9 – Legal Traditions



A basic distinction is made in comparative law between legal systems and legal traditions. A legal system consists of the set of legal institutions, procedures, and rules that govern the operation of the criminal justice system. A legal tradition is a set of deeply rooted, historically conditioned attitudes about the nature and role of law, about the organization and operation of a legal system, and about how the law is or should be made, applied, studied, perfected, and taught (Merryman, 1985). The criteria that are generally used when classifying which legal tradition a legal system belongs to are its sources of law, the historical background and development of the system, its characteristic mode of thought, and its distinctive institutions, such as the roles of judges and lawyers.

The most common legal traditions are the common law legal tradition, the civil law legal tradition, the Islamic legal tradition, and the indigenous legal tradition. One major legal tradition that is not dealt in this chapter is the socialist legal tradition, which is based on the civil law legal tradition but is politicized law that recognizes the dominance of the Communist Party. It was at one time widespread, primarily in Eastern Europe and the USSR. Today, its influence can be seen for example in aspects of law in China, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea.


Merryman, J. H. (1985). The Civil Law Tradition. An Introduction to the Legal Systems ofEurope and Latin America. Chicago: Stanford University Press.

Pakes, F. (2004). Comparative Criminal Justice. Portland, OR: Willan Publishing.

Reichel, P. L. (2008). Comparative Criminal Justice Systems. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

47 – The International Criminal Court


For many years, the United Nations held a series of meetings to establish an independent and permanent structure – the International Criminal Court (ICC) – to deal with the gravest international crimes and gross violations of international humanitarian law. This dream became a reality in July, 17, 1998, when the Rome Statute was agreed upon by 120 nations. Some four years later, on July 1, 2002, the ICC was established and of 2010, 111 have ratified the Rome Statue. ICC is thus a product of a multilateral treaty whereas the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal of Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR) were created by decision of the Security Council.

The ICC, a permanent entity situated in The Hague, Netherlands, offers a new paradigm of accountability, equality and justice in dealing with the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. This chapter provides a brief account of its structure and functioning, of its ongoing investigations and trials, as well as the challenges inherent in executing the mission of Rome Statue.


Bradley, C. A. (2002, May). U.S. Announces Intent Not to Ratify International Criminal Court Treaty. The American Society of International Law Insights. Retrieved from

Chung, C. H. (2008). Victims’ Participation at the International Criminal Court: Are Concessions of the Court Clouding the Promise?Journal of International Human Rights, 6(3), 459–545.

Clark, R. (2005). Challenges Confronting the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court. In Vetere, E.. & David, P. (Eds.), Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power: Festschrift in Honour of Irene Melup 141. Bangkok: 11th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

Jacobs, D. & Arajärvi, N.. (2008). The International Criminal Court. The Law and Practice of International Courts and Tribunals,7 (1),115–60.

Pillay, N. (2008). Gender Justice at the ICC. Plenary Speech at the John Jays’ Eighth International Conference, Puerto Rico.

Sadat, L. (2002). The International Criminal Court And The Transformation of International Law: Justice For The New Millennium. New York: Transnational Publishers, Inc.

Schabas, A. W. (2007). An Introduction to the International Criminal Court. Cambridge University Press.

Shah, A (2005). United States and the International Criminal Court. Global Issue. Retrieved on 04 Jan. 2010, from

Wouters, J., Verhoeven, S., and Demeyere, B., (2008). The International Criminal Court’s Office of the Prosecutor: Navigating Between Independence and Accountability?, International Criminal Law Review, 8(1/2), 273–317.

International Criminal Court

ICC Preparatory commission work:

Coalition for the ICC:

50 – Nongovernmental Organizations and International Criminal Justice



Although it has long been recognized that citizens working together are effective pressure groups for social change, only recently have scholars researched the role of “transnational civil society”: organized citizens who work for global social. In the study of international criminal justice, students are often introduced to the study of national, intergovernmental, or supranational bodies that enforce and interpret national and international law, but rarely to the work of nongovernmental organizations in the delivery of criminal justice-related services and the lobbying for policy changes. This chapter aims to fill that gap by presenting an overview of the work of nongovernmental organizations that is relevant to international criminal justice.


NGO, an abbreviation for nongovernmental organization, is an international term used to denote formally registered organizations that are not part of the state or otherwise governmental apparatus nor the profit-making sector of the economy. They are commonly referred to as “civil society,” and in various contexts are also called “nonprofit” or “voluntary” organizations. Of course, there are many such organizations in the world, and not all are directly relevant to international criminal justice. The civil society database of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs lists more than 13,000 organizations with international interests, and more than three thousand who have been granted consultative status with the United Nations. Those NGOs that aim to influence international criminal justice policy because their main mission, aims, or activities are directed at policy or intervention arenas in international criminal justice are those that are of interest to this chapter.


Cakmak, C. (2009). Transnational Activism in World Politics and Effectiveness of a Loosely Organized Principled Global Network: The Case of the NGO Coalition for an International Criminal Court. The International Journal of Human Rights, 12, 373–93.

Smith, J. (2004). Transnational Processes and Movements. In Snow, D., Soule, S., & Kries, H. (Eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Wapner, P. (2008). Civil Society. In Weiss, T.G & S. Daws, S. (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations,

New York Alliance of NGOs on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice,

NGO Branch, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

World Society of Victimology,

Coalition for the International Criminal Court

Penal Reform International,

Amnesty International,

Human Rights Watch,



ECPAT International,

Coalition Against the Trafficking of Women or Children,

Gender Report Card (ICC),

Rwandan Genocide Study,