Criminal Law Forum

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 145–180 | Cite as

The Scales of Justice: Balancing the Goals of International Criminal Trials

  • Caleb H WheelerEmail author


The world community expects international criminal trials to accomplish more than their domestic law counterparts. International criminal trials are meant to further both judicial and political trial goals despite the potential conflict between these trial purposes and the accused’s fair trial rights. First, this article discusses what makes a trial legal or political and where along this spectrum international criminal trials should fall. Next, this article assesses each of the purposes underlying international criminal trials, contextualises them as legal or political, and analyses whether each should be relied on as a justification for trying a suspect in an international or internationalised criminal court or tribunal. Third, the article scrutinises the way in which the different trial goals interact and discusses the impact each political goal has on the legal purpose of trial. The article concludes that incorporating political goals into international criminal trials is necessary to fulfill the mandates of each international criminal law institution. Trial courts must balance the legal and political goals to ensure that the trial meets its aims but that when a political goal comes into conflict with the legal goal of trial, it is latter that must take precedence as it is the factor most concerned with ensuring that the trial is fair. Prioritising fairness is the only way to guarantee the continued legitimacy of international and internationalised criminal courts and tribunals.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Middlesex University LondonLondonUK

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