International crimes are those that affect the global community, the most serious of which is “atrocity crimes.”
How are such crimes investigated and prosecuted, and what are the challenges as compared to the investigation of ordinary crimes?
About international criminal law
Over time, international crimes became defined as the most serious crimes affecting people globally. They include war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, all of which are atrocity crimes.
A different kind of investigation
Investigations of international crimes are broader in scope than investigations of the ordinary crimes that the public hears about on a daily basis. The first task is to demonstrate that the crime is widespread. Investigating command responsibility may require political, historical, military or statistical knowledge. It might also require linkage evidence. This means determining whether the subject of the investigation gave relevant orders for subordinates to commit crimes, for example, or that the subject knew about those acts and did not try to prevent them. International criminal investigations also examine “pattern evidence.” This involves information from third parties such as reports from police departments or health officials showing that an international crime actually occurred.
Location for prosecution
Prosecution for international crimes can take place in both international and national courts. As established by the 1998 Rome Statute, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has jurisdiction over all such crimes. In the words of the Rome Statute, “it is the duty of every State to exercise its criminal jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes.” The Office of the Prosecutor initiates those that come before the ICC. A criminal defense attorney from the United States may represent a client in a case to be tried at the ICC.