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.
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.