Socialist Legal Experts and the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to International Crimes

by Raluca Grosescu

at New Europe College, Bucharest, 12 October, 2016.

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The presentation analysed the contribution of state-socialist governments and legal experts to the development of a major principle of international criminal law, namely the non-applicability of statutory limitations to war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. On the one hand, it examines the transnational mobilization of socialist legal scholars and political elites – their cooperation with Western scholars and “third world” governments – with a view to bringing on the agenda of the international community and enabling the adoption of the 1968 UN Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity. On the other hand, the presentation dealt with the negotiation of the 1968 UN Convention in historical context, with a special focus on its legal innovations and shortcomings, as well as its subsequent impact on the advance of prosecutions of dictatorial crimes in post-communist Eastern Europe (Estonia and Romania) or post-dictatorial Latin America (Argentina and Chile). I argued that state socialist elites played a major role in establishing the non-applicability of statutory limitations to international crimes as a principle of international law. Though intertwined with political agendas and not without flaws, these efforts contributed to the progress of both customary and conventional international criminal law.

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The Legacy of State Socialism in International Criminal Law

The Legacy of State Socialism in International Criminal Law: The Case of the 1968 UN Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

by Raluca Grosescu, at Justice in Communist and Post-Communist Regimes, Faculty of Law – University of Bucharest & The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMER), Bucharest, 6-10 October 2015.

 Abstract

This paper analyses the role of state-socialist countries in the development of international criminal law, through the example of the 1968 UN Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity. It examines the context, the negotiations and the interpretations that had been given to the Convention in 1968. It then focuses on the Convention’s application and its new readings in domestic prosecutions of human rights abuses in Argentina and Estonia in the 2000s. The paper argues that international criminal law norms initiated or supported by state-socialist countries during the Cold War have been instrumental in trials dealing with crimes of authoritarian regimes during the “third-wave of democratization” in Latin America and Eastern Europe. It also reflects on the historicity of law. It discusses how legal norms constructed in a particular historical context with a specific political purpose are re-interpreted and re-negotiated in order to fulfil new political goals in the present.

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