Criminal Law Forum

, Volume 25, Issue 1–2, pp 17–43 | Cite as

A New Paradigm of Customary International Criminal Law: The UN War Crimes Commission of 1943–1948 and its Associated Courts and Tribunals

  • Dan Plesch
  • Shanti Sattler


This article focuses on the United Nations War Crimes Commission’s significant contribution to the development of customary international criminal law defined by the development of international legal standards and proceedings to combat impunity and promote justice. It draws on the Commission’s official history and its increasingly open archives in order to provide an overview of the UNWCC and its work, its members and its legacy for the contemporary era of international criminal law. The article firstly places the Commission in its historical context through the events and agreements that led to its creation and provided the legal character of the UNWCC. The defining characteristics of the Commission are afterwards described: the nations involved, the committee structure it formed and the sub-commission located in the Far East. Lastly, the accomplishments of the Commission are emphasised and criticisms of its work are presented. The article concludes with a discussion on the legacy of the Commission’s work and a possible future research agenda.


International Criminal Court Rome Statute International Criminal Tribunal Hague Convention Customary International 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (C.I.S.D.), SOASUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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