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An Argument for Strict Legality in International Criminal Law

Corsi, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-4029-1127 (2018). An Argument for Strict Legality in International Criminal Law. Georgetown Journal of International Law, 49(4), pp. 1321-1381.


In the past twenty years, judges sitting in international criminal law (ICL) trials have employed a flexible, natural law influenced version of legality. However, recent events suggest that there are both opportunities and threats in the ICL system that would best be served by a strict version of legality. More than ever, ICL must be seen as legitimate and impartial, and strict legality can help achieve this. The four prongs of legality promoted here are 1) nullum crimen sine lege, 2) lex praevia, 3) lex certa, and 4) lex stricta. This article main tains that judges should apply all four prongs when ascertaining ICL rules and their content. Additionally, it concludes by arguing for a codified international criminal code that includes sentencing guidelines, thereby creating a fifth prong of lex scripta.
A strict legality approach could help to depoliticise ICL and ICL trials. And, strict legality better serves ICL’s goals of ending impunity and fostering peace. Further, legality is a fundamental human right from which derogation is not permitted, and protection of this right would be better achieved via a written international criminal code. Strict legality is not a perfect principle, and those that promote its significance are aware of its flaws. Despite these failings, this article contends that strict legality offers the most just, most effective, most coherent, most persuasive, most legitimate, and even the most moral approach to ICL.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Corsi, Jessica (2018). An Argument for Strict Legality in International Criminal Law. Georgetown Journal of International Law, 49(4) has been published by Georgetown University Law Center.
Subjects: J Political Science > JX International law
K Law > K Law (General)
Departments: City, University of London (-2022) > School of Arts & Social Sciences
School of Arts & Social Sciences
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