Liability for Omission in International Criminal Law

In: International Criminal Law Review
Michael Duttwiler
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While deliberately excluding from its scope the issue of superior responsibility, this article considers whether there is a general rule of international law providing for liability for omission on which to base a concept of "improper crimes of omission" or "commission by omission".By analyzing international law sources, the article finds that treaty law contains a provision of only limited scope. A customary law rule, it argues, could not come into existence due to the lack of opinio iuris. Turning to general principles of law, the article studies various legal systems, concluding that there is a general principle of law, which for the purposes of criminal law equates the human conduct of omission with action, if a legal duty to act exists.Based on this finding, the article argues that the International Criminal Court is in a position to apply the concept of commission by omission despite the lack of such a general provision on omission in the Rome Statute.

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