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Book TitleImmunity and International Criminal Law
Book AuthorSimbeye, Yitiha
Bibliographic InformationAshgate Publishing Company, 2004, Pages : 182, $89.95, ISBN 0754624331

Review Title
Reviewer(s) Findlay, Mark

Short review

Immunity and International Criminal Law. By Yitiha Simbeye. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004. Pp. vi-173. $89.95.
Reviewed by Mark Findlay, Professor of Criminal Law, University of Sydney Faculty of Law.
The issue of immunity is central to understanding the development of international criminal law, and the institutions and processes of international criminal justice.  In this regard the topic of the book is important and timely.  The author concentrates on the legislative and regulative dimensions of immunity primarily within institutional contexts such as the International Criminal Tribunals and the upcoming work of the International Criminal Court (ICC).  While this is a good place to start in examining immunity, it tends to be a limitation of the analysis, and the reader could be disappointed that immunities beyond those from prosecution are not examined in a wider context.
The book commences with an examination of the International Criminal Court and while this is somewhat descriptive it provides a useful summary of the structural and procedural developments of that institution.  There is some attempt in this chapter to compare the treatment of immunity in the International Criminal Tribunals, with its suspected application in the ICC.  While raising some notable cases which have come before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the discussion would have benefited from a more detailed analysis of the place of immunities within such case studies. 
International crimes are then considered along with the construction of individual criminal responsibility within the international criminal justice context.  These chapters are somewhat normative, and there is a place for a more critical interrogation of the manner in which crime and responsibility have been constructed in international criminal justice.  In particular, when examining immunity the focus on individual responsibility is somewhat restrictive.  While most of the matters that have proceeded before the International Criminal Tribunals have adopted a conventional approach to liability, the challenges of collective liability particularly in the realm of crimes of aggression and abuse of power by States against their citizens will test the justice and relevance of immunity applications.
Immunities themselves receive some brief discussion in a descriptive sense but again this appears more like a short historical summary than a critical analysis of the relevance of immunities to the prosecution of international criminal law.
The critical dimension of the book such as it is develops in the discussion of how “high ranking state officials” will be prosecuted, or not, in an international setting.  Again the book touches on some interesting and topical cases where immunities have been applied and talks about the manner in which such immunities tend to challenge the impact of criminal jurisdiction.
The book concludes with a call for balance in order to pursue international criminal justice within the context of “stable” international state relations.  It might be seen as a bit of a cop out not to tackle the more obvious challenges which immunities pose for the realisation of criminal justice, particularly for victim communities whose interests are specifically compromised through the award of immunity for crimes of aggression in particular.  The book does not adequately explore the compromise conceded in the name of successful prosecutions against individuals through the process of applying immunities.  Also, the extent to which, with the International Criminal Court in particular, large scale immunities are built-in to the treatment of state aggression is not well examined in this call for balance.
All over the book is useful as an overview of the operation of immunities and the prosecution of international criminal law.  However, it does little for the cause of critical analysis beyond identifying a number of important themes which will have to be taken up in another publication.
The book is readable and my main criticism of the structure and style is that is does not sufficiently break away from the doctoral thesis where it found its origins.