The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice

Book Review by David Badertscher*
March 6, 2009.

The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice
Antioio Cassese, Editor in Chief Oxford University Press 2009

Book Review: The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice
Antonio Cassese, General Editor.

Oxford University Press, 2009.

When Antonio Cassese, Professor of International Law at the University of Florence, was first approached some six years ago on behalf of Oxford University Press to edit an Oxford Companion devoted to international criminal justice, he refused for a number of understandable reasons, including the realization that this task would be truly titanic, and being uncertain of the availability of adequate staff support. However, when Professor Cassese was again approached some two years later he accepted, explaining that he …”very much liked the idea of compiling for the first time a sort of encyclopaedia covering an area [international criminal justice] that, while in full bloom, had not yet been the object of a general exposition of all its ramifications and intricacies.” By this time he was also able to assemble a very impressive, world class group of contributors that reads like a veritable who’s who of the field to collaborate on this work under Professor Cassese’s direction. The final result is a significant work which treats its subject both broadly and in depth in an accessible manner.

The Oxford Companion to International Justice (Companion), is divided into three parts. Part A consists of 21 essays including a comprehensive survey of issues and debates surrounding international humanitarian law, international criminal law, and their enforcement. Part B is arranged alphabetically, containing 320 entries on doctrines, procedures, institutions and personalities. Part C contains over 400 case summaries of key trials from international and domestic courts dealing with war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, torture and terrorism.

With analysis and commentary on every aspect of international criminal justice, this Companion is designed to be an entry point for scholars, practioners, and others interested in current developments in international justice. It addresses the various intricacies of international criminal justice and to some extent other areas of international justice in a manner that is both scholarly and accessible. This is in itself a considerable accomplishment. It attests to the high quality of collaboration among the contributors Professor Cassese assembled. Indeed, one of the special qualities of this work is the use of language throughout that enables those who are not familiar with criminal law but who have an active interest in matters related to international justice to find it useful.

If there is any weakness to this work it relates to the arrangement of some of the material in the book and not the quality of its content. Some readers may find that arranging so many of the tables and lists in the front of the book, before Part A, creates a type of barrier or ‘firewall’ between the Forward and Table of Contents and the substantive materials in Parts A, B, and C, thus unintentionally reducing the accessibility of the work for some users. A better approach might be to have left all of this material in the back near the index so that all of this type of information would be consolidated in one place. A second unrelated suggestion for any future edition would be to add some type of scope note at the beginning of each Part to also enhance accessibility.

It needs to be emphasized that the Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice is more than a work designed to update scholars, practioners, and others on current developments international justice. An examination of the essays in Part A and cases in Part C indicates that materials contained therein are of sufficient scope and depth that they can be consulted as part of in depth research by all readers. It is a significant work recommended for academic and specialized libraries, large public libraries, scholars and other specialists with interest in the field, and for those general readers who need to keep up with developments in international justice.

Although the Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice was published by Oxford University Press in the United Kingdom on January 22, 2009, it will only be available in the United States on March 23. That is because it takes about six weeks for stock to be shipped to the US warehouse of Oxford University Press and then a couple of weeks to get to further United States outlets.
___________________________________ *David Badertscher is the Principal Law Librarian at the New York Supreme Court Criminal Term, First Judicial District. New York, NY.

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