Aging Out: Elderly Defendants and International Crimes

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"One of the most salient characteristics of international criminal justice is delay. Whether at international tribunals, hybrid “internationalized” courts, or domestic ones, seldom do courts reach or adjudicate atrocity crimes quickly. Although much has been said about the speed or lack thereof of international criminal trials, little attention has been given to the almost inevitable side effect of the slow pace of international criminal justice: elderly defendants and prisoners.  

This Article attempts to fill this void. It explores the human rights implications of prosecuting and punishing elderly, and often extremely elderly, atrocity perpetrators and the degree to which prosecution of elderly alleged atrocity criminals furthers the objectives of international criminal justice. Whereas international human rights law recognizes that criminal proceedings must accommodate the special needs of the elderly person on trial and that serious physical or mental ailments can render prosecution and incarceration inhumane, at present, age alone is no impediment to prosecution or punishment. Age is, however, a permissible consideration at sentencing or reviews thereof. Further complicating matters, there is a tension between age-related arguments in favor of release or home confinement of defendants and prisoners and human rights norms demanding the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of perpetrators of atrocity crimes."

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