International crimes are forms and manifestations of collective violence which lead to mass victimization. What are international crimes? What is the difference between international crimes on the one hand and transnational crimes or cross border crimes on the other hand? Why are genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes called international crimes? When, how and by whom were these crimes criminalized? How are they defined? What are the particularities of these definitions? How can we explain international crimes? Are international crimes by definition state crimes? Most international crimes are initiated and committed by state authorities such as the crimes committed by Nazi Germany, Rwanda, Cambodia, the South American dictatorial regimes and the South African Apartheid’s regime. But what about the crimes committed by rebel forces such as Joseph Kony’s Lord Resistance Army (LRA)? Can we qualify these crimes as international crimes as well? Are international crimes merely an extreme form of ordinary crimes or are they a separate and distinguishable form of crimes – not comparable to ordinary and common crime? What about the perpetrators, victims and bystanders? Are they comparable to perpetrators, victims and bystanders of ordinary and common crimes or not? Can mainstream criminological theories help to explain international crimes? Or do we need to look for other explanations and develop new theories? What are the origins of this type of violence? How can we define the different forms and manifestations of international crimes such as genocide, torture, sexual violence and child soldiering? How prevalent are these types of crimes? Why are the victims victimized? And what can explain the behaviour of the bystanders? Why do or don’t they intervene? How should we react to international crimes? Can we prevent and stop such crimes? What would be needed to prevent and stop such crimes? What role can international criminal justice play? Should we hold the people involved individually criminally responsible? A problem is that international criminal prosecutions are by definition selective and might therefor be perceived as arbitrary. What are the alternatives to international criminal justice? Are truth and reconciliation commissions a good alternative? What about alternative means like the Gacaca courts in Rwanda? What are the advantages and disadvantages of these different options? What works best?

These are just some of the many themes and questions which could be addressed in a lecture, course, workshop or training. Next to these general topics lectures can focus on specific crimes such as genocide, torture, crimes against humanity, sexual violence, disappearances, summary executions and war crimes to give just a few examples. Lectures can also focus on particular case studies like the Holocaust, the South American dictatorships, the South African Apartheid’s regime, the crimes in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, the Rwandan genocide or more contemporary conflicts such as the LRA in Uganda or the mass atrocities in DRC.


Rwanda onderwijs Auschwitz 2



  • - Forms and manifestations of international crimes
  • - Features of international crimes
  • - Map and measure international crimes
  • - International crimes as a special form of criminality 
  • - International crimes and mainstream criminology
  • - The background and history of the legal conceptualisation of international crimes
  • - The social context in which international crimes are committed
  • - Perpetrators of international crimes
  • - Victims of international crimes
  • - Bystanders to international crimes 
  • - The criminal prosecution of international crimes
  • - Alternative means to criminal prosecution
  • - Case studies


Target groups


Lectures, workshops, courses and training on these themes can be given to almost any audience: professionals, policy makers, lawyers, people working at NGOs, police officers, soldiers, fellow scholars, students, schoolchildren or the general public. Single lectures of 45 minutes up to 2 hours can be given but also workshops which last half a day, a training which can last from half day up to one week or a complete course which is taught in regularly weekly meetings during a full semester.

Lectures, workshops and training can for instance be provided to lawyers working on international crimes and who are involved in investigating international crimes or the prosecution thereof. Lectures, workshop and training can also be provided for policymakers and professionals who have to work in conflict areas and are confronted with questions on how to react and respond to international crimes.


Alette Smeulers has many years of experience in teaching academic courses on international crimes in academia. She has given many lectures and guest lectures on international crimes and has presented numerous papers on these themes. She has given these lectures and presented papers to a huge variety of audiences. All her courses and papers were very well evaluated

Academic course taught within the field  

  • - War - Bachelor - Tilburg University (2014-2016)
  • - International and Comparative Criminology - master - University of Groningen (2014-2016)
  • - Internationale Criminologie – Honours class – Tilburg University (2013-2014)
  • - International Crimes and Criminology – Bachelor – University of Liege, Belgium (2012-2013)
  • - International Crimes – ICC-master – VU University Amsterdam (2008-2012)
  • - Research seminars international crimes – ICC master – VU University (2008-2011)
  • - Capita Selecta Darfur en Angola – ICC master – VU University (2008-2009)
  • - Capita Selecta Sierra Leone – Bachelor course – VU University (2006-2007)
  • - The Atrocity Triangle – Bachelor course Maastricht University College (2002-2006)
  • - Causes of Gross Human Rights Violations – post graduate course – Maastricht University (1996-2006)

Other lectures

  • - Perpetrator groups, Conference European Society of Criminology (ESC), Praag, Czech Republic, 11 Sepember 2014
  • - The micro-dynamics of mass atrocities, Conference International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP), Rome, Italy, 4 July 2014.
  • - The rise of new powerful armed groups, expert-meeting on criminal law in a global world order, Tilburg 19 June 2014.
  • - Sixty-five years of international criminal justice, Supranational Criminal Law Lectures, The Hague, 5 June 2013.
  • - The international criminal justice system: functioning, accomplishments and deterrent effect, University of Leeds, United Kingdom 23 November 2012.  
  • - In opdracht van de staat, Inaugural speech, Tilburg University, 27 April 2012.
  • - Where is criminology in transitional justice, Brussels, Belgium, 5-6 December 2011.
  • - Genocide en andere internationale misdrijven: de ultieme vorm van state crime, Interstedelijke criminologiedag in Leiden, 27 November 2009.
  • - Internationale misdrijven – het grote kwaad: een andere vorm van criminaliteit?, Conference Dutch Society of Criminology, 19 June 2008.
  • - Abuse at Abu Ghraib: a few bad apples?, European Society for Criminology (ESC), Edinburgh, Scotland, 4 September 2008.
  • - Functional bureaucrats and the commission of state crime, American Society of Criminology (ASC), Atlanta, United States, 14 November 2007.
  • - Perpetrators in former Yugoslavia, European Society of Criminology (ESC), Bologna, Italië, 29 September 2007.
  • - Alternatives to prosecution, Internationale summer school on supranational criminal law organised by Asser Institute and the Grotius Centre The Hafue, 4 July 2005.
  • - Forms, functions and effects of political violence, Universitity of Utrecht, 30 November 2004.
  • - NGO’s als informatieverschaffer, Conference School of Human Rights in Tilburg 15 November 2002.