learning portal is being used by national judicial training academics in the former Yugoslavia to educate judges and prosecutors in the field of international criminal and humanitarian law.
  • Elaboration of electronic tools and knowledge management systems aimed at supporting the work and education of legal practitioners (such as databases on legislation, databases on past training activities and material, e-learning course on International Criminal and Humanitarian Law etc.): Within the ICTY-ODIHR-UNICRI “War Crimes Justice Project”: the Institute has created a Training and e-learning Portal for the region of the former Yugoslavia. The Portal is an online tool for legal practitioners and judicial training institutions containing:
    1. A Database on Training Activities, containing all the material developed by international and national training providers during the implementation of trainings for legal professionals on war crimes related issues
    2. A Legislation Database, which allows the user to browse relevant legislative tools (criminal legislation of the countries of the former Yugoslavia, bilateral agreements on criminal matters, international treaties and conventions)
    3. An E-learning course for judges and prosecutors on International Criminal and Humanitarian Law
    4. A Manual developed in association with the Association of Defence Counsel practising before the ICTY (ADC-ICTY) titled, ‘The Manual on International Criminal Defence, ADC-ICTY Developed Practices’. The Manual, which is the first of its kind, crystallises the knowledge gained by those practitioners at the ICTY and provides a ‘practical’ perspective necessary to assist lawyers in future war crimes cases wherever they might be practicing