Cryer, Robert

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Cryer, Robert


Education: Cardiff Law School, undergraduate degree in law; University of Nottingham School of Law, L.L.M., 1996, Ph.D., 2000.


Office—University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, England. E-mail—[email protected].


University of Manchester, Manchester, England, lecturer, 1999-2001; University of Nottingham, Nottingham, England, senior lecturer in law, 2001-07; University of Birmingham, School of Law, Edgbaston, Birmingham, England, professor of international and criminal law, 2007—. Book review editor, Journal of Conflict and Security Law.


(Editor, with Olympia Bekou) The International Criminal Court, Aldershot (Burlington, VT), 2004.

Prosecuting International Crimes: Selectivity and the International Criminal Law Regime, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2005.

(With others) An Introduction to International Criminal Law and Procedure, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 2007.

(With Neil Boister) The Tokyo International Military Tribunal: A Reappraisal, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2008.


In Prosecuting International Crimes: Selectivity and the International Criminal Law Regime, Robert Cryer examines recent efforts to make the international criminal justice system more impartial and consistent. He begins with a broad overview of the history of international criminal law, showing that societies from ancient times to the present grappled with questions relating to the appropriate conduct of war, and the punishment of those who violated accepted rules. In ancient Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, and the Hittite empire, he writes, "there was restraint on warfare," as was also the case in ancient China. What appears to be the first statement that laws of war are considered universal occurred in classical Greece, as reported by Xenophon, who also described the prosecution of Athenian soldiers accused of violating the Greek law of war. Examples of early war crimes trials are also evident from ancient India. Despite these examples from the ancient world, however, Cryer makes clear that "the idea that international law in the modern sense is traceable back to ancient society is highly questionable." Through the Middle Ages religion provided the basis for rules of war, with the concept of jus militare—the closest analogues to modern international criminal law—developing by the fourteenth century.

Cryer's main focus, however, is on the structures developed to enforce international criminal law since 1980. This regime, he shows, was created to deal with abuses that can arise when war crimes are prosecuted, such as lack of impartiality, or selectivity in deciding whom to prosecute. But although there has been significant improvement since 1980, problems of selectivity persist. Cryer focuses specifically on the prosecution of war crimes and genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. He explains how jurisdiction was established in these cases based on existing treaties, and how the United Nations created separate international criminal tribunals, each with distinctive features, to deal with each case. He also discusses creation of the International Criminal Court in 2002, a permanent tribunal established to prosecute individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression. Selective enforcement, however, remains a problem; as Cryer explained to Caryl Lynn Segal in the Law & Politics Book Review: "There is a risk of losing substantive justice when we revert to individual States because often it becomes contingent on the willingness of States to fulfill, among other things, their international obligation to punish international crimes."

"Cryer ought to be lauded for addressing [the] urgent topic" of the selectivity of responses to international criminal abuses, observed Salif Nimaga in a Global Law Books Web site review. Yet the critic expressed disappointment that Cryer "fails to answer the question when selective enforcement is acceptable and reference to concepts such as equality and legitimacy does not suffice to reveal the application of discretion- ary power in the innumerable (small and big) decisions that keep a criminal justice system going." Jenia Iontcheva Turner, who described Prosecuting International Crimes as an "invaluable reference guide," wrote in the Political Science Quarterly that Cryer's criticism of prosecutorial selectivity is persuasive and shows that, in the critic's words, selectivity leads to "arbitrariness in the choice of laws that are enforced and discrimination in the choice of persons who are prosecuted—practices that harm the legitimacy of the system and are inconsistent with the rule of law." But Turner questioned Cryer's argument that recent attempts to narrow the definition of some international crimes should be considered an example of selectivity. Some of the more restricted definitions announced by the International Criminal Court, Turner wrote, can be seen as serving important values in criminal law.

With Olympia Bekou, Cryer edited The International Criminal Court, which focuses exclusively on the International Criminal Court. Writing in the Law and Politics Book Review, Rachel Kerr praised the book's organization and coverage, but added that the views of some international relations scholars might have added illuminating insights to the book's predominantly legalistic perspectives.



Cryer, Robert, Prosecuting International Crimes: Selectivity and the International Criminal Law Regime, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2005.


Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, fall, 2005, review of Prosecuting International Crimes.

Journal of the Law Society of Scotland, August, 2005, John P. Grant, review of The International Criminal Court, p. 55.

Law and Politics Book Review, January, 2006, Caryl Lynn Segal, review of Prosecuting International Crimes, p. 38; February, 2006, Rachel Kerr, review of The International Criminal Court, p. 106.

Political Science Quarterly, fall, 2006, Jenia Iontcheva Turner, review of Prosecuting International Crimes.

Reference & Research Book News, May, 2005, review of The International Criminal Court, p. 211; November, 2005, review of Prosecuting International Crimes.

Theoretical Inquiries in Law, December, 2005, David Enoch, "Ends, Means, Side-Effects, and Beyond: A Comment on the Justification of the Use of Force," p. 43.


Cambridge University Press Web site, (April 14, 2008), author profile.

Global Law Books, (April 14, 2008), Salif Nimaga, review of Prosecuting International Crimes.