Episode 15 – All the way to the top with Elies van Sliedregt

Elies van Sliedregt

We sat down with the formidable Elies van Sliedregt, professor of International and Comparative Criminal Justice at Leeds University, to talk about modes of liability. It might sound a bit abstract, but – rest assured – it’s totally concrete and really crucial to understanding how international criminal justice actually works. Think about the way that courts and tribunals like the International Criminal Court are tasked with prosecuting those ‘most responsible‘ – not the direct perpetrators of atrocities, but rather those who gave the orders or in some way facilitated the crimes on the ground.

Elies is one of the editors of a new book on modes of liability and we nabbed her while she was in The Hague to promote it.

We talked about why it’s relatively difficult to convict heads of state and military leaders for crimes committed by subordinates. Stephanie got to geek out about International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) cases like the trial of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and the so-called Celebici case which was a landmark case for ‘command responsibility‘ because judges for the first time ruled that it could also be applied to civilians in positions of power not just military commanders.

At the ICC the case on modes of liability is the trial of Germaine Katanga, a Congolese militia leader who was eventually convicted for contributing to crimes he was initially charged with personally masterminding. We also spoke about this case earlier in our episode with our Superstar defence lawyers.

The other cases Elies touched upon were the Dutch universal jurisdiction cases against businessman Frans van Anraat who was convicted for selling chemicals to the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq used in attacks on Kurds and Ethiopian Eshetu Alemu who was jailed in the Netherlands for his role in the ‘Red Terror’ of the 1970s.

Elies’ reading recommendation was The Cockroach, Ian McEwan’s Brexit novel. Click here for an extract of the audiobook read by Bill Nighy, courtesy of The Guardian website