Binding force of Appeals Chamber decisions on each other

Notion(s) Filing Case
Decision - 01.06.2000 SEMANZA Laurent
(ICTR-97-23-A)

92. The Appeals Chamber adopts the findings of ICTY Appeals Chamber in the Aleksovski case[1] and recalls that in the interests of legal certainty and predictability, the Appeals Chamber should follow its previous decisions, but should be free to depart from them for cogent reasons in the interests of justice. […]

[1] Case No. IT-95-14/1-A, The Prosecutor v. Zlatko Aleksovski, "Decision", Appeals Chamber, 24 March 2000, paras. 107-109: "The Appeals Chamber, therefore, concludes that a proper construction of the Statute, taking due account of its text and purpose, yields the conclusion that in the interests of certainty and predictability, the Appeals Chamber should follow its previous decisions, but should be free to depart from them for cogent reasons in the interests of justice [para. 107]. Instances of situations where cogent reasons in the interests of justice require a departure from a previous decision include cases where the previous decision has been decided on the basis of a wrong legal principle or cases where a previous decision has been given per incuriam, that is a judicial decision that has been ‘wrongly decided, usually because the judge or judges were ill-informed about the applicable law’ [para. 108]. It is necessary to stress that the normal rule is that previous decisions are to be followed, and departure from them is the exception. The Appeals Chamber will only depart from a previous decision after the most careful consideration has been given to it, both as to the law, including the authorities cited, and the facts" [para. 109].

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Notion(s) Filing Case
Appeal Judgement - 24.03.2000 ALEKSOVSKI Zlatko
(IT-95-14/1-A)

101. The fundamental purpose of the Tribunal is the prosecution of persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law.[1]  The Appeals Chamber considers that this purpose is best served by an approach which, while recognising the need for certainty, stability and predictability in criminal law, also recognises that there may be instances in which the strict, absolute application of that principle may lead to injustice.

102. The principle of the continuity of judicial decisions must be balanced by a residual principle that ensures that justice is done in all cases. […]

107. The Appeals Chamber, therefore, concludes that a proper construction of the Statute, taking due account of its text and purpose, yields the conclusion that in the interests of certainty and predictability, the Appeals Chamber should follow its previous decisions, but should be free to depart from them for cogent reasons in the interests of justice.

108. Instances of situations where cogent reasons in the interests of justice require a departure from a previous decision include cases where the previous decision has been decided on the basis of a wrong legal principle or cases where a previous decision has been given per incuriam, that is a judicial decision that has been “wrongly decided, usually because the judge or judges were ill-informed about the applicable law.”[2]

109. It is necessary to stress that the normal rule is that previous decisions are to be followed, and departure from them is the exception.  The Appeals Chamber will only depart from a previous decision after the most careful consideration has been given to it, both as to the law, including the authorities cited, and the facts.

110. What is followed in previous decisions is the legal principle (ratio decidendi), and the obligation to follow that principle only applies in similar cases, or substantially similar cases.  This means less that the facts are similar or substantially similar, than that the question raised by the facts in the subsequent case is the same as the question decided by the legal principle in the previous decision.  There is no obligation to follow previous decisions which may be distinguished for one reason or another from the case before the court.

111. Where, in a case before it, the Appeals Chamber is faced with previous decisions that are conflicting, it is obliged to determine which decision it will follow, or whether to depart from both decisions for cogent reasons in the interests of justice.

See also paras. 102-106.

[1] See Article 1 of the Statute.

[2] Black’s Law Dictionary (7th ed., 1999).

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Notion(s) Filing Case
Decision on a Request for Access and Review - 09.04.2018 SEMANZA Laurent
(MICT-13-36-R)

15. […] while not bound by the jurisprudence of the ICTR or the ICTY, the Appeals Chamber is guided by the principle that, in the interests of legal certainty and predictability, it should follow previous decisions of the ICTR or the ICTY Appeals Chambers and depart from them only for cogent reasons in the interests of justice.

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Notion(s) Filing Case
Decision on a Motion for Reconsideration and Certification to Appeal Decision on a Request for Provisional Release - 08.06.2018 MLADIĆ Ratko
(MICT-13-56-A)

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RECALLING that the Appeals Chamber treats its pre-appeal and interlocutory decisions as binding in ongoing proceedings as to all issues decided therein, and that, in the interests of justice, this principle forecloses re-litigation of such issues;[1]

OBSERVING that the only exception to this principle is where the Appeals Chamber may reconsider its prior decision;[2]

CONSIDERING, therefore, that there is no legal basis for appealing an order or a decision of the Appeals Chamber;

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FINDING, therefore that, Mladić’s request for certification to appeal the Impugned Decision to be without merit; 

[1] See The Prosecutor v. Pauline Nyiramasuhuko et al., Case No. ICTR-98-42-A, Judgement, 14 December 2015 (“Nyiramasuhuko et al. Appeal Judgement”), para. 127; Prosecutor v. Mladen Naletilić and Vinko Martinović, Case No. IT-98-34-A, Decision on Naletilić’s Amended Second Rule 115 Motion and Third Rule 115 Motion to Present Additional Evidence, 7 July 2005 (“Naletilić and Martinović Decision”), para. 20; Juvénal Kajelijeli v. The Prosecutor, Case No. ICTR-98-44A-A, Judgement, 23 May 2005 (“Kajelijeli Appeal Judgement”), para. 202.

[2] See Nyiramasuhuko et al. Appeal Judgement, para. 127; Naletilić and Martinović Decision, para. 20; Kajelijeli Appeal Judgement, para. 203. In a tribunal such as the Mechanism with only one tier of appellate review, the exception providing for reconsideration of appeal decisions is important to give the Appeals Chamber a meaningful opportunity to correct any mistakes it may have made. See Naletilić and Martinović Decision, para. 20; Kajelijeli Appeal Judgement, para. 203.

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