Amnesty International’s Amicus Curiae observations on superior responsibility


In April 2009, Amnesty International applied for and was granted leave to submit AI amicus curiae observations on certain issues related to superior responsibility arising the ICC’s case of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo. This was the first ICC case to analyse the scope and content of the doctrine of superior responsibility under Article 28 of the Rome Statute.

In introducing its submission, Amnesty International emphasised that the effective exercise of command is an essential tool in ensuring that crimes under international law are prevented and, if they nonetheless occur, are punished. It stated that the application and interpretation of the doctrine of superior responsibility is of paramount importance to military commanders and other superiors; to those who can be affected by such superiors’ exercise, or failure to exercise, their command or authority appropriately; and to the international community as a whole.  The observations then focussed specifically on: (i) the mental element applicable to military commanders absent actual knowledge; (ii) criminal responsibility for the failure to submit a matter to competent authorities as applied to non‐state actors; and (iii) whether causation is an element of superior responsibility.