ICC’s legal-tools: ending impunity for international crimes

ICC’s legal-tools: ending impunity for international crimes

With the modern trend of punishing high level officials of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, national jurisdictions must be put in a better position to investigate and prosecute these crimes within their national court system.

The challenge

International criminal law is among the youngest and most rapidly developing areas of law. As such, national jurisdictions, especially those in post conflict areas, have found themselves ill-equipped to prosecute these heinous crimes. The ultimate goal of this project is to freely equip users with legal information, commentaries and an application to work more effectively with international crimes cases.

Several international tribunals for the prosecution of international crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide) have been established since 1993. Of these, only the International Criminal Court (ICC) is permanent. However, the ICC can only investigate and prosecute when national jurisdictions are unable or unwilling. Strengthening these nations’ ability to investigate and prosecute these crimes is the primary purpose of the Legal Tools Project. It is also important to develop the ability of civil society organizations to document serious human rights violations that may amount to core international crimes.

The response

The Legal Tools have been developed as a part of the ICC Legal Tools Project of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor. The Tools serve as an electronic library on international criminal law and justice. They comprise at present over 41,000 documents in several databases (the "Legal Tools Database"), together with four legal research and reference tools developed by lawyers with expertise in international criminal law and justice: the Case Matrix, the Elements Digest, the Proceedings Digest and the Means of Proof Digest.

The Legal Tools Project provides the general public with free access to the Legal Tools Database. Thus, the Project represents a significant effort to freely distribute legal information in international crimes. Additionally, criminal jurisdictions, counsel and NGOs that work on international crimes cases may seek to have access to the Case Matrix - which includes tools designed to streamline these investigations and prosecutions. This represents a great effort to make this knowledge available to those who need it, as practical and cost-efficient as possible.


HiiL works on the development of two Legal Tools:

  • National jurisdictions (an overview of national legal systems which contains information helpful for conducting comparative research on criminal law and procedure and on the legal status of core international crimes in these systems);

  • National cases (most relevant decisions issued by domestic courts and tribunals concerning genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, both in civil and criminal matters).

 Read more: Legal Tools website; Legal Tools Outsourcing Partners (LTOP)

Project details

Project Leader: Prof. Morten Bergsmo
Duration: January 2010 – Present
Contact: Matthew J. Simon