Prosecuting Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes in Canadian Courts

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The publication explores the manner in which Canada has implemented some of its obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and how it has dealt with its legal and moral obligations in the fight against impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. It presents the historical context of the adoption of the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act and explains the complex relation that Canada has traditionally entertained with war criminals present on its territory. It offers an assessment of the jurisdictional bases available for the prosecution of international crimes before Canadian courts, including universal jurisdiction and the requirement of the presence of the accused on Canada's territory as a precondition to its exercise.

It also explores the role of the Attorney General of Canada in the exercise of jurisdiction and the criteria that guide or should guide the decision to prosecute, in light of the other (non-criminal) remedies available to ensure that the country does not harbor suspected war criminals. The book further offers an analysis of the general principles that are applicable to all crimes pursuant to the Act, particularly the reliance on customary international law in the crimes' definitions. It assesses the potential implications of this legislative choice in light of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the impact it will have on the interpretation to be given to known crimes of Canadian law, namely murder, sexual assault, and torture.

The study also presents an analysis of the specific definitions of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes pursuant to the Act, highlighting potential difficulties in their interpretation or tensions between international law and Canadian criminal and human rights law. The book is finally concerned with modes of participation to offenses pursuant to the Act. It offers a comparative analysis of applicable rules on principal, secondary and inchoate liability in international criminal law and Canadian criminal law. It aims at identifying whether the choice made in the Act to rely exclusively on Canadian criminal law to determine individual responsibility may create problems in war crimes prosecutions in Canada and whether the applicable principles might need to be adapted to the particular collective and massive nature of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.

This book is fundamentally a study about Canadian criminal law. It is also a study about international criminal law. It is an analysis of how these two bodies of law meet in the legal system of a state that has taken strong normative and political stances in the global fight against impunity for the most serious international crimes. Foreword by professor William Schabas, professor of international law, Middlesex University, London.

The publication covers:

  • Part I Prosecutions for international crimes in Canada in context
    • Historical background of the Act
    • Jurisdiction
  • Part II Offences: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and superior responsibility
    • General principles applicable to all core crimes
    • Elements of the crimes defined in the Act
  • Part III General principles of liability
    • Scope of the Act and principal liability
    • Secondary and inchoate liability


Practice Area:
Criminal law & procedure


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