Skip to main content
School of Law

What is a war crime? Identifying priorities for prosecution in International Law

25 February 2020

Time: 12:30 - 5:30pm
Venue: Room 313, Floor 3, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road E1 4NS

Book now

The Centre for Law, Democracy and Society (CLDS) is delighted to host a conference on 'What is a war crime? Identifying priorities for prosecution in International Law' at the School of Law, Queen Mary University of London.

This event will discuss priorities for war crimes prosecutions. Questions to be discussed include whether the international community should be responsible for making these decisions as well as what part in the prosecution process local communities and victims should play.


  • 12:30-13:00 Registration and lunch**
  • 13:00-14:30 First panel
  • 14:30-14:45 Short break
  • 14:45-16:15 Second panel
  • 16:15-16:30 Short break
  • 16:30-17:30 Plenary
  • 17:30-18:30 Conference reception

**If you have any dietary requirements please email

Speakers include

Dr Daniela Nadj

Title: Women, Wartime Sexual Violence and the Interpretation of Gender in the Contemporary International Criminal Trial

Abstract: This seminar will set out what the prosecution of wartime sexual violence in international criminal tribunals signifies for women in the contemporary political and legal moment. Drawing on the jurisprudence of two modern-day international criminal tribunals, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the seminar will examine what the juridicalisation of wartime sexual violence signifies for the twin normative aims of gender justice and gender equality. The tribunals have developed some strong regulatory responses and achieved significant legal victories, but these successes have also caused controversy and debate in feminist quarters about how to respond to such acts raising questions about whether feminism has been removed from its original politics. How sexual violence is framed in tribunal decisions becomes crucial to the representation of identity in wartime. The language and the deployment of specific terminology play a central role in how armed conflict is conceptualised and understood in the popular imagination. The seminar will trace how international criminal law currently absorbs wartime sexual violence and it will analyses how feminist scholars and activists have responded to these developments by asking what the developments mean for women in the current political and legal moment.

Bio: Daniela Nadj, LLB, LLM, PhD is a graduate of Queen Mary, University of London, Cornell University and the University of Westminster. Prior to joining Oxford Brookes, she was a lecturer in Public Law at Queen Mary, University of London. She publishes in the areas of human rights law, international criminal law, feminist legal theory and housing law.

Dr Samir Puri

Title: The post-colonial connotations of the ICC, and effectiveness of international law in investigating war crimes

Abstract: This paper examines the extent to which the western origins of modern international law, and the way this has shaped institutions like the ICC, constrain the effectiveness of international law in the pursuit of war crimes cases. The paper contrasts examples of investigations of war crimes within and outside of Europe.

Bio: Author of “The Great Imperial Hangover”, forthcoming in 2020. Visiting Lecturer (former Assistant Professor), Department of War Studies, King's College London. Adjunct Professor, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), John's Hopkins University.

Dr Nicola Palmer

Title: Penal power in public international law: Beyond war crimes

Abstract: This paper examines how the dominant focus on international crime has obscured the wider use of criminal sanction in public international law. In particular, it proposes that the focus on extreme violence substantively described as war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, belies the increasing use of criminal law as a means to respond to the fall-out from the movement of peoples, goods and capital that has characterised the most recent phrase of globalisation. To explore the co-constitutive relationship between international and transnational criminal law, the paper will examine how donor supported initiatives to established specialist domestic courts to prosecute international crimes in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, have seen these court pivot towards the prosecution of human trafficking, drug trafficking, terrorism, piracy and money laundering.

Bio: Dr Nicola Palmer is a Senior Lecturer in criminal law at King’s College London and the author of ‘Courts in Conflict: Interpreting the Layers of Justice in Post-Genocide Rwanda’ (paperback OUP, 2019). She has written on questions of resistance to mass violence, methodological approaches to transitional justice and the intersections of plural legal processes set up in response to exceptional violence with support from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the British Academy. Dr Palmer was previously the Global Justice Research Fellow at St Anne’s College, Oxford and convenor of the Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) network. She received her DPhil in law from the University of Oxford in 2011. Since 2014, Nicola has worked as an international research advisor on the Aegis Trust’s Research, Policy and Higher Education (RPHE) programme, engaging in an innovative peer-to-peer exchange with Rwandan researchers working on post-conflict reconstruction.

Dr Leila Ullrich

Title: But what about Men?: Gender Disquiet in International Criminal Justice

Abstract: This paper explores the everyday remaking of patriarchy in international criminal justice. Drawing on 63 interviews at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and in Uganda, it argues that a gender backlash has been fomenting in international criminal justice, as practitioners express their disquiet about the ‘ubiquitous gender discourse’. They claim that the Court’s ‘gender agenda’ is in no small part driven from ‘outside’ and lament that it neglects the rape of men. The paper traces how patriarchal norms are refashioned in international criminal justice by playing into legal sensibilities that see procedure rather than substantive change as the essence of (criminal) law. Ultimately, the paper shows how attempts to foreground victims of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in international criminal justice first failed to include men, and now, in a belated effort to rectify their omission, construct their competitive victimhood in ways that reinforce rather than challenge patriarchal norms.

Bio: Leila Ullrich is a Lecturer in Law and a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Queen Mary University of London, and Research Associate in Criminology at the University of Oxford. Her research interests lie in the sociology and gender logics of international law and her current research examines the interplay between terrorism, counter-terrorism and gender. In 2017, she received her PhD in Criminology at the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford which explored the interpretation, use and practice of ‘justice for victims’ and ‘gender justice’ at the International Criminal Court. She is currently writing up her monograph for publication with Oxford University Press. Before starting her postdoctoral research, Leila worked as social stability analyst at UNDP in Lebanon. She was also the Convenor of the Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) network and worked for the International Criminal Court.

Marina Veličković

Title: Kunarac Case: Power and Vulnerability

Abstract: This paper considers how the Trial Chamber in the Kunarac case constructs its narrative of sexual violence crimes that occurred in Foča in 1992 and 1993. On the one hand the Chamber obscures how pre-war socio-economic status made particular victims particularly vulnerable, and on the other hand it fails to appreciate the extent to which sexual violence was driven by the wartime economy. It is argued that the Chamber’s blindness to structural aspects of the sexual violence crimes in Foča produces both a partial factual account, and flawed legal reasoning of command responsibility and sentencing. It is proposed that only a more structural understanding of violence in war can accurately capture the harm suffered by victims and local communities.

Bio: Marina Veličković graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Bristol in 2013 and obtained her LLM in Public International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in 2015. She worked for the UNDP in Sarajevo, The Office of the Prosecutor at the ICTY in The Hague and the NGO Minority Rights Group in London, and conducted research and writing projects for various NGOs in Sarajevo. She was the student director of the Human Rights Center at the University of Bristol in 2012/2013. She currently pursuing a PhD in International Law at the University of Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge Scholar. She is a Visiting Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research interests include: Feminist Critiques of International Criminal Law, International Criminal Law as Discourse and Critical International Legal Theory.


For directions to the venue, please refer to the map.


For more information on this event, please email

Photography, video and audio recording

School of Law events may be photographed or video and audio recorded. These materials will be used for internal and external promotional purposes only by Queen Mary University of London. If you object to appearing in the photographs, please let our photographer know on the day. Alternatively you can email in advance of the event that you are attending.