Frontcover Steer

Translating Guilt - Identifying Leadership Liability for Mass Atrocity Crimes
Series: International Criminal Justice Series

February 2017 Author: Cassandra Steer, McGill University, Montreal QC, Canada



  • Published: February 2017
  • Pages: xv + 395 pp.
  • Publisher: T.M.C. ASSER PRESS
  • Distributor: Springer

This book seeks to understand how and why we should hold leaders responsible for the collective mass atrocities that are committed in times of conflict. It attempts to untangle the debates on modes of liability in international criminal law (ICL) that have become truly complex over the last twenty years, and to provide a way to identify the most appropriate model for leadership liability. A unique comparative theory of ICL is offered, which clarifies the way in which ICL develops as a patchwork of different domestic criminal law notions. This theory forms the basis for the comparison of some influential domestic criminal law systems, with a view to understanding the policy and cultural reasons for their differences. There is a particular focus on the background of the German law which has influenced the International Criminal Court so much recently. This helps to understand, and seek a solution to, the current impasses in the debates in which the model of liability should be applied.

An entire chapter of the book is devoted to considering why leaders should be held responsible for crimes committed by their subordinates, from legal, moral and pragmatic perspectives. The moral responsibility of leaders is translated into criminal liability, and the different domestic models of liability are translated to the international context, in such a way as to appeal to advanced students of ICL, academics, and practitioners who want to understand the complexities of leadership liability in international criminal law today and identify the best way to approach it.

Cassandra Steer is Executive Director of Women in International Security Canada, and Junior Wainwright Fellow at McGill University, Canada. She holds a Ph.D. in Law from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Specific to this book:

  • A thorough comparative analysis of key domestic jurisdictions with influence on current developments in international criminal law, including the policy reasons for the differences between them
  • Compares how these analyzed key domestic jurisdictions have been translated to international modes of liability
  • Helps practitioners in making an explicit and justified choice in applying any given mode of liability

Excerpt from a book review:

This book is a must read for scholars and practitioners seeking in a deeper understanding of how modes of liability for leaders are developed and are applied in international criminal law. At a time when the International Criminal Court is dealing with criticism and questions regarding to its practice concerning the modes of liability, this book offers pertinent reflection, which highlights dynamic patchworking process influenced by different actors and their various legal backgrounds within international criminal law. Moreover, Steer provides some commentary how the process could be improved.

Claire Magnoux
Université Laval

Journal of International Criminal Justice, Volume 16, Issue 5, December 2018, Pages 1121–1122,

This is Volume 9 in the International Criminal Justice Series

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