The last decade of the twentieth century saw the revival of global efforts aimed at attacking some of the most atrocious crimes to mankind. Legal initiatives to prevent genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity (international crimes)and to punish those most responsible for them took shape at international, regional and national levels.
These commendable legal developments had considerable shortcomings in dealing with victims of international crimes. Victims’ suffering and needs were hardly considered a priority. The establishment of the International Criminal Court changed this to some extent, providing a more comprehensive framework towards addressing victims’ needs through a criminal justice approach.
The peculiar situation of victims of international crimes calls for a holistic approach that links various relevant fields like traumatic stress, the social psychology of group conflict and resolution and the psychology and sociology of legal processes. The latter is important in its own right, but also for the ongoing efforts in transitional and international criminal justice, as it can provide the empirical underpinning of the choices and developments in these fields.
Transcending the disciplinary divisions in the study of victims of international crimes is the main focus of this first volume of essays contributing to developing victimological approaches to international crimes. Focusing on the African continent, scholars from different disciplines review the similarities and differences between victims of ordinary crimes and those of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. As victimological research has mainly focused on the former crimes, the volume provides a much-needed and comprehensive overview of the intricacies of victimisation by international crimes. This endeavour transcends academic interest, as an approach of this kind is essential to mend societies ravaged by genocide, war crimes and/or crimes against humanity.
About the book:
‘This book is a welcome and valuable addition to the study of victimology by firmly expanding the discipline beyond domestic victimization to a greater understanding of victims of international crimes. As the coverage of the contents of this book reveal, there is a dearth of original research and information. The book also includes a widely sourced bibliography, which will be helpful to researchers and practitioners. [...] In all, this book will be very useful to academics, legal and non-legal practitioners, and students who are interested in victimology, international crimes, victims, international criminal justice and transitional justice. This book and future ones will hopefully build on our understanding of victimization of international crimes so we can more effectively respond and prevent such suffering.’
Luke Moffet in International Review of Victimology 2012 18: 287.
The time that criminal law was pre-eminently a national matter is gone. Criminal law and criminal procedure is no longer solely a product of decisions made by national legislative bodies, applied by national police, prosecutors and judges. A new criminal law is developing which goes beyond separate nations: supranational criminal law.
One example of this development is the relatively young body of law concerning war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Particularly essential to this development has been the establishment of the ICTY, the ICTR and the ICC, and of many internationalised tribunals all over the world. A second example of the development towards the supranationalisation of criminal law can be seen on a more regional level. In Europe for instance, the area of criminal law has become a prioritised field of co-operation in the third pillar of the European Union. These supranational criminal systems are criminal systems sui generis.
That at least is the presupposition of this series on supranational criminal law. The Supranational Criminal Law: Capita Selecta series contributes to this discussion from a theoretical, dogmatic point of view, working towards new, consistent and fair penal systems, crossing the borders of the old law families and traditions.
The series is edited by Dr. Roelof H. Haveman (editor-in-chief - Rule of Law Advisor, embassy of the Netherlands in Mali), Dr. Paul J.A. De Hert (Free University of Brussels, Belgium and University of Tilburg, the Netherlands) and Dr. Alette Smeulers (University of Groningen, the Netherlands).
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