Paramilitaries and irregular armed forces are, and have been, ubiquitous in conflicts world-wide: from Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, to the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda in the past few decades and, more recently, in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine. Many of them have perpetrated brutal attacks against civilians and participated in crimes that have been legally qualified as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
These armed groups often serve as auxiliaries to regular state forces, and various units act covertly in pursuit of political and territorial goals, which enable states to claim plausible deniability and leaders to escape responsibility.
A number of trials in The Hague, at the ICTY and the ICC, dealt with various paramilitary units, and the IRMCT is currently retrying an important case relating to the paramilitaries in the former Yugoslavia, prosecuting state officials for establishing, funding and directing units that committed crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This panel aims to discuss, from an interdisciplinary perspective, the nature and purpose of paramilitaries using examples from the former Yugoslavia and Syria, and the legal, investigative and evidentiary challenges in prosecuting perpetrators, both paramilitary members and those who command and control them.
Serbian Paramilitaries: Insights from the ICTY
Dr Iva Vukušić, Visiting Research Fellow at Department of War Studies, King’s College London
The rise of Kataib al-Baath (al-Baath Legions) at Aleppo University after 2011
Ali Aljasem, MA, Researcher at the History Department, Utrecht University
Establishing the liability of paramilitary members for atrocity crimes – problems and potentialities
Dr Matthew Gillett, Director, Peace and Justice Initiative and Trial Lawyer, Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC