Research Guide
War Crimes: Resources and Research Steps


New England Law Library
Sandra J. Lamar
Reference Librarian
September, 2002

International law can be defined as the law of nations, or the system of law that governs relations between states. War crimes, like crimes against humanity and genocide, are all violations of international humanitarian law, under which the violators can be punished criminally. The law is determined by International Treaties, Conventions, and Protocols; the precedent handed down by the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals after World War II, and the recently established United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda; and by domestic courts throughout the world.
Students at New England Law Library have a unique opportunity to contribute to the efforts of the International Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. By special arrangements with the Prosecutors for these War Crimes Tribunals, students undertake legal research projects and submit legal memoranda to the respective Prosecutors. More details are available at Students undertaking these projects are well aware of the need for thorough research, careful attention to procedure, and in depth analysis of very specific issues. This guide is meant to provide a basic structure to that research.
1. Print Resources: Check for treatises , articles on topic.
Why? War crimes and other human rights issues often require either finding controlling treaties and conventions, or finding authoritative sources which interpret them. Secondary sources can provide background; leads to primary sources by supplying needed numbers, dates, and exact titles; and English translations of primary material. One of the most important sources of primary material is International Legal Materials (ILM), housed in the basement of the New England Law library in stack 250. The Library has made a point of collecting treatises which reprint major documents in a specific subjects.
How? Use Portia, linked from For articles, search in the paper indexes or the links from Index to Legal Periodicals, Wilsondisc, and Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals are all linked from this page; Legaltrac is also a networked CD-ROM. Suggestions for subject searches in Portia, and a listing of major treatises in the New England Law Library collection, are attached.
Tip: Do not rely on the full text databases of Westlaw and Lexis for law reviews. Some of the articles, and ILM documents, are very long. It will be more efficient to identify the cite, then find the source in paper and copy the sections needed.
Tip: we have books in our collection that collect important resolutions and other materials, also. Print versions might be easier to use than online or microform versions.
2. Use Lexis to find resources which analyze and translate (
Why? Check both Lexis and Westlaw, as they both have large international databases and sophisticated search capability. A typical choice would be to search Westlaw for the International Tribunal cases or the International Court of Justice, and utilize Lexis for its extensive news databases. Many times the first English translations of key documents are available in the news databases: Specific country's materials may or may not be available.
How? Use the enhanced search features, especially segment searching, to identify the resources which discuss, identify and analyze. Ask for help to identify available databases.
Tip: Search HLEAD (boolean search terms) . HLEAD requires the terms to be in the headline or the lead sentence, helping your retrieval of more analytical news.
3. Utilize the power of the Internet.
Why? The internet has become essential for this kind of research. Many documents will only be available to you on the web. Recent treaties, constitutions, and United Nations materials are all appearing on the World Wide Web at a staggering rate. They are often posted by authoritative sources, and may well be the only practical source for some resources. Trial and Tribunal materials, and evidentiary procedures for example, are often only available on the web.
How? Start with War Crimes, at
Human rights links are at and the United Nations materials are at
Other helpful links are attached.
Tip: Evaluate your source: Who produced this material? If the author is a government agency, an advocacy group, or a scholar, does the resource have an ideological bent? Is the document current? Is the translation accurate?
4. Use the networked CD-ROM's.
Why? The Internet may have key treaties or conventions, and may have recent documents, but is unlikely to have everything you need.
How? Access Hein's Treaty Index, on all library workstations, for treaties to which the U.S. is a party. The United Nations material is also networked:

