Editor’s Note: This is the introduction to a Just Security Symposium on the creation of a single residual mechanism. Links to Parts I, II, and III can be found below as they are published.

Since the early 1990s, the international community has held individuals responsible for the commission of mass atrocities through a series of conflict-specific international ad hoc and hybrid criminal tribunals. Unlike the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC), these tribunals have been designed to reduce their size and capacities after all major prosecutions have been completed. The residual mechanisms that result from this reduction in prosecutorial functions continue to carry out predominantly non-prosecutorial core residual functions, such as archival management, victim and witness protection, sentence enforcement and contempt hearings, and protection and promotion of the predecessor tribunals’ legacies.

This symposium focuses on whether the international community should consider combining all existing and future residual mechanisms into one single residual mechanism. This could promote convergence in the development of international criminal law, ensure continued and predictable funding for the mandates of residual mechanisms that otherwise might face underfunding or closure, and increase administrative and resource-related efficiencies across the residual mechanisms in the execution of their core residual functions.

Creating a single residual mechanism would require overcoming numerous challenges,  including ones related to international law, administrative concerns, and global politics. We examine these challenges and potential solutions as applied to several existing ad hoc international or hybrid residual mechanisms that could be combined into any single residual mechanism – the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), which continues the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR); the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone (RSCSL), which continues the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL); the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC); and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

The symposium is composed of three parts:

  • Part I introduces the idea of a single residual mechanism, contextualizing it within a broader framework and history of international criminal justice. It examines the functions of residual mechanisms generally, then outlines in greater detail the benefits and challenges to creating a single residual mechanism.
  • Part II addresses the primary legal, political, and administrative considerations surrounding the creation of a single residual mechanism, as well as how related challenges might be addressed.
  • Finally, Part III introduces three possible distinct structural models for a single residual mechanism, each of which would encompass a different scope of functions and be created through a different legal mechanism, while also examining the costs and benefits of each model.

These articles benefit immensely from insights provided through a series of interviews conducted with nearly a dozen experts in international criminal law. These experts include former officials with the U.S. State Department and with the United Nations, as well as current and former judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, and registrars for the five international ad hoc and hybrid tribunals discussed and for the International Criminal Court.

For a more in-depth discussion of these points, please refer to the full report available on the website of the Public International Law & Policy Group.

The articles in this Symposium are coauthored by the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) and current and former attorneys at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. They are intended for informational purposes only. The views and opinions expressed in these articles reflect the views and opinions of the individual authors and not of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP.