'Ignorance and Blame in International Criminal Law' Virtual launch of the book The Defence of Mistake of Law in International Criminal Law: A Study on Ignorance and Blame

A well-known adage posits that 'ignorance of the law is no excuse'. Yet, ignorance and mistake of law may, at times, exonerate individuals from criminal responsibility in both national and international criminal law. Due to the complexity of the relevant law, it is possible--even if, most often, improbable--that a defendant may successfully plead their ignorance or mistake of law even against charges of war crimes or crimes against humanity. The rules on mistake of law applicable before international criminal tribunals may also convey a message about the purpose of punishing individuals before such courts and the legitimacy of such punishment. On the occasion of the launch of the Antonio Coco's The Defence of Mistake of Law in International Criminal Law: A Study on Ignorance and Blame (Oxford University Press, 2022), the author and the panelists will engage in a conversation about what it means for an individual defendant to know the relevant law, about the role of the defence of mistake of law in international criminal proceedings, and about the imputation of blame to individuals for international crimes. A discount code for the purchase of the book will be made available for those who attend the event.


  • Antonio Coco, Lecturer, Essex Law School, University of Essex (author)
  • Paola Gaeta, Professor of International Law, Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (chair)
  • Oumar Ba, Assistant Professor, Department of Government, Cornell University
  • Kate Gibson, Associate Tenant, Doughty Street Chambers, London; President, Association of Defence Counsels practicing before the International Courts
  • Matthew Cross, Office of the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court

This session is organized by ASIL's Lieber Society.