databases provide bibliographic access to the documentary output of the United Nations. This CD-ROM also includes the full text of UN resolutions since the early 70's; voting records; and citations to speeches. Use the computers on the first floor of the library; select cdrom menu;
1. Find the citation:
Is the United States a party?
Use Hein's United States Treaty Index, on CD-ROM or the TIARA index (you must register for the free treaties index),
Hein's Treaty Index (on CD-ROM) is quite current, and cited by "KAV number."
The library holds Hein's US Treaties and other International Agreements, and the United Nations Treaty Series, on microfiche.
Treaties, Conventions, and other Agreements which do not involve the United States:
Through 1980, check The World Treaty Index (stack 250; JX 171 .R63). After that, search the news databases on Westlaw & Lexis, and the Internet to get a number and date.
2. Find the Document:
Treaties to which the United States is a party are published by the United States Department of State: TIAS ("Treaties and Other International Acts"), and from 1950 on, the United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (UST). The lag time may be as much as 7 to 10 years before the first official publication in slip form. Other books to check: Treaties In Force, published annually. Subject-oriented treatises may also collect treaties and resolutions (see Appendix A).
International Legal Materials (ILM)
Published by the American Society of International Law, ILM reproduces select U.S. draft treaties, treaties entered into force, and the Treaty Section of the Department of State Bulletin. Provides selective translations of important international treaties and conventions, UN documents, and court decisions. Not comprehensive but a highly valuable source. The annual index is in the November issue. The most efficient way is to find the cite online, and then go to the paper.
Online Treaty databases:
Lexis: INTLAW library; DSTATE file from 1984 (use "treaty actions" as search term); INTLAW library; ILM file.
Westlaw databases: USTREATIES and ILM.
Internet: Links on the Web
Start with the links from
The Fletcher School Multilateral Treaty Project,, is an especially good resource, and with full text of selected current and historical treaties in both "rules of warfare" and "human rights" categories. The site is keyword searchable.
Human rights treaties are collected at
Various United Nations Conventions provide the substantive law of war. These include, inter alia, the Geneva conventions, see, the Hague Conventions, see, and the Genocide Convention,
Legislative: To the extent the code of the nation is needed to determine process or criminal procedure, you may need not only the most recent version of a code but also the official gazette. These may not be available in English, and may not be indexed. Use other sources to find a number and a date to increase your chances of locating.
Tip: The Reynolds & Flores treatise or CD-ROM (see Appendix A) can tell you the titles of applicable codes, and the language, but other resources may be able to give you more specific sections.
Executive: Many civil law countries include the executive orders, decrees, and the equivalent of regulations in their gazette. Decisions of administrative tribunals will be difficult.
Judicial: Be aware that many civil law jurisdictions do not place much value on caselaw. Statutes, treaties, and academic interpretations of those laws may be considered more authoritative than case law. Where a formal tribunal of some sort is set up to handle war crimes, the Internet is the most likely resource for these decisions. Westlaw and Cornell's web site provide access to the International Court of Justice decisions, but those issues generally will not be applicable to individual war crimes cases.
Search Portia, our online catalog:
Url: ; or, telnet to (telnet://
Key words to search:
"war crimes" "human rights" "atrocities" "genocide" "war crime trials" "Crimes against humanity"
Applicable Subject Searches (using Library of Congress subject headings):
"International Offenses"; "Crimes against Humanity" ; "War victims -- Kuwait [or whatever country]" ; "United Nations. General Assembly -- Resolutions"; "International law -- Sources"; "United Nations -- Armed Forces"; "International police"; "International offenses"; "War crimes"
Selected treatises in our collection specifically on War Crimes:
M. Cherif Bassiouni, The Law of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (Transnational Publishers, 1996). Location: Reserve KZ1203.A12 B37 1996
M. Cherif Bassiouni, Crimes Against Humanity in International Criminal Law (Kluwer 1992).
Location: Reserve K5301 .B37 1992
Global war crimes tribunal collection. Vol. 1, The Rwanda Tribunal (Global Law Association, 1997); Location: Reserve KZ1201.A12 G56 1997.
John R.W.D. Jones, the Practice of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, (Transnational Publishers, 1997). Location: Upper Mezzanine KZ1203.A12 J66 1997
Virginia Morris and Michael Scharf, An Insider's Guide to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (Transnational Publishers, 1995).
Location: Reserve KZ1203.A12 M67 1995
Virginia Morris and Michael Scharf, The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Transnational Publishers, 1998) (AS I L Certificate of Merit for 1999's outstanding book in International law)
Location: Reserve KZ1201.A12 M67 1998
Timothy L.H. McCormack and Gerry J. Simpson, ed., The Law of War Crimes: National and International Approaches (Kluwer 1997) . Location: Lower Mezzanine K5301 .L39 1997
Michael P. Scharf, Balkan Justice : The Story behind the First International War Crimes Trial since Nuremberg ( Carolina Academic Press, 1997)
Location: Reserve KZ1203.A12 S33 1997
Collections of primary material:
Brownlie, Ian, ed. Basic documents on human rights (Oxford University Press, 1992). Location: Lower Mezzanine K3238.A1 B76 1992
Human rights documents : compilation of documents pertaining to human rights: U.S. laws on human rights ; Basic U.N. human rights instruments ; U.N. instruments in selected human rights (U.S. G.P.O., 1983). Location: Lower Mezzanine K3238 .H853 1983
Sharp, Walter G. ed., United Nations peace operations : a collection of primary documents and readings governing the conduct of multilateral peace operations (American Heritage, Custom Publishing Group, 1995). Location: Upper Mezzanine KZ6376 .U55 1995
Judgments of the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights are also held by the New England Law Library. Location: Stack 250
Historical War Crimes:
Trial of the major war criminals before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 1945-1 October 1946 (Hein, 1995). Location: Basement, Stack 250 (42 vol. set)
International Military Tribunal for the Far East, The Tokyo major war crimes trial : the transcripts of the court proceedings of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (Mellen Press, 1998)
Location: Stack 250
Kurt Jonassohn, Genocide and gross human rights violations in comparative perspective (Transaction Publishers, 1998) Location: Lower Mezzanine HV6322.7 .J66 1998
Steven R .Ratner, Accountability for human rights atrocities in international law : beyond the Nuremberg legacy (Oxford University Press, 1997) Location: Lower Mezzanine HV6322.7 .R86 1994
Robert I. Rotberg, Thomas G. Weiss, eds. From massacres to genocide : the media, public policy, and humanitarian crises ( Brookings Institution, 1996) Location: Lower Mezzanine HV553 .F76 1996.
David Wippman, ed. International law and ethnic conflict (Cornell University Press, 1998) Location: Upper Mezzanine KZ1268 .I58 1998
Finding the codes for particular countries:
Reynolds and Flores, Foreign law : current sources of codes and basic legislation in jurisdictions of the world (Rothman, 1989). (Multiple volume set).
Location: library workstations (networked CD-ROM) and Reference K38 .R49 1989
Tip: This work is especially helpful because it identifies the translations as well as the original codes.
Internet links: Internet access is from the library only.
LegalTrac (Infotrac) 1980 - Present
Networked CD-ROM, print, and Internet available.
Index to Legal Periodicals (Wilsondisc) 1981 - Present
Articles from over 762 law reviews and books. Internet and print access.
Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals 1985 - Present
Articles and book reviews from more than 450 foreign legal periodicals - countries other than the United States, British Isles, and British Commonwealth. Internet and print access.
Current Index to Legal Periodicals 1997 - Present
Available through the NELLCO and Suffolk Law Library web site. Internet and print access.
Carl Uncover - multi-disciplinary (not in print, though we may have journals needed). Internet only.
Articles First - connect from Portia, "other databases."
LEXIS/NEXIS Resources:
Internet Resources
NESL links: (table of contents to International links) (war crimes, genocide links) (International Criminal Justice links) (Human Rights links) (current awareness news links: note that Court TV posts documents from war crimes trials that never make it on Lexis).
Megasites with excellent war crimes links: - University of Chicago - Hieros Gamos, subject areas for both Human Rights and "War and Peace" - Washburn U. School of Law

