Ilana Singer on the Kapo Trials

by Kevin Jon Heller

I want to call readers’ attention to a new — and very original — article written by one of my best Melbourne students, Ilana Singer, which has just been published in Criminal Law Forum. Here is the abstract of the article, which is rather wordily entitled “Reductio Ad Absurdum: The Kapo Trial Judgements’ Contribution to International Criminal Law Jurisprudence and Customary International Law”:

Several Jewish persons designated as concentration camp guards (Kapos) during the Holocaust were subsequently tried in Israel in the 1950s and 1960s for allegedly committing grave crimes. This article examines these trial judgements and considers their significance to international criminal law jurisprudence and customary international law. First, this article will delineate the trial judgements’ purpose, relevance and previous contribution to customary international law. Secondly, a comparative narrative of the judgements with recent case law from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court will illuminate their potential contribution, specifically to the principles of modes of liability, criminal intent, and the defence of duress. The Kapo trial judgements may therefore continue to offer an extreme case example and a worthy source of common law for international criminal law jurisprudence and customary international law.

The article makes an important contribution to the regrettably scarce literature on the Kapo trials. Anyone interested in the Holocaust, the trials themselves, or war-crimes trials in general should check it out. The final draft of the article is available on SSRN here, and the article itself is available here.

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