Binding force of appeal judgements on trial judgements

Notion(s) Filing Case
Appeal Judgement - 24.03.2000 ALEKSOVSKI Zlatko

113. The Appeals Chamber considers that a proper construction of the Statute requires that the ratio decidendi of its decisions is binding on Trial Chambers for the following reasons:

(i) the Statute establishes a hierarchical structure in which the Appeals Chamber is given the function of settling definitively certain questions of law and fact arising from decisions of the Trial Chambers.  Under Article 25, the Appeals Chamber hears an appeal on the ground of an error on a question of law invalidating a Trial Chamber’s decision or on the ground of an error of fact which has occasioned a miscarriage of justice, and its decisions are final;

(ii) the fundamental mandate of the Tribunal to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law cannot be achieved if the accused and the Prosecution do not have the assurance of certainty and predictability in the application of the applicable law; and

(iii) the right of appeal is, as the Chamber has stated before,[1] a component of the fair trial requirement, which is itself a rule of customary international law and gives rise to the right of the accused to have like cases treated alike.  This will not be achieved if each Trial Chamber is free to disregard decisions of law made by the Appeals Chamber, and to decide the law as it sees fit.  In such a system, it would be possible to have four statements of the law from the Tribunal on a single legal issue - one from the Appeals Chamber and one from each of the three Trial Chambers, as though the Security Council had established not a single, but four, tribunals.  This would be inconsistent with the intention of the Security Council, which, from a plain reading of the Statute and the Report of the Secretary-General, envisaged a tribunal comprising three trial chambers and one appeals chamber, applying a single, unified, coherent and rational corpus of law.  The need for coherence is particularly acute in the context in which the Tribunal operates, where the norms of international humanitarian law and international criminal law are developing, and where, therefore, the need for those appearing before the Tribunal, the accused and the Prosecution, to be certain of the regime in which cases are tried is even more pronounced.

[1] See para. 104, supra.

Download full document
ICTR Statute Article 24 ICTY Statute Article 25