Leiden Journal of International Law


The Good Deeds of International Criminal Defendants



International criminal tribunals try defendants for horrific acts: genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. At sentencing, however, evidence often arises of what I will call defendants’ ‘good deeds’ – humanitarian behaviour by the defendants towards those on the other side of the conflict that is conscientious relative to the culture in which the defendants are operating. This article examines the treatment of good deeds in the sentencing practices of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. I show that the tribunals’ approaches are both undertheorized and internally inconsistent. I argue that the tribunals should draw upon the goals that underlie international criminal law in developing a coherent approach to considering good deeds for sentencing purposes.

Key words

  • good deeds;
  • International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR);
  • International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY);
  • mitigating evidence;
  • sentencing


* Assistant Professor at Rutgers–Camden School of Law (effective 1 January 2013), formerly Sharswood Fellow in Law and International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School [jean_galbraith@post.harvard.edu]. For their helpful comments, I thank Guido Acquaviva, Meg deGuzman, and participants at a visiting fellows’ workshop at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law.