Sovereignty and Justice: Creating Domestic War Crimes Courts within the Principle of Complementarity

Since 1945, armed conflicts have taken the lives of approximately 100 million people, yet only 823 persons have been indicted by international and regional courts. A trend of heightened international justice, however, is growing, bolstered by the United Nations' 2002 establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC). In Sovereignty and Justice: Creating Domestic War Crimes Courts within the Principle of Complementarity, Mark Ellis examines the law that establishes the ICC - the Rome Statute - and its principle of complementarity. The principle represents the idea that ICC jurisdiction should merely complement the exercise of domestic court jurisdiction, and that the ICC can exercise jurisdiction only when a State is unwilling or unable to so. Ellis asserts that this principle is the key foundation for domestic jurisdiction over international crimes and is the stimulus behind the growing number of domestic war crimes courts. Ellis demonstrates the shifting trend toward domestic war crimes courts and discusses how to best implement an effective partnership between these rising courts and the international legal community. In doing so, Ellis provides informative description and comparison of the existing international criminal courts and tribunals, domestic war crimes courts, and the laws by which they are governed. He discusses the importance of the implementation of international standards of justice within the domestic courts in regards to the principle of complementarity, and he addresses three key areas that affect domestic courts' credibility and sustainability: 1) fair trial standards for defendants, 2) an effective system of support and protection to witnesses and victims, and 3) the selection of judges that are both qualified and impartial. Analyzing the standing of these fundamental principles in current courts, Ellis offers legal guidance on how domestic courts can strengthen their laws in these areas and thereby ensure their jurisdictional sovereignty.