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Hybrid Courts - Description [2004] PICTRes 1 (1 January 2004)

Hybrid Courts

Undoubtedly, one of the most interesting novelties in the international criminal law field of the end of 1990s and beginning of the 2000s is the emergence of a “third-generation” of criminal bodies (the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals being the first, and the ICTY, ICTR and ICC being the second generation), which are called, for lack of a better term, internationalized or hybrid criminal bodies.

Currently, the terms are used to indicate three jurisdictions created, between 1999 and 2001, in East Timor, Kosovo and Sierra Leone, that is to say the:

• Crimes Panels of the District Court of Dili;

• “Regulation 64” Panels in the Courts of Kosovo;

• Court for Sierra Leone;

as well as a fourth one to address crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (the so called Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia), which is currently under negotiation.

Like all international judicial bodies, such as the International Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights, to cite but two, internationalized criminal bodies are composed of independent judges, working on the basis of predetermined rules of procedure, and rendering binding decisions. They are subject to the same principles governing the work of all international judiciaries (e.g., due process, impartiality and independence).

Within the wider class of international judicial bodies, the hybrid courts belong to a specific order: that of international criminal bodies. Like the ICC, ICTY and ICTR, their goal is to sanction serious violations of international law (in particular, international humanitarian law, and human rights law) committed by individuals and, as a consequence, deter future violations and help to reestablish the rule of law. To do so, internationalized criminal courts impose criminal penalties--the critical feature setting this group apart from all other international judicial bodies. As with all other existing international criminal bodies, the UN played a key-role in their creation. Moreover, like the ICTY and the ICTR, but unlike the ICC, they are ad hoc institutions, created to address particular situations, for a limited amount of time, and are the result of singular political and historical circumstances. Finally, like all other international criminal bodies, in order to carry out their mission, the hybrid courts need to rely on international cooperation and judicial assistance by states and international organizations, although in the case of internationalized criminal bodies, cooperation is further complicated by their peculiar legal status.

Indeed, despite these important similarities, internationalized criminal bodies do form a family on their own, which sets them apart from all other cognate entities. In some cases they are part of the judiciary of a given country, while in others, they have been grafted onto the local judicial system. But in all cases their nature is mixed, incorporating at the same time international and national features. Indeed, they all are composed of international and local staff (both judges, prosecutor, support staff), and apply a compound of international and national substantial and procedural law, hence the term “internationalized” or “hybrid” criminal courts and tribunals.

PICT Data obtained from the Project on International Courts and Tribunals (PICT)

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