The principle of legality and the prosecution of international crimes in domestic courts: a case study of Kampala Uganda

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Kampala International University,School of Law
The study examined the principle of legality and the prosecution of international crimes in domestic courts. The study was guided by the following objectives;- to find out whether the principle of legality is really a challenge to prosecuting acts that have already been recognized as crimes under customary international law, to find out whether states are "wasting time" in "legal gymnastics" and needlessly adhering to strict positivism, at the cost of accountability and justice for victims of atrocities, to find out whether the victims of these atrocities even care for the legal intricacies of definition and classification of crimes, and to find out whether prosecutions cannot be based simply on predicate crimes such as murder, rape or assault since crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes are constituted by these very crimes. Under methodology the study adopted a doctrine research approach this aimed at description. By utilizing qualitative methodologies the research is able to evaluate both formal and normative aspects of political activity. The inhibiting role played by the national version of the principle of legality in Uganda's quest for prosecution of international crimes is evident in the legislature's application of the Rome Statute with prospective effect, the courts" reluctance to apply customary international law and the prosecutors" extensive use of the Penal Code Act to prosecute underlying crimes in Uganda's first domestic prosecution before the International Crimes Division. The study established that the principle of legality is absolute it is not waived for any crime and especially not for international crimes. However, for these crimes, given their prior recognition under customary international law, their inherently evil and proscribed nature are presumed to be foreseeable facts accessible by all states and, in consequence, all citizens within those states. As a result, while a strict application of the principle of legality would be understandable in the prosecution of national crimes, it would not be in the prosecution of international crimes, even where the prosecution occurs in a domestic court. This is because the crime remains an international crime, retaining its unique attributes as such a crime, regardless of the court in which it is being prosecuted. The study posits that all the foregoing recommendations can be implemented in domestic courts by local judges who are familiar with the cultural, social and political context of their states, 1 without the need for expensive ventures that might make international criminal justice seem expensive for and foreign to African states and which may serve only to postpone the realization of accountability.
A research report submitted to the School of Law in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the award of a Bachelors Degree in Law of Kampala International University
legality, prosecution, international crimes, domestic courts