International tribunals have been around for some time, but the creation of international courts and tribunals to deal with international crimes is a relatively recent occurrence, with the first international criminal tribunal established just after World War II. The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law defines “international courts and tribunals” as ”permanent judicial bodies made up of independent judges which are entrusted with adjudicating international disputes on the basis of international law according to a pre-determined set of rules of procedure and rendering decisions which are binding on the parties.” In order to organize and manage digital content available on international courts and tribunals, the Library of Congress Web Archiving Team and the Law Library of Congress recently launched an “International Tribunals Archive”(ITA). The ITA is an archive with the purpose of digitally storing relevant websites hosting information about the most important international tribunals created since World War II for researchers today and in the future.
The establishment of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in Nuremberg to try the Nazi war criminals after World War II was the first time that the idea of an international tribunal to prosecute international crimes was realized. Its establishment served as a model for other international tribunals and the principles developed and recognized in the IMT Charter and in the judgement of the IMT had a major impact on the development of international criminal law. The so-called “Nuremberg Principles” were affirmed by the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA) in its resolution 95 (I) in 1946. In its later resolution 177(II) from November 1947, the UN GA directed the International Law Commission (ILC) to formulate and codify the Nuremberg Principles and to prepare a draft code of offenses against the peace and security of mankind, taking into account the aforementioned principles. Although the Nuremberg Principles and the draft code were never formally adopted by the UN GA after the formulation by the ILC, the principles have been reaffirmed and further developed in the statutes of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the International Criminal Court (ICC), and in international and national case law.
The ad hoc criminal tribunals ICTY and ICTR were created in the 1990s by the UN Security Council to deal with the crimes committed during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and the mass-killings in Rwanda. The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), which was established by the UN Security Council in 2012, continues a number of the functions of the ad hoc criminal tribunals ICTY and ICTR after the completion of their respective mandates. The ICC, established by the Rome Statute in 1998, is a permanent international criminal court with the mandate to prosecute the most serious crimes of concern to the international community when a “State is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation” or prosecute the perpetrators. (Rome Statute, art. 17).
We invite you to review the International Tribunals Archive and explore other Library of Congress web archives, such as the Legislative Branch Web Archive, the Legal Blawg Archive, and the also just recently launched Webcomics Web Archive.