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Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät Lehrstuhl Fiocchi

International Criminal Trials: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

International Criminal Trials: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Organized by Elisabetta Fiocchi and Sarah Summers

International criminal trials deal with the most serious of crimes and are unsurprisingly the subject of both considerable attention and controversy. This seminar sets out to examine the regulation of criminal trials in historical perspective and to allow for consideration of the principles which govern modern international criminal trials. The 19th century marked the ‘scientification’ and professionalisation of international law. Of particular importance in this regard was the establishment in 1873 of the Institut de droit international in Ghent by group of legal experts on international law. The Institut’s objectives included the development of general principles of law and scrupulous work on international codification. The Institut worked independently without political constraint or connection. In the same years, the rise of international humanitarian law was marked by the creation of the so-called Lieber Code, the establishment of the International Red Cross in 1863 and the emergence of projects advocating for the bringing about of an international criminal court.  How did the concept of crimes against humanity originate? What does the notion of individual responsibility for crime mean in international law? The aim of the seminar to establish a dialogue between past and present and to investigate the origins of the concept international criminal law by focusing the attention on the efforts and attempts from the 19th century onwards to call those alleged to be responsible for international crimes to account. 

Historical part:

  • Gustave Moynier and his Proposal for a Permanent International Criminal Court (1870)
  • The Paris Peace Conference and the Trial of the Kaiser (1919)
  • The Leipzig War Crimes Trials (1921)
  • World War II, the International Military Tribunal and the Concept of Crimes against Humanity
  • The Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907 and their Legacy
  • The Establishment of the Military Tribunal for the Far East (1946-1948)

Contemporary Part:

  • Criminal trials at the ICTR and the ICTY
  • The Perils and Promise of the International Criminal Court
  • National Jurisdiction and the Prosecution of International Crimes
  • Universal Jurisdiction
  • The Challenges of the Fragmented Landscape in International Criminal Law
  • Narratives in the Prosecution of International Criminal Law

I. Academic Requirements

Writing Master’s thesis and presenting it at the seminar is required. In addition, active participation in the discussions of other participants’ papers is expected. The oral performance will be factored into the final grade.

II. Place and Time

The seminar will take place at the University of Zurich. Room and dates (2 days) are to be determined.

III. Proceeding of the Seminar

The seminar will be held in English and/or in German. Each day consists of presentations of student papers and ensuing discussions.

IV. Master Thesis

It is possible to write the thesis in German or in English (100.000 characters/around 40 pages).

V. Application and Registration

Students who are interested in writing a thesis on the historical part write to

Students who are interested in writing a thesis on the contemporary part write to

VI. Thesis Deadline

The final date to submit thesis will be on the 30.11.2024.