Section 27(4) - Crimes under International Law

Nothing in this section affects the trial or punishment of any person for any act or omission which was a criminal offence under international law at the time it was done or omitted to be done.

Generally, retrospective criminal laws are not permitted in Victoria (see the discussion of s. 27(1) in these Charter Guidelines). However, s. 27(4) provides an exception to the prohibition on retrospective criminal offences in respect of acts or omissions that constitute an offence under international law.


Section 27(4) specifically allows for the trial of persons in respect of acts and omissions that were not criminal in Victoria at the time they were committed but at that time amounted to grave breaches of international humanitarian law (for example, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and also the crimes of piracy, and genocide). It allows for new Victorian offences to be created that authorise prosecution of these persons.

In the future, section 27(4) may also include international crimes that are yet to be created in international law.
For more information on what constitutes ‘war crimes’, ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘genocide’, legal and policy officers should consult:

  • Schedule, Chapter 8, Division 268 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act.


Section 27(4) also has the effect of denying the benefits of s. 27(2) and s. 27(3) to any person charged with the commission of any act or omission which was a criminal offence under international law at the time it was done or omitted to be done.