Command responsibility of civilian superiors for genocide

Alexander Zahar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
139 Downloads (Pure)


The article critically examines the use of the doctrine of command responsibility by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in two of its judgements, Kayishema & Ruzindana and Musema. It argues that in assessing superior-subordinate relationships the ICTR applied the wrong standard in both cases. While there is no doubt that civilian superiors are liable to prosecution for command responsibility, the doctrine will be properly operative only in cases where the superior's control of subordinates strongly resembles that enjoyed by military commanders. The article builds upon the arguments of the ICTY's Celebici judgement on this point, and emphasises the difficulty in holding lower-ranking Rwandan civilians responsible as superiors for genocide committed by supposed subordinates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-616
Number of pages26
JournalLeiden Journal of International Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Copyright [2001] Kluwer Law International. Published by Cambridge University Press. Article originally published in Leiden Journal of International Law (2001), 14: 591-616 . The original article can be found at


  • Akayesu case
  • command (superior) responsibility
  • Delalic et al. (‘Celebici’) case
  • genocide
  • Kayishema & Ruzindana case
  • Musema case
  • Rwanda


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