Grounds Excluding Criminal Responsibility in International Criminal Law

  • Iryna Marchuk


The substantive part of criminal law distinguishes between excuses and justifications. The harm caused by the justified behaviour remains a legally recognised harm that breaches certain fundamental values protected by criminal law, however, the infliction of that harm is motivated by the need to avoid an even greater harm. In other words, justificatory defences apply in rather exceptional situations that require a proportional and necessary response. If such triggering conditions are non-existent, a person engages in illegal conduct that entails criminal responsibility. The classic example of a justificatory defence is the exercise of the right to self-defence. The right is triggered by the imminent attack or a threat of violence directed against an individual, which gives him a legitimate right to protect himself or others. The right to self-defence is not absolute and has certain boundaries. The two mandatory conditions are that the response towards any form of violence is necessary and proportional. This warrants against the arbitrary use of violence towards others. One can hardly justify stabbing another person with a knife if one was merely slapped in the face.


International Criminal Court Criminal Code Rome Statute Criminal Responsibility Model Penal Code 
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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iryna Marchuk
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of LawUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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