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The Law of Command Responsibility

Guénaël Mettraux


The book studies the law of command or superior responsibility under international law. Born in the aftermath of the Second World War, the doctrine of superior responsibility provides that a military commander, a civilian leader or the leader of a terrorist, paramilitary, or rebel group could be held criminally responsible in relation to crimes committed by subordinates even where he has taken no direct or personal part in the commission of these crimes. The basis of this type of liability lies in a grave and culpable failure on the part of the superior to fulfil his duties to prevent or punish crimes of subordinates. Though it first developed in the international arena, the doctrine of superior responsibility has now spread into many domestic jurisdictions, thus offering judicial and prosecutorial authorities a ready-made instrument to hold to account the leaders of men who knew of the crimes of their subordinates and failed to respond adequately to prevent or punish those crimes. This book provides a dissection of the doctrine of superior responsibility, the scope of its application, its elements as well as the evidential difficulties involved in establishing the criminal responsibility of a superior in the context of a criminal prosecution.

Bibliographic Information

Guénaël Mettraux, author

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