UCL Faculty of Laws


Online | The Perils of Progressive Jurisprudence

14 October 2021, 6:00 pm–7:00 pm

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This lecture is part of the Current Legal Problems Lecture Series 2021-22

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The Perils of Progressive Jurisprudence:
The Nullum Crimen Sine Lege Principle in International Criminal Law

Speaker: Professor Payam Akhavan (Massey College, University of Toronto)
Chair: Elizabeth Wilmshurst CMG (Distinguished Fellow, Chatham House)

About this lecture

Expansive interpretations of human rights and humanitarian law are celebrated by progressive jurists as a welcome shift from positivist State-centric notions towards a more equitable human-centric international law. In the context of criminal justice however, the nullum crimen sine lege principle – codified in Article 22 of the ICC Statute – requires strict construction of the definition of crimes and prohibits either retroactive application or extension by analogy.  It is apparent that for the most part, international criminal jurisdictions – from the IMT at Nürnberg to the ICTY-ICTR and ICC – have failed to exercise such judicial restraint.  What does this reveal about the characteristics of international criminal law and the peculiarities of its jurisprudence?

About the speaker

Professor Payam Akhavan is Senior Fellow of Massey College, University of Toronto; Special Advisor on Genocide to the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Court; Senior Advisor to the Global Affairs Ministry of Canada; and Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.  He served as the first Legal Advisor to the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (1994-2000) and also served with the UN in Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Guatemala, and Timor Leste.  He was previously Full Professor at McGill University Faculty of Law (2005-20) with other appointments at Yale Law School, Université Paris Nanterre, Sciences Po, European University Institute, Oxford and Leiden.  He is Co-Founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, Co-Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, and appeared as counsel before the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Supreme Court of Canada.  In 2017, he delivered the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Massey Lectures “In Search of a Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey”.  He is recipient of the 2021 Human Rights Award of the Law Society of Ontario.

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About Current Legal Problems

The Current Legal Problems (CLP) lecture series and annual volume was established over fifty five years ago at the Faculty of Laws, University College London and is recognised as a major reference point for legal scholarship.