(State) crime and political party regulation

Abstract image by bm.iphone on Flickr under the CC BY 2.0 license

Case studies undertaken for the ‘Responsibility of Political Parties for Criminal Offences’* research project suggest that some of the most serious crimes that mankind could imagine were acts largely committed, instigated or condoned by ruling political parties. These crimes are usually referred to in the literature as state crime. This lecture will present a critique of this notion, based on understanding crimes of ruling political parties by means of their regime power. It argues that instead of state crime, we need to speak about regime crime.

Among regime crimes, international crimes constitute the gravest breaches of laws of humanity. Since the Nuremberg trial against organizations of the Nazi Party, one of the hidden challenges of international justice was how to condemn political parties for the international crimes attributable to them, and until now no adequate solution has been developed.

Still, the experiences of international criminal justice, in particular the factual findings of international criminal tribunals, reveal that political parties are actually organizational architects of the worst crimes of atrocities in the history of mankind: Ottoman Empire’s Committee of Union and Progress (Armenian genocide), Cambodia’s Communist Party of Kampuchea (Cambodian genocide), Rwanda’s Coalition for the Defence of the Republic (Rwandan genocide), Republika Srpska’s Serbian Democratic Party (Bosnian genocide), Workers’ Party of Korea behind the crimes against humanity in North Korea etc. In the case analysis of the role of political parties in the commission of these crimes, this study observes that they are often committed as a part of a plan established within political parties.

Political parties are also behind other crimes that are often viewed as state crimes (e.g. torture and corruption) and commit crimes that are not necessarily associated with the state (e.g. election crime and terrorism), which have also been part of this study.

Finally, this lecture will present different regulatory models to hold political parties liable for crimes they commit. There are two basic criminal law models: corporate criminal liability and liability of criminal organizations. It will also consider possible alternatives to the criminal law approach: constitutional, political, civil and administrative.

* Marsavelski, Aleksandar, ‘Responsibility of Political Parties for Criminal Offences: Preliminary Observations, Challenges and Controversies’ (December 1, 2013), in: Mapping the Criminological Landscape of the Balkans (A.-M. Getos, H.-J. Albrecht & M. Kilchling eds.), Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, 2014. Available at SSRN.

About the Speaker

Aleksandar Marsavelski is an Assistant Professor in the Zagreb Law Faculty (Chair of Criminal Law). He graduated summa cum laude in 2008 from the University of Zagreb, where he received the Dean´s Award for Excellence and Rector´s Award for Best Paper. After graduation, he worked as junior assistant in the Ministry of Justice of Croatia, and then became a member of the Law Commission that drafted the Criminal Code of Croatia. He has taught at the University of Zagreb since 2010 and has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Croatian Unit of UNESCO Chair in Bioethics.

In 2011 he was a member of the Law Commission that drafted the Law on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to Crimes of War Profiteering in Croatia. He was also one of the initiators of the Law on the Rights of Victims of Sexual Violence during the War in Croatia.

He earned his LL.M. from Yale Law School, where he served as editor of the Yale Journal of International Law. He received the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law’s doctoral scholarship in 2014-2015 for his joint PhD on political party crime at the University of Freiburg (summa cum laude). For more detail, visit his University of Zagreb profile.

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