Mistake of Law

Excusing Perpetrators of International Crimes

  • Annemieke van Verseveld

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. Annemieke van Verseveld
    Pages 1-7
  3. Annemieke van Verseveld
    Pages 81-100
  4. Annemieke van Verseveld
    Pages 167-169
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 171-182

About this book


With a Foreword by Thomas Weigend, Professor of Criminal Law and Director of the Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law, University of Cologne, Germany

When a perpetrator of an international crime argues in his defence that he did not realise that he had violated the law, is this a reason not to punish him? International crimes constitute serious offences and it could be argued that he who commits such an offence must know his act is punishable. After all, everyone is presumed to know the law. However, convicting someone who is mistaken about the wrongfulness of his act may be in violation of the principle of ‘no punishment without guilt’.

This book investigates what would be the circumstances under which the defence of mistake of law should exculpate the perpetrator of an international crime and whether those circumstances are covered by the current international codification of mistake of law. It demonstrates that the issue of mistake of law goes to the heart of individual criminal responsibility and therewith contributes to the development of a systematic approach toward the structure of international offences.

Written in an accessible style, this academic research is of great value and interest to academics and practitioners in the field of International Criminal Law.


Annemieke van Verseveld is presently working as an Assistant Professor of International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.



international criminal law justification and excuse mistake of law superior orders war crimes

Authors and affiliations

  • Annemieke van Verseveld
    • 1
  1. 1., Criminal Law DepartmentUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamNetherlands

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information T.M.C. ASSER PRESS, The Hague, The Netherlands, and the author(s) 2012
  • Publisher Name T.M.C. Asser Press, The Hague, The Netherlands
  • eBook Packages Humanities, Social Sciences and Law
  • Print ISBN 978-90-6704-866-8
  • Online ISBN 978-90-6704-867-5
  • Buy this book on publisher's site