This article is in tended to provide a legally sound explanation of why and how the contemporary International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law legal frameworks offer tools to address the uncertain ty, lack of in formation, and the consequences thereof in relation to missin g persons and victims of enforced disappearances in the context of armed conflicts which predated the adoption of such frameworks. To this end, three scenarios will be examin ed: the contemporary claims of the families of those who were killed in the Katyń massacre in 1940; the claims for in formation and justice of the families of thousands who were subjected to enforced disappearances durin g the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939; and the identification efforts concernin g those reported missin g while in volved in military operations in the context of the 1944 Kaprolat/Hasselmann in cident which took place durin g the Second World War. The analysis of these scenarios is conducive to the development of more general reflections that would feed in to the debate over the legal relevance of the distant past in light of today’s in ternational legal framework.
The main topic of this article is retroactive application of procedural criminal law. In this text the question will be posed – and answered – whether the application of a new procedural provision that entered into force in the course of an ongoing proceeding should in that proceeding be considered as retroactive and in what scope or/and under what conditions can such retroactivity be allowed for. As will be shown the solutions in national jurisdictions differ according to the common law – continental law states divide. This problem will be discussed in the light of a decision in the ICC Ruto and Sang case. In this case the ICC Appeals Chamber had to answer several questions pertaining to the temporal application of new procedural provisions. Firstly, the Chamber had to decide whether a general ban on the retroactive application of substantive law should also apply to procedural criminal law. Secondly, the ICC Appeals Chamber had to analyze the criteria according to which it would evaluate whether the change of rules of criminal procedure in the course of an ongoing trial was to be considered as having a retroactive effect, and whether the change in the rules of admission of evidence could be considered detrimental to the accused. Thirdly, it will be shown that the ICC Appeals Chamber has chosen the common law concept of “due process rights” rather than the idea of “intertemporal rules” known from the continental doctrine, and why it chose to do so.