Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Law and black humour (… because it’s the only kind available)

Doug to Lecturer: “So, I’ve been thinking about genocide –”

Lecturer: “As you do of a morning.”

Doug: “Well, it is my favourite international crime.”

Lecturer: “It’s the king of crimes.”

Doug: “If you’re going to start somewhere as an international criminal, it might as well be the top.

“But seriously, isn’t there a problem with the ICC Elements of Crimes on Genocide, in that the Elements require the acts be committed as part of widespread and systematic pattern, while under the Genocide Convention a single murder would be enough if the offender’s intent was to kill the racial group in whole or in part.

“I mean you could have a situation where the guy confess to someone down the pub later that that had been his intent.

“So isn’t a widespread or systematic pattern better seen as constituting evidence making it easier to infer the accused’s state of mind in the absence of a confession, rather than a formal element of the crime?”

Lecturer: “Yeah, I’d say that’s right. The pub confession point is right on the mark. The problem is that the Elements of Crimes reflect the judgements in the Yugoslav Tribunal, which frankly, weren’t always that good on this stuff in the early days.”

If you thought whether a single act of murder could constitute genocide was a purely academic issue, I’d have to say, “Yup, you’re right.” But this is the stuff I spend my days worrying about. Speculating about the legal possibility of a lone genocidal maniac. Proof, yet again, of the parallel moral universe lawyers inhabit …

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