By holding individuals accountable, international and internationalized criminal tribunals have dismantled the tradition of impunity for war crimes and other serious violations of international law.
These tribunals try individuals on the basis of their personal responsibility, be it direct or indirect, and regardless of rank. Personal responsibility is an important international development because it shields entire communities from being labeled as collectively responsible for others' suffering, thus paving the way for the reconciliation process within war-torn societies.
International criminal tribunals are courts established to try individuals accused of crimes recognized under international humanitarian law as committed in a specific place at a particular time. The Nuremberg and Tokyo Military Tribunals - the first international war crimes tribunals - were established by the victorious Allies at the end of World War II to prosecute leading military and political leaders. In response to the crimes that took place in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda, the U.N. Security Council established two ad hoc international criminal tribunals, one for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and another for Rwanda (ICTR), to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Successful convictions of political and military leaders are meant to deliver justice and to deter others from committing such crimes in the future. These international tribunals serve not only as an enforcement mechanism for violations of international humanitarian law, but also as an authoritative source of interpretation of this branch of law.
The concern that ad hoc tribunals have been limited to crimes committed only in a particular territory has spurred the establishment of the International Criminal Court.
Internationalized courts are a mixture of national and international courts, sometimes called "hybrid courts." They commonly include both national and international staff and judges. Each internationalized court is unique in its composition and applicable law - incorporating both national and international law. These courts are located in the country where the crimes were committed, which means that justice can be seen to be done by the affected populations, rather than being transferred to far-away proceedings.