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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: October 2009

4 - Men and abstract entities: individual responsibility and collective guilt in international criminal law


Trials that reach the hearts and minds of Iraqis reinforce other important social and political messages. By establishing individual rather than collective responsibility for these crimes, they will place blame where it belongs: on the shoulders of Hussein and his cabal, and not on the Sunnis collectively or any particular village or clan.

…the latest and most formidable form of…dominion: bureaucracy or the rule of an intricate system of bureaus in which no men, neither one nor the best, neither the few nor the many, can be held responsible …

The true culprits are those who misled public opinion and take advantage of the people's ignorance to raise disquieting rumours and sound the alarm bell, inciting the country and, consequently, other countries into enmity. The real culprits are those who by interest or inclination, declaring constantly that war is inevitable, end by making it so, asserting that they are powerless to prevent it. The real culprits are those who sacrifice the general interest to their own personal interest.

Bosnia v Serbia

On 26 February 2007, the International Court of Justice handed down its decision in the Bosnia v Serbia (Genocide) case. The Court declared that there had been a genocide in Bosnia but evidence for that genocide existed only in relation to one place: Srebrenica. Other attacks on civilian populations (in Sarajevo, in Goradze) were ‘ethnic cleansing’ (to use the political term) and, in all probability, crimes against humanity (to use the legal term) but they did not rise (or sink) to the level of genocide (in the technical, legal sense).

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