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15 War Crimes

Robert Cryer

From: The Oxford Guide to International Humanitarian Law

Edited By: Ben Saul, Dapo Akande

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved.date: 02 December 2020

Subject(s):
Enforced prostitution — Forced pregnancy — Forced transfers or displacement — Murder — Wanton destruction — Armed conflict

This chapter focuses on the law of war crimes, which is a criminalized subset of violations of international humanitarian law (IHL). The law of war crimes is a controversial one, not least as states cannot be certain that their nationals will not commit them. Young soldiers in stressful situations, and who are highly armed, may well end up violating IHL (as well as their superiors), and thus be responsible for war crimes. This is not inappropriate, but leads to worry in states about their possible liability, both political and legal. This, in addition to nationalist sentiment that often accompanies armed conflicts, often makes the circumstances surrounding prosecution difficult. Whilst the deterrent effect of prosecutions is not clear, there are important retributive reasons for prosecuting war crimes, and, in addition, criminal law is only one means of enforcing IHL.

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