Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law

Current Developments

The Role of Evidence in War Crimes Trials: the Common Law and the Yugoslav Tribunal1

Ian Bryan2 and Peter Rowe3

With the passing into law of the War Crimes Act of 1991, the United Kingdom joined common law states such as Canada and Australia in conferring upon its domestic courts jurisdiction to try individuals suspected of having committed war crimes in Europe during the Second World War. Under the 1991 Act, proceedings for murder, manslaughter or culpable homicide may be brought, with the consent of the Attorney-General, against any person who, on 8 March 1990 or later, became a British citizen or resident in the United Kingdom, providing that the offence charged is alleged to have been committed between 1 September 1939 and 4 June 1945 in a place which was, at the material time, part of Germany or under German occupation. The Act further provides that the offence charged must have constituted a violation of the laws and customs of war under international law at the time it was committed. In addition, the Act stipulates that the nationality of the alleged offender at the time the alleged offence was committed is immaterial.


1 © I. Bryan P. Rowe, 1999.

2. Lecturer in Law, University of Lancaster, UK.

3. Professor of Law and Head of the Department of Law, University of Lancaster, UK.