The United Nations Principles to Combat Impunity: A Commentary

Started in January 2013

Beginning with the post-World War II Nuremberg and Tokyo trials and gaining momentum since the 1990s, a global anti-impunity discourse has increasingly shaped international law and practice. This marks a shift away from the traditional practice of amnesty towards holding individuals accountable for international crimes.

The United Nations Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights Through Action to Combat Impunity (UN Principles) can be seen as a reflection of this global anti-impunity movement. Originally drafted by Louis Joinet and updated by Diane Orentlicher in 2005, the UN Principles are today widely accepted as constituting an authoritative reference point for efforts in the fight against impunity for gross human rights and serious international humanitarian law violations.

As a comprehensive attempt to ‘codify’ universal accountability norms, the UN Principles marked a significant step forward in the debate on the obligation of states to combat impunity in its various forms. Despite this significance, no comprehensive academic commentary of the 38 principles has yet been provided so far. This project seeks to fill this gap. It aims to provide a companion to the document, setting out the text of the UN Principles and their detailed commentaries, with a full introduction and guide to the relevant literature and case law.

The outcome of the project, launched in 2013, will be an academic publication. To ensure high quality, the project is being implemented through the commission of contributions from established experts in the various fields touched upon by the UN Principles. The project intends to adopt an integrated approach, offering a comprehensive vision of the various impunity principles and their relationships.

The volume, to be published by Oxford University Press in 2017, is being prepared under the editorship of Frank Haldemann and Thomas Unger, in collaboration with Valentina Cadelo.

TEAM

Picture of Frank Haldemann

Frank Haldemann

Assistant Professor at the Law Faculty, University of Geneva, and Co-Director of the Master in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law

Frank Haldemann's expertise and research focus on transitional justice, human rights and legal philosophy.

Picture of Thomas Unger

Thomas Unger

Researcher and Co-Director of the Master in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law

Thomas Unger has more than 15 year of expertise in the field of transitional justice, notably as the former Senior Adviser to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

Picture of Valentina Cadelo

Valentina Cadelo

Academic Coordinator and Teaching Assistant for the Master in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law

Her research focuses on international human rights law and transitional justice and particularly concerns reparation for gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Tafadzwa Christmas, a Zimbabwean student enrolled in the Master of Advanced Studies in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in front of the Villa Moynier, the Geneva Academy's headquarters News

Master in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law: What our Students Say

February 2017

In this interview, Tafadzwa Christmas, a Zimbabwean student enrolled in the Master of Advanced Studies in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law, tells us about the programme and life in Geneva.

Read more

Students of the Master in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law during a class News

New Master in Transitional Justice: A Dynamic Start

December 2016

A brief update by Frank Haldemann and Thomas Unger, Co-Directors of the Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law

Read more

Azerbaijan, Shamkir. A mother looks through photographs of her missing son. Project

Historical Injustices, Reparations and International Law

Completed in January 2010

This project, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, investigated the relevance of international law in relation to such demands for reparation.

Read more

UN Peacekeepers on Patrol in Abyei, Sudan. Zambian peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) patrol streets lined with looted items awaiting collection in Abyei, the main town of the disputed Abyei area on the border of Sudan and newly Project

The Intersection between Transitional Justice, International Security and Responsibility to Protect

Started in February 2017

This project aims at mapping various existing accountability mechanisms, in the context of military interventions, through the lens of the requirements of a transitional justice process in order to identify possibilities and gaps.

Read more