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The Interpretation of Slavery before the International Criminal Court: Reconciling Legal Borders?

Palacios-Arapiles, Sara


Sara Palacios-Arapiles


This article examines the interpretation of the definition of slavery/ enslavement by the International Criminal Court (icc) in the Ongwen case (2021) and its application to the facts of the case at hand. This examination is warranted because Ongwen represents the first case in which the icc was tasked with deciding whether the crime of enslave-ment had been committed. This article illustrates that the icc has been outward-looking, finding that judgments of other courts largely featured in the reasoning of the icc when interpreting slavery. The detailed study in this article further reveals that, either directly or indirectly, the icc more specifically drew on the judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (icty) in the Kunarac case. The article shows that, in doing so, the icc reconciled legal borders by incorporating in its decision elements of general international law, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law instruments to inform its understanding of slavery/ enslavement. The article highlights that the icc contributed to norm consolidation globally.


Palacios-Arapiles, S. (2022). The Interpretation of Slavery before the International Criminal Court: Reconciling Legal Borders?. Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law Online, 25(1), 416-456.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 16, 2022
Online Publication Date Oct 23, 2022
Publication Date Dec 23, 2022
Deposit Date Oct 26, 2022
Publicly Available Date Oct 26, 2022
Journal Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law Online
Print ISSN 1389-4633
Electronic ISSN 1875-7413
Publisher Brill Academic Publishers
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 1
Pages 416-456
Keywords Slavery; enslavement; ICC; Ongwen; Rome Statute; 1926 Slavery Convention
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