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Concept of Race in International Criminal Law (completed)

In her doctoral thesis, Carola Lingaas analyzes the concept of race in international criminal law.

About the project

The thesis analyzes how the international criminal tribunals define the protected (racial) victim group for the crime of genocide, persecution and apartheid. The thesis argues that the concept of race was not disputed when the respective penal provisions were negotiated. Nowadays, however, ‘race’ is considered highly controversial and outdated.

Rather than abolishing the use of the term, Carola Lingaas proposes, in line with an ongoing trend in international criminal jurisprudence, to define the (racial) victim group from the perpetrator’s point of view.

At the heart of any genocide is identity, which is crucial to explain the crime: the perpetrator perceives the victim group as inferior, different and outside of the perpetrator's own group. This view is necessarily subjective, meaning that any definition of the victim group should take the perpetrator’s perspective as a starting point. In adhering to the principle of legality, criminal law, however, has to be defined narrowly, clearly and foreseeably. The definition of victim group based solely on the perpetrator’s imagination would lead to an inadmissible broadening of the law.

The thesis suggests a new, contemporaneous approach to defining race, without having to fall back to outdated objective, complexion-based definitions.


The thesis will be submitted in summer 2017.

Published Dec. 2, 2016 10:25 AM - Last modified Mar. 29, 2019 2:16 PM