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Purpose-based or knowledge-based intention for collective wrongdoing in international criminal law?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 May 2014

Kirsten J. Fisher
Affiliation:
University of Ottawa, Human Rights Research and Education Centre, Faculty of Law, Ottawa ON, Canada. Email: kfisher@uottawa.ca
Corresponding
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Abstract

Due to the distinct nature of international crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity originating out of and contributing to the pervasive collective character of mass atrocity, the appropriate mens rea for individual commission of these crimes is difficult to pin down. The mens rea for these international crimes has been deliberated, disputed and inconsistently applied, leaving what it means for individuals to intend to commit crimes of mass atrocity mired in confusion. This paper explores the meaning of intentional commission of collective crime, and demonstrates that from both philosophical and legal perspectives, acting intentionally in the context of mass atrocity can be interpreted in different ways, resulting in a condition of international criminal law which is at risk of unpredictability and expressive uncertainty. The paper endorses purpose-based, rather than knowledge-based, intent as the appropriate standard in the context of international crimes by arguing that mere knowledge of outcomes is insufficient.

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Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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