Human Rights Collections (Diana): - this search engine at U. Minnesota finds documents from multiple human rights sites.
International Organizations: - (NESL collection of links to International Organizations.)
The United Nations Security Council has taken action repeatedly to deal with large-scale violations of human rights. These measures are taken under the powers conferred by the UN Charter. For an excellent research guide into the structure, organization and resolutions of the United Nations, see the Duke Research Guide at:

ASIL publications: The American Society of International Law (search asil publications). The ASIL publishes much information, including ILM. Other Research Guides for International Law generally can be found at

Foreign Government information: (Northwestern U.)
War Crimes Tribunals: The New England Law Library war crimes page has links to the tribunals and some procedural material.
Foreign Law:

Laws of specific countries , in English, are linked from Students who need to identify laws even if not in English are directed to the Megasites also linked from that page.

For information on the economic or political situation in a particular country:
Dept. of State
Dept. of State Human Rights Reports:
CIA Factbook
Search the Internet:
Use one of the search engines - normally I recommend Findlaw and Google for this type of research. Use quotes for phrases, and remember that Lexis and Westlaw searching provides more sophisticated relevancy determination, so be prepared to spend some time evaluating your results. Use more than one search engine if you do not find the material you need., and take another good look at the links provided by law librarians.
All contents copyright © 1999, New England Law Library, Boston, Massachusetts.
All Rights Reserved.